The orchestra played as the curtains closed upon a young lady, who in that moment lived a dream of many young performers.
This young girl was senior Angela Bonvissuto, who starred in Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” ballet, playing the role of Clara in 2006.
Bonvissuto’s ballet career began at age 5 with the Salt Creek Ballet in Westmont, Illinois. Her sister, Maria Bonvissuto, began just a year prior and the two danced together for eight years.
Linda Bonvissuto, mother of Maria and Angela, first placed her daughters in dance classes simply to “get them out of the house.”
Linda Bonvissuto recalled Angela Bonvissuto’s little pieces of arts and crafts around the house when she was younger.
“Angela is a creative, artistic person,” she said.
For Angela Bonvissuto, ballet quickly took on meaning.
“It was always a part of my life, as far as I can remember,” she said.
When Angela Bonvissuto was 9, her family moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where she and Maria Bonvissuto began dancing with the Nashville Ballet, the largest professional dance company in Tennessee.
The two sisters that took over the dance floor gently pushed each other towards success in what Maria Bonvissuto called, a “friendly rivalry.”
“It was fun but definitely intense,” Maria Bonvissuto said. “We both enjoyed it. I don’t think we ever said a word about the rivalry but it motivated each one of us. It was a fun challenge that gave us a great appreciation for fine arts.”
Their instructor at the Nashville Ballet came from the Royal Ballet School in London, England, and she took a special liking to Angela Bonvissuto.
The teacher’s methods, however, were quite different from the ballet that they had danced back in Illinois.
“She taught the super-traditional English ballet method,” she said. “So she started us from scratch again, but it made us super good.”
Ballet dancers often are trained in different methods, all different expressions of ballet technique: Russian ballet, Italian ballet, French ballet, and English ballet.
Angela Bonvissuto continued to advance, skipping an entire level.
“My teacher wanted to give me private lessons because I was homeschooled and make me into a ballet star,” she said.
In 2006, Angela danced the role of Clara in “The Nutcracker”, which she later accounted as “my favorite part of my dancing career”. Not only was she the star, but the ballet quickly became a family show, as Maria Bonvissuto played the role of the evil rat and her two younger brothers played extras in the opening scene’s Christmas party.
Maria Bonvissuto said her sister’s hard work and dedication to ballet was admirable, contributing to Angela Bonvissuto’s success as Clara.
“Angela is incredibly talented,” Maria Bonvissuto said. “She is a Renaissance woman.”
The music and dancing became such an influential outlet for Angela Bonvissuto, and she said she loved what she was able to express through the art.
“I felt extremely alive,” she said. “I felt like I could express myself really well through dancing, and I love that when you’re doing ballet you don’t have to say anything. It’s almost like the music speaks for you and you express yourself by dancing through the music.”
Angela Bonvissuto’s dancing career ended soon after her role as Clara, when she was faced with the choice to continue her career into professionalism, or end it soon after.
“The choice was very appealing because you’re 13 and you want to be a prima ballerina,” she said.
She laughed to herself as she considered her future that could have been.
“I had to leave because I had progressed so far that my only option was to become a professional dancer,” she said. “I had maxed out on all the levels.”
After having conversations with her parents, Angela Bonvissuto decided to live a “normal” life where she could pursue college and potential careers outside of dance.
Eleven years later, she said dance still brings her joy, but in a different way.
“I am still sad, I wish I could do ballet still. It is my favorite thing in the whole world,” she said.
While she chose to never take up dance again herself, she said that whenever she hears classical music she immediately begins choreographing in her mind.
“I felt like I had gotten to the point that I was really good and anything less than the highest level doesn’t seem like real ballet,” Angela said.
The skills that she mastered in ballet carried over into her life after dance.
“Ballet is really good at discipline,” Linda Bonvissuto said. “It has helped her in all aspects of her life, such as overcoming obstacles.”
While Angela Bonvissuto is no longer dancing herself, she said ballet is still something special to her.
“Dance is my favorite art form, whenever I see or experience art, a very well-done dance is what speaks the most to me,” she said.