Inspiring Latina: Meet Cuban Ballerinas (And Sisters!) Lorena & Lorna Feijoo

Inspiring Latina: Meet Cuban Ballerinas (And Sister!) Lorena & Lorna Feijoo

They say that all good things come in pairs. The proof? Lorena and Lorna Feijoo. Las bailarinas cubanas are each dazzling and successful in their own right; they've shattered countless stereotypes, and changed the face of the physically demanding art form as we know it.

In the ballet world, it can be extraordinarily difficult for one dancer to rise through the ranks of a company and reach the coveted position of principal dancer. However, both the Feijoo sisters were promoted to principal dancer in their native country of Cuba, and both have danced as principals with notable companies all over the world including the Cuban National Ballet, Boston Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet. Today, Lorena works as a Principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, and Lorna is the Resident Principal Ballet Mistress at Bay Area Houston Ballet & Theatre

Most recently, the sisters represented their heritage and discussed their bond as sisters in Milk Life's Somos Fuertes Strength Ambassadors campaign. Alongside their mother, fellow ballerina Lupe Calzadilla, the sisters gave fans a backstage look at their lives as Prima Ballerinas and proud cubanas

"It turned out to be a beautiful, family experience," Lorena told us. "It's there forever — captured on camera." 

MORE: The 14 Best Latino Dancers of All Time

We chatted with Lorena and Lorna to learn about the most challenging parts of their job and get their advice for fellow ballerinas:

What was your training like at the Cuban National Ballet?

Lorena: Our training was very, very intense. We would dance from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and we would have to do character dances and French language and piano. We learned how to read music, folklore, African dances, historical dances, and salon dances. It was a very complete dance education. We didn’t really get a lot of time off. We would have a break for lunch, then we would start with regular school like any kid. There was math, Spanish, literature, chemistry, and the rest of it. Although we don’t really feel like we missed out on anything in our childhood, it came with a lot of sacrifices. We had very little time off as kids.

When did you decide that you wanted to dance professionally?

Lorna: In my case, I never thought about being a ballerina. I was in school, and my mom was a teacher in the Cuban National Ballet School. I knew that they were holding an audition, so I applied for it, but my mom did not know that I was doing it. Then when I got in. I told my mom that I wanted to do it for a year and see what happened. I really loved it. My ideal ballerina was always my sister, so I think I tried to follow her success in the school. Even in our careers, I have always felt that my sister was the best ballerina in the world.

Lorena: When Lorna decided to audition for the company, my mom was already a teacher, so she had stopped dancing. I was the one who had started dancing, because I am three years older. In my case, from three or four years old, I was exposed to dance, because my mom was still dancing in the company. I think that it really grew on me. By the age of nine, I really knew exactly what I wanted to do.

My mother tried to persuade us both to not do it, because it is a career that involves a lot of sacrifices. I still said that this is really want I want to do. She was very clear with us. She said, “If you really have a devotion for it and a great passion for it and you know that it is going to come with all of these sacrifices, then do it. But if you feel that it is just kind of entertaining and you want to just pursue it as a hobby, that’s okay, too."

She knew that every girl in the world wants to be a ballerina, and it doesn’t always happen. She was trying to really save us from a lot of heartbreak. 

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