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Jennifer Stahl on Tuesday, May 06, 2014
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Yesterday, I opened my inbox to see an email with the subject line "BIG NEWS!!!! from paloma." The American Ballet Theatre principal had sent out a note to several of her colleagues and contacts in the dance world announcing that the 2015 season at the Metropolitan Opera House would be her last. By that time, she will have danced with ABT for 24 years, including 20 as a principal, inspiring thousands of students, ballet lovers and fellow dancers along the way.
She wrote in her email: "Dance is my life, my passion, my bubble and it has been like that since I was 7 years old.... Not in my wildest dreams could I have asked for this wonderful life and career.... But my dream also was to retire young, dancing full of energy and with the same passion. I have no bucket list, no regrets...leaving just happy is the way I wanted to do it."
To me, Paloma Herrera has always been an icon. I think I still have a 12x12 picture of her as Kitri torn off an old ABT calendar hanging in my childhood bedroom. Growing up, she was the goal, the ballerina which every girl in my studio strived to be. But what's been most impressive is not just the technique she's had since her years as a teenage phenom, but how she's developed that into something more, especially in the past few years. That's why, as Dance Magazine was putting together its recent story on prodigies and how they become artists, Herrera was one of the first people we knew we wanted to talk to. And I loved what she told writer Joseph Carman when he asked her advice for baby ballerinas:
"It’s not enough to just be special and have the attention. If you want the attention, that’s all you’re going to get. You’re a prodigy and...that’s the end. You have to really love what you do and always want to make it better. I’m always happy to be on the stage and working. That fulfills my soul."
We will miss you on that stage, Paloma!