The Kennedy Center

Paola Hartley


Paola Hartley (Soloist) was born in Bonn, Germany, and grew up in South Africa and Chile. She studied at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts with Melissa Hayden, Duncan Noble, and Gyula Pandi. In 1993, she joined Ballet de Santiago with Marcia Haydée as her director and was promoted to soloist in 1997. Paola joined Ballet Arizona as a principal dancer in 1998, under the directorship of Ib Andersen where she premiered leading roles in his productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Play, and Indigo Rhapsody. Her modern repertoire includes pieces by Kevin O'Day, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Julia Adams, Moses Pendleton, and Dwight Rhoden. Full length productions include Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, La Sylphide, and Don Quixote. Paola joined The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in 2013 and has performed leading roles in George Balanchine's Pas de Dix, Tempo di Valse, Episodes, Agon, and Paul Mejia's Romeo and Juliet.

A Conversation with Paola
What do you like to do when you are not dancing?

I love to crochet! I have made blankets, scarves, cushions, and shawls. I brings me so much joy. I also enjoy spending time with my fiancé and our dogs.

How do you prepare yourself for the physical challenges of rehearsing, performing, touring?
I always make it a point to get enough sleep! And, to eat well for energy. Epsom salt baths and ice buckets are a must.

What is it like to work with Ms. Farrell? Any fun and memorable stories or anecdotes about working with her?
It has been such a pleasure and a true learning experience working with Ms. Farrell. It is very exciting when she shares stories of her work with Mr. Balanchine. Anecdote: My birthday fell on my first week of work with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet. Somehow Ms. Farrell knew it was my birthday and during barre, she created a tendú combination where no other music but the "Happy Birthday" song would work. When I realized what I was hearing I couldn't contain the emotion and started crying. It was very special and I appreciated her thoughtfulness.

What music do you like to listen to when you warm-up?
I have never gotten into the swing of listening to music while warming up. I would much rather chat with my colleagues!

What do you think is the most common myth about being a ballet dancer? What do you wish people knew about what it's really like to be a ballet dancer?
The most common myth that I can think of is that we don't eat. When in reality we need all of the energy that we can get. I wish people knew more that this is really a vocation. We live and breathe ballet all over.

Do you feel an affinity for any particular choreographer?
Definitely Mr. Balanchine. I feel challenged and pushed, but at the same time free and happy to be onstage.

What is the biggest reward in your career?
What has satisfied me the most out of all of my years dancing has been the opportunity to reach out to the audience and give them a nice night out where they can forget their problems and daily life issues for a couple of hours. To receive their applause is my biggest reward.
Paola Hartley