On a bright day in January, Patricia Delgado logged on to Zoom from a studio in Miami to teach this year’s YoungArts award winners in dance. (YoungArts awards are given annually to teenage students in the visual, literary and performing arts. Awardees receive up to $10,000 in prizes and are invited to YoungArts Week, which features master classes and workshops with industry leaders.) The screen was a grid overflowing with burgeoning dance talent—each student was visibly eager to learn from such an accomplished professional. “Dance is all about connecting,” Delgado said into the camera. “Every day you need to have the discipline to connect to your craft, which ultimately connects you to yourself. Then, you need to connect to your peers, teachers and collaborators and create a family. From there you need to connect to your audience. Once they feel the joy of dancing as an artistic expression, they vibrate on a different level, and go on to connect with even more people beyond the performance. You are each so talented, and this achievement is a true honor. I know that all of you will be leaders who will go on and affect the world one day.” And with those sage words, class began.
Delgado’s dance training began in Miami at 5 years old with Vivian Tolbio—a Cuban ballet instructor she describes as “strict, with a record player and a stick.” Delgado fell in love with dance instantly, and by sixth grade her parents sought out a school that was offering pre-professional training. At the same time, Miami City ballet had just created its own training program, and her parents decided to give it a try. “The teachers at Miami City Ballet School were also dancers in the company, and for the first time I got a sense of what the trajectory of a dance career could look like for me,” Delgado says. “It was my everything. I loved dancing. I loved performing.” In 2000, just after graduating high school, Delgado officially joined Miami City Ballet—first as an apprentice, then as a member of the corps de ballet, and finally in 2007, as a principal. During her time with the company, choreographer Justin Peck came to set work on her. The two hit it off and eventually married. In 2017, Delgado left Miami and moved to New York City, where she thought her dance career wouldn’t take off. “I had to follow my heart even though I didn’t really have a plan,” Delgado says. “Surprisingly, I’ve had an incredibly fruitful freelance dance experience since moving here.” She has worked for Damien Woetzel, Pam Tanowitz, Jamar Roberts, Justin Peck and others.
In the fall of 2019, Delgado was asked to teach ballet at the Juilliard School twice per week. “I have been able to teach students at an incredible phase of their life,” Delgado says. “It’s a vulnerable time in which they need support, and I am grateful to be there to help answer their questions.” In 2020, Delgado was invited to do a virtual lecture that was put on by YoungArts dance-panel chair Vernon Scott. The two stayed connected over the course of the pandemic, leading Scott to invite Delgado to teach a ballet class to the 2022 winners. “I have been a huge fan of this organization forever,” Delgado says. “I love seeing the variety of genres and goals come together. I appreciate that the program provides ongoing support to these students throughout all of the phases of their professional journeys. I love any opportunity I get to work with young dancers as they bloom.”
Here, Delgado shares her teaching warm-up, her must-have teaching attire, favorite teaching tool and more.
Her teaching warm-up: “I do an entire barre. I like to try my class out on my body (while I still can), so that I can be warm when I demonstrate during class and not hurt myself, and so I remember the important things I want to touch on during class.”
Must-have teaching attire: “These days I like to wear socks—that’s probably the Juilliard influence—or my ballet shoes. I like Só Dança shoes specifically. I also like to wear New Balance sneakers because the soles of the shoes are less sticky than others.”
Teaching tool: “I try to use a lot of visualization, like ‘Reach for the pizza!’—silly cues that keep class light and make the dancers laugh and soften the tension surrounding getting the step right.”
Her afternoon energy-booster food: “A banana. You can never have too many bananas. That and an afternoon coffee are sure to keep my energy up.”
The food she can’t live without: Dates.
Her favorite nondance activities: “My life right now is my daughter, Lucia. I also love watching movies, going for long walks, doing Gyrotonics, and swimming. I also love cooking. It’s my rejuvenation time with Justin.”
Recommended reading: “Chance and Circumstance, by Carolyn Brown, is an amazing book. I also recently listened to Mark Morris’ book Out Loud, on audiobooks, and it was very entertaining.”
How she relaxes after a long day: “A hot Epsom salt bath with a lot of bubbles and essential oils, a home-cooked meal by Justin, and some wine.”
Her guilty pleasure: “I am pretty disciplined, but my guilty pleasure is getting obsessed with shows like ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Emily in Paris.’”