A Day in the life of Cinderella’s Spring Fairy

Elena Bello returns to the stage, but also to the digital pages of RVANews, as our guide to the secret life of dancers–this time from the unique perspective of Cinderella’s Spring Fairy.

Elena Bello, the Richmond Ballet dancer who shared with us her own photo diary of The Nutcracker last December, is back behind and in front of the lens! The Ballet’s spring “storybook” production–Cinderella–involves original choreography by Malcolm Burns, who’s legendary among the company for his challenging technique, as well as a ton of humor. Perfect for the little dance fans in your family, Cinderella is one of RB’s most beloved productions.

Here’s Elena with the scoop.

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Bello 1

Many of my days begin down in our PT, or Physical Therapy, Room. As professional dancers, we put a lot of highly unnatural demands on our bodies, and sometimes, we need help from our great PT team to make sure that our muscles and joints are in tip-top shape–even when we are not dealing with an injury of some sort.

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Bello 2

We usually rehearse five to six hours a day, six days a week when we are preparing for a show. In our upcoming ballet, Cinderella, I am learning the role of the Spring Fairy, with our Ballet Master Malcolm Burn, for the first time. Malcolm’s choreography for Cinderella, much like his choreography in general, can be a challenge and getting musicality down for Cinderella is certainly difficult. This variation in particular is filled with lots of fast footwork, but I suppose that’s to be expected from the Spring Fairy after all. I have also been raiding my collection of colorful and flowery leotards to help me get into character. I love my fun leotards!

Photo by Sarah Ferguson

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Bello 3

Shoe Day! We are lucky enough to have our pointe shoes provided for us, especially because we go through so many in a season. To help out the great staff in the wardrobe department (who order all of our shoes), we have designated “shoe days” when we are responsible for coming to gather our shoes for the upcoming week. It helps the lovely wardrobe ladies to keep track of the shoes we go through, and alerts the in an organized way as to when they need to place a new order for more pairs.

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Bello 4

Even though we have many long days at the Ballet, it’s always nice to have an evening free to do things with my friends. I love going out to dinner, and it’s always a great time to catch up with my friends even within the Ballet, like Kyle Kelley who works in our amazing production department. Kyle and I worked closely together during the year that I was a member of Richmond Ballet II (our second company, which we all call “RBII”), as she served as our company manager while on regional tours. We don’t always get to see each other now during the course of our busy days at the Ballet, so it’s always nice to have an opportunity to meet up (here we are at Joe’s Inn in The Fan) and grab a bite to eat.

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Bello 5

It’s another day, and I am back at work in the studio. While I am performing the role of Spring Fairy in Cinderella, we also learn a variety of other roles so we can serve as understudies. This season, I am understudying the role of one of Cinderella’s Ugly Stepsisters. It’s a great role–it’s very funny, and there are many opportunities to interact with the audience. It is also such a character-driven role, and I really enjoy the opportunity to take on a challenge like this. The chance to integrate character development and humor into the technical demands of Malcolm’s choreography has been great.

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Bello 6

Many of our breaks during the day are spent down in the costume shop, and it’s always fun to pay a visit. Here you can see that I am being fitted for my Spring Fairy costume with Stephanie O’Brien, or “Stepha” as we call her. Oftentimes, the Ballet must reuse costumes from year to year, and because different dancers may dance the same role, the costumes always have to be adjusted and readjusted. However, it’s important that we make time to have this adjustments made during the day, because a costume that doesn’t fit properly can cause a serious problem on stage!

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Bello 7

One of my favorite parts about my visits to the costume shop is that I get to see all the wonderful costume pieces and accessories that live in the shop. You never know what you are going to find the wardrobe team working on, and the place is filled with beautiful fabrics, sequins, rhinestones, tulle, and my favorite, tiaras! I may not be dancing the role of Cinderella this year, but hey, a girl can dream, right?

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Bello 8

Since we work long hours, our visits to the costume shop are also a nice way to break up the day. All the girls who work there are so fun and lively, and they do such great work to make us look beautiful on stage. It’s also a great place to joke around with my fellow dancers, and you can see RBII dancers Richard Foggio (center) and Benjamin (“Ben”) Malone making us all laugh while they are trying on their colorful costumes for Cinderella.

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Bello 9

Like I said, we love to laugh, and we love to make each other laugh. Ben’s face is so priceless here that I just had to share!

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Bello 10

Even though we spend all day working in the studio, there’s still work we have to do on our own time to ensure that we are taking care of our bodies and muscles properly. These are habits that everyone develops for themselves throughout the course of their training, and everyone’s “at home” routine is bound to be different. For me, I have to “roll out” my muscles so that they don’t tighten up overnight–doing this in the evenings at home helps me be ready to go the next day. You can also see that my dog, Rufio, loves to help with this process.

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Bello 11

The Ballet’s season is not just full of performances, it’s full of all different kinds of events that help to raise money for the organization as well. Oftentimes, we are asked to dress up for these formal events, and they are always a lot of fun. During the first weekend of February, the Ballet hosted their annual gala, but we also had a fun after-party following the dinner and auction portion of the evening. It was such a great party! They even had a photo booth, and we all took advantage of it! It was an awesome evening to let loose with my fellow dancers–you can see Thomas Ragland and Shira Lanyi to my left in this photo –and who doesn’t love the opportunity to get dressed up?

Photo by: Photo Boom Boom

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Bello 12b

One more photo booth picture! This time, Lauren Archer (RBII dancer) and I posed for a final picture of the night, with a shout-out to Richmond Ballet of course! Thanks to all my great friends who helped me take these photos–or who posed with me!

Photo by: Photo Boom Boom

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See Elena, Thomas Ragland, Shira Lanyi, and the rest of the Richmond Ballet company in Cinderella, with five performances from Friday, February 14th – Sunday, February 16th. Buy tickets online or call the box office at (804) 344-0906 x244.


Due to the predicted inclement winter weather, the Thursday, February 13th performance of Cinderella has been rescheduled to Sunday, February 16th at 6pm.

All tickets issued for Thursday’s performance will be honored at Sunday’s 6:00 PM performance. All other performances will remain as scheduled.

Cinderella Dreams, originally scheduled to accept donation dresses on Thursday evening, will now have a table on Sunday.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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