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A Beautiful Finale: Sonia Rodriguez Retires as Principal Dancer
September 7, 2021

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Sonia Rodriguez in Onegin. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic.

The 2021/22 season will be the last for Sonia Rodriguez as she prepares to retire as Principal Dancer following 32 years with The National Ballet of Canada. She has long been one of the company’s most versatile and dramatic performers, beloved by visiting choreographers and exquisite in all of ballet’s great classical works. Sonia’s facility with both contemporary and classical movement vocabularies has helped to define her as an artist, allowing her to learn and create new roles at every stage in her career.

“In addition to great genes and good fortune, I credit my longevity in this career to being open-minded,” she says. “I have remained committed to who I am and being true to myself, but I have also recognized that it’s important to discover new things and challenge myself.”

Sonia 01 Sonia Rodriguez backstage at A Streetcar Named Desire. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic.

For her final performance in March 2022, Sonia will reprise a role she first performed in 2017, when she worked with the celebrated choreographer John Neumeier to portray Blanche DuBois, the tragic heroine of A Streetcar Named Desire, receiving the Rolex Dancers First Award for her interpretation.

“John is very intellectual,” she says. “He asks the dancer to do a lot of work to understand a character’s intention. There is no empty movement – every single step must reflect who the characters are, their understanding of themselves, their relationships and their stories. Taking on the challenge of his characters feels like a big responsibility but it’s so rewarding to make them my own.”

Sonia 02 Sonia Rodriguez in Cinderella. Photo by Christopher Wahl.

In addition to lead roles in numerous ballets by John Neumeier, Sonia performs a wide repertoire of works including great classics such as Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty and Giselle, among others, as well as new works including The Winter’s Tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Nijinsky and A Streetcar Named Desire. She has had a number of roles created on her, including the title role in Cinderella, Princess Vasilisa in The Firebird and roles in Pur ti Miro, Watch her, An Italian Straw Hat and The Four Seasons, to name a few. Sonia has also been an expressive and musical interpreter of works by George Balanchine and has continued to pursue collaborations with emerging choreographers like Vanesa G.R. Montoya, with whom she created Poema Ibérico in 2020. One of the great pleasures of watching Sonia perform is feeling the openness and joy that has propelled her success across such a full range of work.

“Sonia is one of the finest dancers in the company’s history – a brilliant artist, a passionate dance actor and a consummate professional,” says Artistic Director Emerita Karen Kain. “Her contribution to the National Ballet is beyond measure.”

Sonia will retire with several prestigious awards and achievements to her credit, including Spain’s Officer’s Cross of the Civil Merit, induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame and her first book for children, T is for Tutu: A Ballet Alphabet. Most precious to her, however, is the love and respect of her colleagues and audiences, with whom she has built an extraordinary life in dance.

Sonia 03 Sonia Rodriguez and Piotr Stanczyk inThe Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

“The National Ballet of Canada has been so much more than a professional home for me,” she says. “ It has been a place where I have grown not only as a dancer and artist but personally as well, surrounded by friends and colleagues that I consider family. This career has been a dream come true and I am so grateful to everyone who made it possible, from our wonderful audiences and donors to my fellow artists. After so much time away from the stage, I cannot wait to return to the artform I love for my final season. I look forward to sharing with everyone, these last special performances with the company.”

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