Jeraldine Mendoza - Joffrey Ballet
Jeraldine Mendoza was born in San Francisco, California and trained at the City Ballet School of San Francisco since the age of five, mainly under the artistic direction of Galina Alexandrova. At age 17, Ms. Mendoza was invited to train in the Russian course at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, and she graduated with honors.
How did you start dancing and why?
My parents had enrolled my older sister in ballet classes at City Ballet School of SF. When I turned five, they did the same to me. I was such a busy kid. My parents were quite underprivileged when they were younger that they felt the need to put my siblings and me in as many extracurricular activities as we could handle. From swimming and piano lessons to ice skating and volleyball practice, I eventually narrowed it down to what I truly loved and enjoyed, which was ballet.
What gets you out of bed in the mornings?
Honestly, I have no idea. Haha, I am so not a morning person. It helps that my boyfriend, Dylan (also a company member with Joffrey) is always in "get-up-and-go" mode. Also, the aromatic smell of coffee is enough to get me out of bed. But once I'm up, even on mornings that I'm sore and/or tired, I realize how lucky I am to get to do what I love for a living.
Most memorable moment of your career?
Probably when I danced Nikiya in Stanton Welch's La Bayadere. It was my first full length and the first time my parents watched me dance as a professional dancer. I also went in last minute for another ballerina, with only two hours of rehearsal the day of and a new partner (who so fortunately happened to be Dylan). That weekend I performed the role of Nikiya three nights in a row. I have never felt so exhausted, yet so rewarded. It was such a thrill.
Photo by Cheryl Mann
Who is your role model and why?
I can't say that I have a specific role model, but there are definitely ballerinas that I look up to. I always admire anyone who is hard working for themselves, not for show. Humility and graciousness are other qualities that I admire and strive for. Our careers in this art form are too short for us to take experiences and relationships for granted, and it's important for us professional dancers to pass that on to younger generations.
Do you have a specific way of warming up for a performance or to get focused for a main role?
On the day of a performance, I always try to eat a hearty breakfast and a light lunch. I get waves of nervousness and anxiety throughout the day. One minute I'll be fine, and the next minute my stomach will just sink. What usually calms me down while I'm getting ready is when I listen to an album or playlist that Dylan sends me before every opening of a program. From house to rap to techno to hip-hop, I pretty much listen to anything and everything. It's perfect because the music allows me to get out of my own head and controls my nerves but also pumps me up for the show. I like to finish my hair and makeup by the 30-min call so I can warm-up and feel the stage and/or partner before I go on.
Which is your favorite theatre in the world to dance in?
It being my fourth season already with the Joffrey Ballet, the Auditorium Theatre here in Chicago is beginning to feel like home to me. I also love performing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in LA and the Kennedy Center in DC when we tour. But the coolest theatre that I've performed in was probably the New Stage of the Bolshoi Theatre for our graduation performance. Not only is there so much beauty and history in the theatre, but there is also no audience like a Russian audience... so receptive, involved, and appreciative.
Photo by Cheryl Mann
How has ballet made you the person you are today?
I'm not usually good with words, so ballet has been the ultimate way of expressing my emotions. It has taught and continues to teach me how to love oneself, love others, and love life. I also thrive on challenges, and I feel ballet is really a challenge in more ways than one. It has disciplined me and showed me the importance of self-motivation and worth.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I am a very organized person... I am a mean laundry folder haha, is that a talent?
What is your favourite ballet trick/step?
I love jumping, especially with the men during class. I like to catch air and feel like I'm flying. Recently, I've been trying to nail a double tour but it's still in the works. :)
Any advice for young aspiring ballet dancers?
Always work hard with intelligence and integrity. We as dancers and artists are naturally passionate people, so it's important to stay level-headed. You are your biggest problem, but you are also your only solution.
Photo by Cheryl Man
What's your escape from the ballet world?
Sleeping! Also, Dylan and I are suckers for reality TV. But we love watching the FoodNetwork and supporting the 49ers, the Warriors, and the Giants (all San Francisco sports teams). I'm really into fashion and music, and I've recently been trying to build my vinyl collection because Dylan bought me a record player for Christmas. But my biggest escape is my precious baby Boston Terrier, KAHLUA. We adopted her about 6 months ago, and she's been the funniest, most therapeutic love of my life.
What has been the hardest and most challenging role you have performed?
So far, definitely Odette/Odile in Christopher Wheeldon's Swan Lake. It demanded so much of me both physically and emotionally, but it has also been one of the most rewarding times on stage.
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