By Steve Sucato
In addition to cancelled shows, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted final performances for many retiring dancers. Pointe is giving several retiring principals and soloists a chance to reflect on their careers and offer advice to the next generation.
Carolina Ballet principal dancer Lara O’Brien planned to retire from the company she hasspent her entire 19-year career with this spring. Her final onstage appearance, as Lady Macbeth in Robert Weiss’ Macbeth, a role she originated in 2016, was supposed to happen in May but was cancelled due to COVID-19. Luckily, the production was rescheduled to November 19-22 in Raleigh and she will delay her retirement until then.
A native of Crystal Lake, Illinois, O’Brien trained at the School of Ballet Chicago and School of American Ballet before joining Carolina Ballet in 2001 as an apprentice. She was promoted to soloist in 2004 and principal in 2011, and is also a mother and the owner of two dance studios. The 38-year-old O’Brien spoke to Pointe about about her career in Raleigh, as well as what it takes to balance dance, family and a business.
Why are you planning to retire?
I am feeling called to some new adventures. I started a family two-and-a-half years ago and I want to have more time with them. I have had really long and healthy career, and knowing it had to end at some point I would like to go out while I am still dancing really well.
Nineteen years is a long time with one company. Did you ever think about dancing elsewhere?
Joining Carolina Ballet was such a blessing. I have been given opportunities to dance a lot. I was promoted fairly quickly and have done a lot of leading roles that I never dreamed I would dance. I never had a desire to leave.
This article first appeared on PointeMagazine.com on June 8 , 2020.
Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.