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Inspiring Conversations with Annette Barcelona

Today we’d like to introduce you to Annette Barcelona.

Hi Annette, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
It all started in my basement in Urbana, Illinois, when I was just four years old. My father built the ballet barre where my mom taught me my first plies to the tunes of our record player. From that point forward, the seed of passion for ballet was planted for me. My mom quickly noticed that I had an affinity for dance and enrolled me in ballet classes at our local park district. My love for ballet continued to grow as my training became more serious. My parents worked hard to support my dreams, footing the bill for mountains of pointe shoes, classes, summer intensives and more. By the age of 10, I knew I wanted to be a professional ballerina. My artistic pursuit grew as I learned that choreography was also a passion of mine. My first ballets were made in my garage with any kids I could find in the neighborhood that would dance for me. Needless to say, a life in dance was my destiny.

I have come from a long line of educators in my family, including my greatest hero and inspiration, my father, Dr. Michael Barcelona. The importance of education was instilled in me, and I believe it is not coincidental that now I am an educator myself.

I attended Brenau University, outside of Atlanta, GA, and earned my BFA in Dance Education in 2013, while I danced professionally with a regional ballet company, The Gainesville Ballet. It was during this time in my career that I also began delving into choreography more seriously. From there, I moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where I attended The Florida State University and earned my MFA in Performance & Choreography in 2016. I moved to San Diego following my graduation from FSU and began sending my information out to anyone I could find involved in the San Diego dance community. As fate would have it, my information ended up on the desk of what would become one of my best friends and dance colleague. She recommended me (a complete stranger at the time) to interview for a Ballet teaching position at The San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. After only living in San Diego for three weeks, I found myself signing a contract for a full-time teaching position at SDSCPA, and I officially retired my pointe shoes for teaching shoes.

Fast forward six years later, I am in my 4th year as the Dance Department Chair at SDSCPA. My fellow dance teachers and I have accomplished revamping the entire dance curriculum, department culture and continue to strive to provide the best dance education as we guide students towards professional and collegiate pursuits in dance.

I believe in fate. My life experience, professional career, and formal education led me right where I was I needed most. I am able to utilize all of my skills to inspire and educate young dancers and continue to do what I love as a career.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not. There was a time in my late teens/early twenties where I really struggled as a dancer and young adult. There are many challenges when it comes to pursuing a professional ballet career, and frankly, I was not ready at 17. I lost myself, veered off the path, and ended up quitting ballet for nearly five years.

During this time, I found myself in a boring office job, feeling extremely unfulfilled. I like to call it my ‘quarter-life’ crisis where I began taking ballet classes again for fun, with no real intention of getting back on stage. The 2008 recession caused the best life change I could have asked for. I was laid off from my desk job and found myself answering to a craigslist ad for a dance teaching position in a public school program in the Atlanta area. It was through this experience where I realized I wanted to teach. This was the turning point where I decided to pursue a teaching credential and BFA in Dance Education at Brenau University. I began training more vigorously, started performing professionally again, and have not looked back since. A life lived in dance is the only life I want to live.

We’ve been impressed with The San Diego School of Creative & Performing Arts, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
First: About SDSCPA

The San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SDSCPA) is a San Diego Unified School District college-preparatory, arts-focused public magnet school for students in grades 6 through 12 who have a strong interest and talent in the arts. Successful SCPA students have the passion and determination to make the most of the school’s unique dual curriculum.

The mission of the Dance Department is to cultivate an inclusive, nurturing, and creative environment conducive to the highest caliber of dance training. In addition, our program features training and performance opportunities with industry professionals for every student at every level. We are committed to preserving the lineage of classical, contemporary, and theatrical concert dance forms.

Our dance curriculum is sequentially designed to prepare our students with the technique, skills, and knowledge necessary for post-secondary and professional pursuits in dance. Our curriculum features a rigorous scope and sequence with foundations in classical ballet and modern dance. SDSCPA is proud to include the AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE® National Training Curriculum, a breakthrough 9 level program that combines high-quality artistic training with the basics of dancer health and child development. Our modern dance program includes Graham, Horton & Limon techniques. The SDSCPA Dance Department Faculty are professional dance artists and educators with specific experience and training in the aforementioned areas.

In addition to my work at SDSCPA, I am a professional freelance choreographer. I travel throughout the country, teaching and choreographing professionally for regional ballet companies, universities, conservatories and public schools. My choreography has been selected and performed at The McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival in Palm Desert, The American College Dance Festival, The Regional Dance America Festival, Regional High School Dance Festival and Youth America Grand Prix amongst other venues. Choreography is a strong passion of mine, and I am dedicated to creating work both inside and outside of SDSCPA.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Fearlessness and determination. I am extremely grateful that I faced my fears and was able to continue pursuit of my passion after a significant hiatus. I truly believe that to be happy and successful, you have to follow your passion and do what you love. I thank everyone who has supported me along the way with immense gratitude for where I am today.

Image Credits

Dena Meeder, Alyssa Stevens

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