Richmond Ballet: Studio 2 — When zombies and ballet meet

A rare Balanchine pas de deux, a Jessica Lang stunner, and an Agnes de Mille dramatic ballet that strikes a shockingly beautiful balance of creepiness and grace.

I’ve talked to several Richmond Ballet company members over the past couple of years, and two points almost always come up in conversation:

  1. “We all get along ridiculously well.”
  2. “Dancing is hard enough on its own, but when you combine it with acting, you experience an entirely new challenge.”

That second one is usually followed by, “I wish I could act like Cecile.”

Cecile Tuzii, the star of this studio’s performance of “A Rose for Miss Emily,” provides audiences with a magnetic double whammy of physical skill and emotional expressiveness.

I caught Cecile on a break from rehearsal last week and asked her to share her thoughts on Richmond Ballet’s Studio 2. Leaving the company at the end of this season to try out the whole “starting a family” thing that everyone keeps talking about, Cecile enthusiastically recommends the entire program (it runs through this weekend). And I enthusiastically recommend interviewing her, because she is so dang pleasant to talk to.

Cecile began her career 21 years ago in Switzerland, took France by storm, then conquered Germany, where she met her fiancé and recent Richmond Ballet retiree Igor Antonov. When Igor moved to Richmond, she spent two years stateside in Tulsa, waiting patiently for her own call from artistic director Stoner Winslett.

And though it’s tough for her to give up something she loves, Cecile keeps it posi. “I’ve been very, very, very lucky to have a long career, but the new generation is amazing, and it’s time to move on,” she says. “So far this is my life, and yes, I will miss it, and I am still going to be connected to ballet anyway.”

Somehow, she manages to fit teaching adult dancers and experimenting with costume design into the famously grueling schedule of a dancer. But…”I love [teaching], and I would love to keep doing that and making costumes. That would keep me in ballet!”

If you’re not a regular ballet-goer (please reconsider that, by the way), you might not yet understand what the company will be missing. Impossibly elegant one moment and angular and brooding the next, Cecile Tuzii is an ever-changing artist, universally admired for her ability to so clearly lose herself in her performance. With this program, Richmond Ballet’s taking advantage of those acting skills while they still can.

“I like this program personally because it’s very eclectic, it shows different eras of ballet, different moods of ballet, and different technique. We have a Balanchine piece1, so it’s very challenging and demanding. Then we have a short piece by Jessica Lang2 that is very lyrical and light. Then we have ‘A Rose for Miss Emily,’3 which is very heavy. It’s based on a very creepy story by William Faulkner. I always love ballet with stories. I love acting and telling the story and going into the deep emotions of the character.”

So, what does Cecile think about the rest of her farewell season? “Every season is so different and challenging in different ways–there is no easy ballet. We are not machines, we don’t press a button and dance, we always have to go back to it and rehearse it hard and every year you add more to it in the sense that you have to be better and better every year.”

And, of course, she echoes her colleagues’ sentiments about the general mood over at our fave ballet company. “I could not have stayed here so long [seven years! Take that, France!] if the atmosphere wasn’t so good. If I were still young, I would stay here as long as I could. I’ve worked in different companies all over the world, and this is the friendliest.”

Our time with Cecile is limited, so check out “A Rose for Miss Emily” and the rest of the program, too.

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. “Duo Concertant,” one of his more difficult to come by ballets. Maggie Small and Fernando Sabino do their usual breathtaking thing in a gorgeous pas de deux set to live piano and violin. Regarding the music, Cecile says, “Live music is different in the way that–when you rehearse to a recording, you know exactly the breathing even between each note, but when it’s live music it’s slightly different with different emotion every time. Music is beautiful and emotional and it touches you and you feel that.” 
  2. “A Solo in Nine Parts,” featuring nine of the company’s principal dancers (including Cecile herself) alternating been joy and sadness, solos and ensembles. 
  3. Choreographed by Agnes de Mille, “A Rose for Miss Emily” depicts a mental breakdown caused by guilt and grief. Oh, and there’s an animated corpse on a couch. Don’t miss it! 
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Susan Howson

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

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