Of all the childhood dream careers, professional ballet dancer might be the hardest to achieve. Viola Pantuso, who was recently promoted to Artist with the Royal Ballet of London, has made it look easy, as the most dazzling ballerinas do.
Before taking the stage in what she calls, “the most beautiful part of London,” Viola grew up in Hinsdale. with her parents and brother. It’s a supportive family with shared traits of creativity and warmth. “I love Hinsdale. I love my home. I love my fireplace,” she says.
Her ballet studies began at the age of three with early training at Salt Creek Ballet, then the Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago.
Her incredible talent and drive took her away from the area. She moved on to The Ellison Ballet Professional Training Program in New York City.
During her time in New York, she attended the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) and was awarded the silver prize in the NYC Finals. In 2017 she joined The Royal Ballet School at White Lodge. During her time at the Upper School she was awarded First Prize in the Lynn Seymour Competition for Expressive Dance and in 2021 graduated from The Royal Ballet School. “I was an apprentice and and was one of four dancers invited to join the company.”
As a student, she performed in The Joffrey Ballet’s La Bayadère, Othello and The Nutcracker and American Ballet Theatre’s production of Le Corsaire. While at The Royal Ballet School, she performed the main role in Elite Syncopations and danced in Ashley Page’s Mephisto Waltz for her graduation performance. She also performed in Liam Scarlett’s The Cunning Little Vixen at the Royal Opera House and in Didy Veldman’s Is To Be in the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland.
This dedicated talent apprenticed with The Royal Ballet’s Aud Jebsen Young Dancers Program in the 2021 – 2022 Season and entered the company as an Artist in the 2022 – 23 Season. “It’s an absolute dream come true,” Pantuso says, adding, “When I was 11, I was trying to figure out how to get to London.” Now she is “dancing with superstars,” as she says.
The days are long, usually 9:00 a.m. until midnight, with one or two shows each day, plus company class, rehearsals, costume fittings, time for make-up, and all the other details that fill a dancer’s time. “Every day there’s something new,” Pantuso says. This might include class on stage at The Royal Opera House instead of in the rehearsal studio so ballet fans can snap up tickets to observe. Or an occasional “dance with the dancers” event where students can come even closer to greatness.
Only four dancers emerged from the apprentice program with full contract offers. Viola is among the most talented artists in the world. She remains remarkably humble and kind, citing the thrill of working each day in the same space as renowned greats like Dame Monica Mason, who danced with The Royal Ballet and served as its artistic director for many years.
This summer, while the company is on hiatus, Viola will travel to Tokyo, a postponed trip from 2020. Until then, she is excited about the season. “It’s eclectic. I’ll be dancing in Mayerling, Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, and Balanchine’s Diamonds, among other works.” Viola says.
Those with winter or spring plans to visit London should add a performance to their itinerary tout suite. These are wonderful works made even more special by knowing that this local made more than good.
roh.org.uk/about/the-royal-ballet Follow Viola on Instagram @violabella_.