Meet Francesca Dugarte

DugarteSchiavone.gifVenezuela native Francesca Romero Dugarte is just 17, but she is already an accomplished dancer and world traveler.  With the help of a legendary coach, countless hours of class and rehearsal, and her Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, Francesca has been taking high honors at prestigious competitions, and most recently won a gold medal at the International Ballet Competition in Korea.  Just a month before, she won a silver medal at New York City’s Youth America Grand Prix.  As her reward, she will spend the next year at Italy’s La Scala Ballet School on full scholarship.

Francesca began ballet at the age of four, to counteract knee problems she had as a young child.  She loved ballet, and five years later she had an incredible opportunity: to study with former star of the Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo and internationally renowned teacher, Nina Novak.  For the last eight years, Francesca has worked closely with Ms. Novak, whose experience and insights into the art of ballet have proved invaluable for her students.  Student and teacher have developed a close, friendly relationship, and Francesca recognizes how fortunate she is to have worked with such a distinguished artist.

In addition to having a world-class teacher, Francesca’s pointe shoes are also top-quality.  She has worn Gaynor Mindens for over five years.  She finds they help her balances and turns, giving her confidence and stability.  “I have no worries,” she says.  “They’re amazing, and they’re very comfortable!”

Francesca has been studying ballet intensively year-round.  Preparing dances for competitions consumed most of her time (the Black Swan variation is one of her favorites). In 2005, she competed for the first time, at Moscow’s International Ballet Competition.  Francesca was a semifinalist, and since then has taken second place in Perm’s Arabesque Competition, and the Jury Award at last year’s IBC in Jackson, MS. When traveling, she made arrangements with her school to be present only for tests, and she completed her schoolwork alone, mostly in the evenings.  While at home in Venezuela, she went to school in the morning for a few hours a day, and spent most of the rest of her time dancing.  She graduated from high school in June.  

Before performing, Francesca says a prayer, and stays focused on her task.  She remembers just to do her best and enjoy the experience, knowing that competitions are not only occasions for her to win medals, but more importantly, opportunities to learn from talented dancers and discriminating teachers from all over the world.  She enjoys being challenged by other styles and corrections from unfamiliar teachers.

In addition to dancing, Francesca loves writing poetry and free verse, and she keeps a detailed journal of her thoughts and experiences while traveling. She has made many sacrifices for ballet, particularly by forgoing the typical teenage social lifestyle.  She does, however, have close friends with whom she dances, travels, and shares her adolescence. “This is a beautiful art, and you have to like it a lot,” she says of the sacrifices she makes.  Her departure for Italy this September will a bittersweet moment, but Francesca is excited to be part of a large program.  Her devotion to her art runs deep, and she looks forward to further developing herself as a dancer.

Written by Mary Hodges
Photos by Gene Schiavone