Tonight, Lorna Feijoo will be slipping on her satin ballet slippers and transforming herself into the Sugar Plum Fairy for the last time this season. She has been performing as a principal dancer in Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” which officially ends on December 30, since November, and she has loved every minute — pain and all.
“Ballet gives you the opportunity to be with the audience,” which she says feels like a prize after months of arduous practice. “You can see what the people feel when you dance. You can enjoy being on stage, because you are free…and there’s nothing better than the applause afterwards. That’s like the gold for us — when you feel the applause.”
“One of my biggest inspirations is, and was, my sister,” says Lorna who began dancing in her native Cuba, at age 10, and is now 38. “She’s three years older than me, and I’ve seen her since little how she was so different from everyone else. She has a lot of talent, but she has something else — her movement, her arms, she was my ideal [dancer]. There are many other dancers who are very good, but my thing to follow was her.”
Ballet has been a way of life for the Feijoo sisters practically since the womb. Their mother, Lupe Calzadilla, was a member of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba at a time when Cuban ballet had reached its Golden Era.
“My mom was still dancing when she got pregnant,” says Lorena, the elder of the two sisters, and began dancing at age 8. “In Cuba they allowed kids to hang around the company…That kind of planted the seed in me. She had me and kept dancing, until my sister arrived…”
Although their father was concerned for his daughters, who both hard-headedly chose a career which involved so much competition, fearing they would forever compete with each other, the Feijoo sisters says for them it was the contrary.
“We helped each other so much,” says Lorna. “The competition was in a good way…In my sister’s case, she was very disciplined, but I was so bad with that — I love chocolate and chips.”
During their early 20’s, both sisters danced through Europe and eventually ended up in the U.S., where they say has been more challenging — working more hours with up to six choreographers at the same time. And now, they both have graduated to perhaps their hardest role yet — motherhood.
“The best thing in our lives is Lucia,” says Lorna about her 2-year-old daughter. “It’s hard, but it’s completely different. I feel better now than before. I used to worry so much before about everything, but now she’s the most important thing in my life.”
Lorena, who has a 5-month-old daughter, Luciana, at home, mirrors that feeling.
“This career [motherhood] is one of the hardest things — you don’t have a social life,” says Lorena, who is home saving her energy for her debut performance as a mother in January. “The shows ends at midnight, and then you start over at 10am till 11 at night…[but] having a baby makes you think the way you should.”
She says before, every decision she had to make seemed like life or death. After her daughter was born, she says she realized ballet is still the same career she takes very seriously, and she loves it, but it’s not life.
“A child is so powerful that it puts things in perspective in a beautiful way,” says Lorena. “It adds a tranquility to your dancing that is incredible. The dancers I’ve seen who’ve had children have become so much better. In Russia and Cuba it’s more common to see more people with kids. In America, it’s very competitive…In my company…there are maybe three or four moms out of 70 [who are mothers].”
Lorena says now her daughter is her inspiration.
“There is nothing more exquisite really,” she says. “When you have a performance and you get home, and they smile and it means the world to you. If I would have known it was that wonderful, I would have started earlier. I think I have found more beautiful things about my job because of her.”
Although both sisters are grateful for their new positions in life as mothers, they are hesitant for their daughters to follow in their footsteps.
“I have mixed feelings, because it is a very difficult career that comes with a lot of sacrifices,” says older sister Lorena, who plans on dancing until the day she loses her passion, which she doesn’t feel will be any time soon. “Emotionally you have to be very sturdy, very secure of yourself. It comes with a lot of pain, [physically and] in your heart as well…I will do what my mom did to both of us. I’m going to warn her, and she will be involved like we were, so we will see.”