Energetiks talks with Rachelle Di Stasio
If you're not yet acquainted with Rachelle Di Stasio, then we'll happily make the introduction because chances are the self-driven twenty-year-old will be popping up on your radar in no time at all. Whilst instantly identifiable as a ballet dancer (she has every trademark characteristic, from the long limbs and graceful poise to the elegant features and gazelle-like quality) Rachelle's aspirations encompass far more than a career in ballet. The Californian-born star is making her presence known as a dancer, choreographer, model and budding actress and life has never been better.
The story begins with five-year-old Rachelle enrolling in casual classes at the Nashville Ballet, before progressing to formal training at eight years of age and then performing the lead role of Clara at the age of thirteen. This firmly solidified just how strong her passion for dance was and by the time she was fourteen, Rachelle possessed such evident talent that she was offered a paid traineeship with the Nashville Ballet under a six year contract.
Rachelle had a different dream in mind though, turning down the offer in favour of pursuing training in New York and – all going well – finding a place in a major ballet company. The leap of faith paid off and Rachelle was accepted into all five of the prestigious schools she auditioned for, eventually settling on the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet. This meant uprooting her and mother Diane’s lives in Nashville and making the 800-mile move to New York City.
Within six months she was completing all her schoolwork online in order to focus more singularly on her ballet training, and then in 2013 and 2014 Rachelle took two summer intensives with the American Ballet Theatre. This experience persuaded her that she was ready to audition. Evidently the school agreed and Rachelle was accepted into the ABT's Jacqueline Onassis School on a full scholarship, progressing into the ABT Studio Company only a year later and then becoming an apprentice with the American Ballet Theatre the following year. She was only 18.
Such a fast and smooth ascension makes this the kind of story that sounds embellished, which is why a superstitious person might blame what happened next on the universe re-righting too much 'cosmic luck'. Whatever the case, it's clear the next few months were not without considerable hurdles for Rachelle.
In May 2016, shortly after her promotion to the ABT, she was informed by the company that after a slight growth-spurt (putting her at 5'10") she was 'too tall' for the ABT's corps de ballet. Years of hard work and dreams were shattered in an instant. Rachelle had been set on following in the footsteps of her idols Julie Kent and Polina Semionova (both former/current principal dancers with the ABT), but for the first time in years the future didn't have a clear path.
It's the kind of knock-back that could derail someone's ambitions altogether, yet fast-forward six months and the Nashville-born beauty has bounced back with extraordinary resilience. After a string of exciting opportunities, including campaigns for Vogue, NYC Dance Project and the ABT, choreographic roles and collaborations, and featuring in a slew of photoshoots (and even the odd video campaign) Rachelle has well and truly found her stride again.
The final icing on the cake though was her decision to enter the Energetiks USA Model Search in August this year, where the stunning twenty-year-old won us over, as much with her inspiring story and unshakeable drive, as her natural beauty. Now she's the official USA Ambassador for Energetiks, appeared on the October cover of Dance Informa and was front and centre for our Crystal Tide collection campaign, jetting to Malibu for our exclusive photoshoot. Oh and she's also on the cover of our 2017 Calendar. It's clear that 2016 has been a defining year for Rachelle, and it's not over yet.
We caught up with Rachelle shortly after being announced as our official USA Ambassador to chat about life, dance and what the future may hold. See below for the full interview.
E: How did your dance journey begin?
R: I began my dance journey at the Nashville Ballet with a creative dance class when I was five years old. I loved it. I started my formal training when I was eight, training in ballet, contemporary and character. I’ve always loved moving to music. Even before I could walk, my mom tells me that I would move my arms in time to whatever music was playing and not stop until the music was done. You could say the reason to be a dancer was always in me.
E: Was there a moment that made you realise you wanted to pursue a career in ballet?
R: Yes! My decision to pursue ballet as a career was made clear when I was cast in the role of Clara in Nashville Ballet’s Nutcracker at 13. Having all those wonderful rehearsals and performances on stage with the company members was what did it for me.
E: It’s clear that you were incredibly driven from an early age, being offered a paid traineeship with the Nashville Ballet at just 14, which you declined in order to move to New York, before you were fast-tracked to the ABT’s studio company at 18. What was that experience like? How did you stay motivated?
R: What motivated me was my dream and desire to dance for one of the top companies in the world: the American Ballet Theatre. I knew that I would need to make the move to New York City from Nashville in order to pursue and reach my dream. I have to say that it was a little scary at first because growing up in a small town and then moving to a very big city was intimidating. After living in New York for a few months, and loving my training, it became very exciting and exhilarating being a part of city life and the challenges it brought.
E: Earlier this year you were told that you had unfortunately grown too tall for the ABT Company, as they planned to focus on a shorter corps de ballet. That must have been incredibly hard news to receive after you'd put so much hard work in towards a place in the company. How did you cope with the news?
R: Honestly, it was a real shock at first, especially because of the timing of when I was told in early May. I decided however to continue working hard, to keep a good and professional attitude and do my best as I still had to perform in the Met season until July 2016.
E: Is there anything you would like to see change about the dance industry?
R: For newer company members, especially in larger dance companies, I'd love to see those young dancers be given the opportunity to prove themselves and show their abilities without waiting years to work their way up the ladder.
E: Looking forward, what ambitions or dreams do you have for the future?
R: First, I'd like to say that in the pursuit of my ambitions and dreams I always strive to be the best that I can in whatever I do and enjoy every moment of my life. I feel it's important to always be a great example and an inspiration to others, and to enjoy giving back to others while in pursuit of one's dreams. With that said, I would like be a famous model/actress/dancer and to receive endorsements from some of my favourite companies.
E: How do you deal with the pressure and nerves that happen during auditions?
R: In dealing with pressure and nerves, I focus on my breath, think and say positive words and focus on being thankful for the opportunity to audition. I try to focus on the positive aspects of an audition instead of worrying about whether they will like me or if something might go wrong.
E: Which gives you the most joy as a dancer: being on stage, at rehearsals or in the studio?
R: I love the pressure of performance, whether on stage or in front of the camera. I love giving all that I have and sharing with the audience my gifts. It's the perfect culmination of all my hard work.
E: What's one dream role you'd love to perform?
R: I have to say that I have a couple of dream roles. I'd love to perform in a film, either as a super-hero or a James Bond girl.
E: What's a few other characters you'd love to play?
R: I’d love to play a comedic role in a TV series, something similar to ‘Friends’ or ‘Sex in the City.’
E: What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
R: Modelling, acting, travelling, eating good food, spending time with close friends and family, sports and enjoying my dog, Lambo.
E: How would you describe your style?
R: I would say my style is very fashion forward: the merging of classic with contemporary. I’m very outgoing, classic but sporty with a little bit of edge.
E: What's one technique correction that has always stuck in your head?
R: To always extend the energy through the body and to continue moving through the motion, especially in the in-between steps.
E: Describe your perfect day off.
R: Waking up late, having brunch with a nice cappuccino followed by a nice stroll or bike ride through Central Park - and ending the day watching a good movie.
E: What’s a motto you live by?
R: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," so don’t compare yourself to others.
E: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned through dance so far?
R: True success comes after failure.
E: Favourite post-workout food?
R: A big green smoothie.
E: Something you couldn’t live without?
R: The love of my family and close friends and also my favourite sweatshirt.
E: What's your secret weapon as a dancer?
R: In exercise it's the plank. In dance it's the tendu and grand jete!
E: And finally, what advice would you offer to others wanting to follow their dreams?
R: To learn to be okay with allowing yourself to fail, as this is what truly gives one the strength and healthy perspective to not only achieve your greatest dreams but to handle all that comes with those achievements.
All the Crystal Tide photos featured in this interview were taken by Australian photographer Chris Bagôt.