Studio Company dancer Rachel Rohrich reflects back on her training and her most influential teacher: Xiomara Reyes. Xiomara, Head of the Professional Training Division at TWSB, performed as a soloist and principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre for 14 years before retiring from the stage in 2015. She was born in Cuba, studied at Cuba’s National Ballet School, and later joined The National Ballet of Cuba where she performed in the corps de ballet and as a soloist. She has also performed principal roles with the Joven Guardia de Cuba under the direction of Laura Alonso, and leading roles as a soloist with the Royal Ballet of Flanders in Belgium for seven years.

Rachel Rohrich with Trae Mikus, Xiomara Reyes, and Rinat Imaev

“My relationship with Xiomara Reyes will always be special to me, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. She’s taught me so much—not only about ballet but about how to approach life: fearlessly and with purpose. Above all, she’s taught me that art and life are not separate entities. Rather, they work in parallel: your life informs your art, and your art molds your life. This mentality touches every one of Xiomara’s classes and rehearsals, always reminding you of the bigger picture.

Xiomara is a teacher that truly leads by example, not only telling her students how to approach a step but showing them what it should feel like. While she has greatly helped me focus on the quality of my technique (crossed 5th position at all times!), the most important value I’ve learned from her is to be a fearless dancer—to dance with abandonment, because, in the end, we dance because we love it.

Xiomara Reyes teaching. Photo by xmbphotography

I remember in our Saturday classes in Phillips, she would always ask us why we were holding back. “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen?” she would say, “the floor will always be there to catch you!” After, she would walk to the center to demonstrate the combination, executing a perfect triple pirouette and striking awe among everybody in the room.

Fearlessness is just among one of the many qualities Xiomara instills in her students, in addition to unconditional love, responsibility, and artistic intelligence. As a teacher, Xiomara leads with the perfect balance of encouragement, rigor, and tough love, holding us all to the highest standards. She will let you know when you do a good job but will always tell you things that can always be better. This teaching style motivates me to want to do better and try harder each time we’re in the studio.

Rachel Rohrich at YAGP 2015 Dallas, TX semi-finals

I don’t think I would be where I am today without Xiomara. I have so much to thank her for—from the opportunities she has given me to her willingness to help me understand corrections. Any student of hers will understand why she is so special!”

–Rachel Rohrich