One thing that I love most about New York is the chance to cross paths with people from different backgrounds and cultures. One such person is my friend from New York University, Esther Migioni. Esther and I shared classes at American Ballet Theater in pedagogy and performed together in Carly Hill’s choreography ‘Rain’, which opened the Master’s Choreography Concert in 2017.
However, staying in New York- or the US in general- can be difficult for those without citizenship. It is becoming harder and harder to obtain an Artist Visa. So when I came across this beautiful article about Esther, I thought I would share it.
*By Konstantinos Lianos
“You live as long as you dance.” That’s what one of the all-time greatest ballet dancers Rudolf Nureyev declared during his brilliant career. And the life Esther Migioni has wanted to live ever since she was three years old officially started last year when at the age of 30 she became a teaching assistant at the Αmerican Ballet Theatre, one of the world’s leading classical ballet companies.
Migioni was born in Athens, Greece on January 25, 1987 and always took part in school dance shows where her discipline, commitment and dedication to the craft made her stand out. When numerous kids on stage waved at their parents in excitement the Greek ballerina would save the greetings until after the show and focused at the task at hand. To this little girl these shows were like a premiere night at the Bolshoi Theatre.
“I consider myself privileged and lucky as I started dancing at a very young age, I have been dancing 25 years” she said. “Fortunately, throughout my ballet training, I had teachers who generously passed their knowledge to their students. Their patience and persistence was admirable. What I appreciate the most is that they made me believe that nothing is impossible. Believing in me, respecting my weaknesses and trusting my strengths, they shaped both my character and the dancer in me.
“Dance is a form of expression through movement, a way to communicate and interact and it has been so through time. Dance has been a major way of expression in many cultures around the world.
An illness forced her to push ballet aside when she was in ninth grade and Migioni then focused all her energy on her studies until she graduated from Moraitis School, one of the most respected schools in
Athens, in 2004. She then got a Masters in Marketing Communications at the University of Westminster in London four years later just when the gruesome financial crisis kicked in and delivered a devastating blow to Greece’s economy. The grim outcome made Migioni and many other young graduates shun their dreams and focus on getting a job that would guarantee as much financial security as possible.
She worked in London as a fashion PR agent as well as a consultant in Athens but the fire was still burning and after many years the 31-year- old returned to ballet where she dedicated her free time. However, a trip to Brazil, where she volunteered in orphanages, made her turn her hobby into a profession.
She added: “One of the most exciting experiences I had that I will cherish for life was back in 2009 when I decided to participate in a volunteer program in Brazil for a month; where I spent time with
orphan children. “Not only was it a life-changing experience but it was also a very
rewarding one. Working so closely with children, especially under difficult, at times, circumstances, without speaking the same language, it allowed me to value the importance of movement as a means of both communication and expression.
“Prior to attending the NYU Dance Education master’s degree, I had little knowledge regarding creative movement and its impact on human development. As I particularly enjoy working with children, I was
interested to learn as much as possible regarding their development and how their development can be enhanced and facilitated by dance, an art form that I really love.”
Migioni faced an uphill battle as she had to leave her family, her childhood friends and a promising career with a good salary to go to New York, perhaps the most competitive city in the world, in her early
30s and overcome mental as well as physical challenges at New York University. The university’s high demands pushed her to the absolute limit but she persevered against all odds and featured in various
modern and classical ballet shows.
“Learning ballet is not an easy process. It requires a lot of determination, patience and commitment, values that are unknown at a young age.
“Training as a dancer you have to face and conquer your own limits and own capabilities. If you are facing difficulties with a move, you cannot open a dictionary and find the answer. You have to persevere and struggle to find the solution.
“Even though this process can be hard and at times discouraging, it becomes extremely rewarding as you progress. As far as physical fitness is concerned, it is essential to have an appropriate dance weight
without nutritional deficiencies. I always made sure that my diet included vegetables, fruits and lean protein.”
Her talent and passion were recognized by her mentors Raymond Lukens, Franco de Vita, Sascha Radetsky, Deborah Damast as well as Susan Koff and that landed her her dream job at the Αmerican Ballet Theatre. Migioni is now determined to make the most out of this unique opportunity and one day return to Greece to share her experiences and actively help ballet become bigger in the land where
most art forms originated from.
Other artist profiles:
- Chisa Yamaguichi– Adrenaline Junkie (Diavolo)
- Adrienne Howard– Rockette to Broadway
- Xin Lili– Artistic Director of the Shanghai Ballet
- Ingrid Silva- Dance Theatre of Harlem
Many spend their entire lives looking over their shoulder and wondering ‘what if’. Following one’s dreams demands immense sacrifice on a personal, professional and financial level. Migioni had
only one goal growing up and that was dedicating her entire life to ballet. It took her some time, she put herself in a lot of financial risk but at the end she rose to the occasion in the Big Apple. And you know
what they say about New York: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.