By Marina Harss
16 February 2021
On January 1, 2021, Uruguayan ballerina María Riccetto officially became the new director of her national ballet company, Ballet Nacional de Sodre. Seldom has the selection of a new leader felt so apt. Riccetto’s career has been a model of hard work, perseverance and attention to craft, rewarded by recognition and responsibility.
Many ballet lovers in New York City remember Riccetto with great fondness. The former American Ballet Theatre soloist, born and raised in Uruguay, had a very particular quality: the ability to transmit a combination of affability and joy, in roles like the young girl in Le Spectre de la Rose, or Twyla Tharp’s Known by Heart, or even as a flower girl in Don Quixote. When she danced, you felt you knew her.
In 2012 she returned to Montevideo, her native city, at the invitation of Julio Bocca, who had just taken the reins at BNS. It was one of the most significant decisions of her career. She became the troupe’s leading ballerina, performing every important role in the repertory. In 2017, she was awarded a Benois de la Danse for her performance of Tatiana in John Cranko’s Onegin.
Along the way, she became a household name in Uruguay, as universally recognized as the country’s soccer champions. Since last year, she has been a fixture on the Uruguayan version of the TV show America’s Got Talent. There is even a line of perfumes named after her. “Floral, with a hint of jasmine,” she told me.
So it makes perfect sense that, after retiring from the stage at the end of 2019 at age 39, she would be tapped for the company’s top job. When I caught up with her in early February, via Zoom, she spoke from her new office, with a photograph taken during one of her performances of Giselle behind her. What follows is an edited version of our conversation, translated from Spanish.
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