By Amy Schrader
Childhood dreams can come true. Just ask Gilbert native Gabriella Domini.
From the moment she saw the New York City Ballet perform “The Nutcracker” during a vacation with her family, the then 9-year-old set her dreams on becoming a ballerina.
“I have a very vivid memory of one moment in the Sugar Plum pas de deux where the ballerina is balancing on one point shoe, being led across the stage by her partner, giving the illusion that she is floating,” Domini said. “In that moment there was something special there that captivated me.”
That moment captivated Domini enough for her to work hard and chase her dreams.
On June 5, Domini’s hard work paid off when she was chosen as one of only eight new apprentices at the New York City Ballet, founded by legendary choreographer George Balanchine and was presented with the 2017 Mae L. Wien award for outstanding promise.
The dancer, who attended the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York, a feeder school into the New York City Ballet, was presented with the Mae L. Wien award onstage at the beginning of SAB’s annual Workshop Benefit performance.
After the show, Peter Martins, ballet master in chief of the New York City Ballet, gathered a small group of dancers onstage and delivered news of the apprenticeships.
“I was completely overwhelmed with emotion,” Domini said. “My wildest dream had come true. After dedicated years of work and sacrifice, especially moving away from home, I felt that it had all culminated in that moment. It was surreal”
The hard work began in a garage dance studio in Gilbert, where a 6-year-old Domini took dance lessons from a family friend.
When she was nine, she began serious ballet training at the School of Ballet Arizona after auditioning and being cast in its showcase of “The Nutcracker.”
At 13, she enrolled at Ballet Etudes in Gilbert, under the direction of Sharon Meko, and later danced Aurora in the school’s production of “The Sleeping Beauty.”
“There was always something special about Gaby,” said Meko, Ballet Etude’s founding artistic director. “Her work ethic was remarkable. While other students would stop and take breaks, Gaby continued to work, always perfecting her technique. While a driven and focused student, Gaby was an exemplary role model and was always polite, kind and respectful.”
Gabriella attended SAB summer courses in New York before enrolling there as a full-time student in 2014, at the age of 15. This entailed her moving to New York to live in the school’s dorms and attend the world-renowned school, which can be described as an elite ballet boarding school.
“I come from a very tight-knit family, so it was hard to wrap my head around moving across the country to pursue my dreams,” Domini said. “It didn’t take long to realize that it was where I was supposed to be. Being surrounded by people who shared my passion was invigorating.”
The dancer’s schedule while attending SAB kept her busy. Dancers take multiple ballet classes six days a week, and on top of that, have extra rehearsal and Pilates hours. While maintaining her dance schedule and practice, Domini completed high school classes online.
All of the hard work helped Domini achieve her childhood dream, as she will officially begin her apprenticeship with the New York City Ballet in August.
Domini will attend ballet class and rehearse every day with the company and will also perform in up to seven of their shows each week.
Even though Domini had to move across the country from her family home to pursue her dreams, her parents, Matt and Jennifer Domini, have supported her every step of the way.
“We couldn’t be happier for Gaby, as her accomplishments are definitely the result of hours of hard work and dedication,” Jennifer said. “This has been such a wild journey. We are so incredibly proud of her.”