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A Day in the Life of Ballerina Ariana Gonzalez

Ariana Gonzalez has been dancing with San Diego’s City Ballet since age 9, and this month the principal dancer takes the stage as the female lead in Romeo and Juliet. While rehearsing for March’s Balanchine Masterworks, the 33-year-old took us through a day in her life—from the fouettes and pointe shoes to relevés and rosé.


7:15 a.m.

Gonzalez—who grew up in Pacific Beach and La Jolla but lives in Normal Heights with her husband, their two dogs, and one cat—starts her days with a protein shake. “We [ballerinas] have to watch what we eat because of what we wear, but you can’t do what we do and not eat properly.”


7:23 a.m.

Post-protein, she heads to the backyard to take care of her pups: Phoebe, a West Highland white terrier, and Penelope, a black Labrador. “They love cheese and carrots.”


8:30 a.m.

Before ballet, Gonzalez clocks in private Pilates classes four times a week at the home of friend and former City Ballet dancer Angela Leone. “Gyms suck. I do yoga sometimes but Pilates works for me.”


8:32 a.m.

Leone’s Great Dane, Larry, visits their sessions on occasion. “I’m such an animal lover. It’s nice to hug a pup after a particularly difficult exercise. He’ll come in and lie down, with a few good licks thrown in!”


9:18 a.m.

The company meets five days a week, starting with a 1.5-hour warm-up and almost five hours of show rehearsal. That’s on top of the second gig most of the dancers keep. “Ballet isn’t very profitable. Basically everyone has a second job. A lot of the girls work in restaurants.” Gonzalez teaches private lessons two mornings a week, plus all day on Sundays.


10:07 a.m.

Gonzalez takes time out to stretch during warm-up class. “It keeps our technique strong, while getting our muscles ready for the day. It’s so mentally therapeutic for me, especially barre work.”


10:37 a.m.

Gonzalez nails a changement during class, despite a sore calf (hence the sole leg warmer). “I have one and a half dressers devoted to dance attire. Two drawers are filled with leotards, one for all bottoms, and the rest for warm-up clothes.”


11:38 a.m.

Before lacing up in pointe shoes, Gonzalez tapes her toes to prevent blisters—but not just any tape; hers are printed with photos of s’mores. “One of us has tape with gummy bears on it.”


11:42 a.m.

“We go through so many shoes that we name them,” she says. Today she’s wearing her “Kate Hudson” pair. “I also have Angelina Jolie and Celine Dion. I had Oprah for a while. She’s retired now.”


12:10 p.m.

Gonzalez rehearses a sequence with Adam Bloodgood for ballet mistress Emily Kirn and Gonzalez’s mother, choreographer Elizabeth Rose-Wistrich (far left), who founded City Ballet in 1993 with Gonzalez’s father, artistic director Steven Wistrich. “My mom and I work surprisingly well together. But when I was a teen, I was sassier and would get testy when she corrected me!”


12:23 p.m.

“I’m exhausted. We do the repertoire any major company would do, and [George] Balanchine ballets are so demanding. We’ve been rehearsing these since October. These ballets are basically ready to go.”


12:49 p.m.

“There’s something so glamorous and feminine about wearing a tutu,” says Gonzalez, who dons the iconic skirt for Emeralds, one of three Balanchine pieces that
make up the Masterworks show. “It never gets old.”


12:54 p.m.

Understudy Karin Yamada mirrors Gonzalez’s moves. “She has to know all of the choreography and be ready to go in at a moment’s notice if I were sick or injured or if something happened during a performance.”


1:18 p.m.

Gonzalez rehearses with Stéphano Candreva, who’ll play Romeo to her Juliet in the famous romantic piece this month at Spreckels Theatre. “It’s funny because he’s actually my best friend’s boyfriend.”


2:02 p.m.

Post-rehearsal, Gonzalez breaks for phone calls and snacks. In her packed bag? Boiled eggs, string cheese, fruit, and nuts. “It’s not the stereotypical ‘ballerinas starving themselves.’ It’s about health.”


2:51 p.m.

Rehearsal is over! Gonzalez and City Ballet dancer Megan Jacobs head to Tower23. “It’s one of our go-to spots. If we get out early and have coinciding times off, [the dancers] will go out for a meal or drinks.” On tap today? A hummus appetizer and rosé. ”I’d get a fried chicken sandwich if I didn’t have to wear a leotard next week!”


4:52 p.m.

At the end of the day, Gonzalez catches up with her husband, Geoff, a City Ballet dancer turned choreographer whom she wed in a 2014 Fallbrook ceremony. It’s also time to multitask. “I usually do an ice bath for my feet every night. And I have tendonitis.”


6:38 p.m.

The couple heats up leftovers for dinner. “We’re homebodies, but we’re also foodies. We love Bo-Beau in OB and Puesto. And I love brunch. After a show, I do brunch and mimosas. Ballerinas like to party. We are some of the biggest wine drinkers I know.”

Watch It!

Romeo & Juliet
May 6–8, Spreckels Theatre, cityballet.org

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