SF Ballet School Alumni Spotlight: Marisa Chang

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It was a pleasant surprise to receive an email from the SF Ballet School recently, reaching out to reconnect with alumni. Without hesitation, I replied back not really knowing what to say other than to provide my contact information.

Memories quickly flooded in, taking me back to when I was a student at the School. I still remember the smell of hair spray, sewing elastics on pointe shoes, the endless supply of tape and band-aids, perfecting our pointed feet with thera-bands, and of course, sweat. Some of my fondest memories from the School were snack breaks with classmates at Café Allegro, leaving school at noon to take technique class, staying behind just to watch the older dancers, and finally performing in the Nutcracker alongside our dream ballerinas: Evelyn Cisneros, Elizabeth Loscavio, Katita Waldo, and Tina LeBlanc.

Marisa Chang as Clara in SF Ballet's Nutcracker

Marisa Chang as Clara in SF Ballet’s Nutcracker

I was seven years old when I was first introduced to dance through Dance in Schools and Communities, while attending SF’s Argonne Elementary School. Apparently the teachers thought I had potential and I was chosen for the one-year scholarship program. After, I was admitted into the school year program on scholarship, taking classes over the years from some of the very respected ballet figures such as Mary Wood (my first ballet teacher), Jocelyn Vollmar, Irina Jacobsen, Larissa Sklyanskya, and Lola de Avila, to name a few. By Level 8, the studios became our second home for all of us. Unfortunately, I stopped dancing due to an injury, but that allowed me the rare opportunity to experience life as a full-time high school student—something that most advanced ballet dancers miss due to the demanding training schedule. I later graduated from college, and soon after, I earned a Masters of Science in Counseling. Today, I work as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, providing treatment for children with autism. In addition, I work with families who have young children with developmental disabilities and delays. Although I did not become a professional ballet dancer, the School impacted my life by giving me lasting friendships, valuable lessons, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Today, I get to continue to relive my childhood memories with a special group of ladies who are also School alumni. We try to meet a few times a year in the Bay Area and have been doing so for the last 15 years—celebrating birthdays, graduations, marriages, births, and friendships. After finishing our studies, most of us moved away to pursue a variety of professions. Some remained dancing at respected dance companies, while a couple earned law degrees, and another became a faculty member at St. Mary’s College’s LEAP program for current and former professional dancers. Some pursued the hardest job in the world—being a mother! It is this group of ladies whom I proudly call family.

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SF Ballet School alumni Hiromi Ushino (Yamazaki), Karen Nepacena, Jenny-Lee Powers Wright, Anne-Sophie Rodriquez Hoyt, Marisa Chang, and Amanda Wells

I encourage today’s students the following: always get right back up after every fall; strive to be the best; encourage, praise, and support each other; and do not let others define who you are inside and outside the dance world. I look forward to reconnecting with more alumni, sharing our fond memories as proud students from the SF Ballet School!

Marisa Chang
Student from 1986-1995

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