Interview conducted by Marie Tender.

Where are you from and how long have you been at ARB?
JM: My name is Jonathan and I’m originally from the region of Abruzzo in central Italy. I grew up in a town named Orsogna which means “dream now” in Italian. This is my second season with ARB. 

What made you want to bring your dance career to the US and why did you choose ARB?
JM: Two years ago, I attended a festival in Florence, where I came across an advertisement for the ARB audition. I chose to attend the audition because it seemed like an amazing opportunity. Fun fact: I was the only person who spoke English in the room and I translated all of the combinations and corrections during the audition. I was so excited when I was accepted! 

What was the most challenging thing about moving to another country?
JM: Adjusting to the social customs in America was a challenge. They are different from Italy’s, especially regarding language, food and the concept of time. I was self-conscious about communicating with others at first, but that quickly passed. After a year and a half, it’s no problem at all. 

What do you miss about Italy and what do you love about the US?
JM: I really miss my family, my friends and the food in Italy, but I really enjoy the cultural diversity in America. I especially love the variety of cuisine and entertainment options available here. People have a lot respect for the ideas and plans of others, even if they are unusual. I also appreciate that there are many opportunities to try things you are passionate about, as well as to develop skills you already have. It really helps you become a well-rounded person. 

What has been your favorite role/performance so far?
JM: Performing the role of Basilio in the iconic ballet Don Quixote really impacted me. I really improved from the technical challenge and had a lot of fun portraying the character onstage. My favorite performance with the company so far has been Blue Until June, a contemporary piece by Trey Mclntyre. It was such a moving experience to feel the relationship between the dancers and audience during the performance. It felt like we were all really connecting with each other. It was a cool experience. 

Do you think that your Italian culture has an impact on the way you dance?
JM: Yes, for sure. Italy is grounded a bit more in tradition when it comes to the arts. American dancers are freer in their expression, while in Italy the work is more structured. There is a lot of emphasis on creating and experimenting with movement here, while in Italy we identify our styles are defined as either classical or contemporary. 

What are your hobbies outside of dancing?
JM: It’s hard for me to stop dancing sometimes but I also enjoy TV shows, movies, cooking and having aperitivo with my friends. Aperitivo is like happy hour; a time in the afternoon where, with a drink and some food, you have a fun time with your friends. I also really like the TV shows “Big Bang Theory,” “Friends,” and “Peaky Blinders.” 

Favorite thing to cook?
JM: I love cooking any kind of pasta. Baked pasta, lasagna, risotto, carbonara, cannelloni, the list goes on forever. I also love cooking and eating pizza. One rule: no pineapple on the pizza. 

What dancer inspires you?
JM: Roberto Bolle inspires me. He has made a huge impact world-wide because of his incredible technique and artistry, both of which are still present at age forty-five. On top of his remarkable dancing, he has paid all his success forward by making ballet accessible to a wider audience in Italy. Once a year he hosts a gala on TV, allowing more people to tune in to the arts. He also created a ballet festival “On Dance,” to mentor and inspire the next generation of artists. I hope to follow his example of making a positive impact by helping to increase access to ballet in my community and inspiring young students to accomplish their goals. 

What advice would you have for aspiring male dancer?
JM: First of all, he should not be ashamed of his passion. He should be proud of doing this incredible art form and it takes a very strong person to do what we do. I would say never to let anything stop you from pursuing your goal. Improve as fast as you can by focusing in ballet class, going to the gym and watching ballet videos. Don’t forget to have fun! Without fun, what we are doing is useless.  

How are you adjusting to life in quarantine?
JM: I am trying to be as careful as possible – wearing a mask and gloves when I go to crowded places such as the grocery store. 

What does your daily life look like during this time?
JM: I start my day with a good breakfast, then I begin my work out: I run about 1.5 miles daily, take ballet class, and do exercises for my arms and abs. I also like to spend time with my roommates Journy and Marie playing video game, watching TV, and cooking meals. A few days a week I teach the young boys level for Princeton Ballet School. 

What is the hardest thing for you right now?
JM: Over the summer I would usually visit my family for a couple of weeks, but sadly, I can’t leave the country. I am going to miss seeing my family and friends but I really enjoy spending time with my second family here so all is good. 

What is the first thing you want to do we are able to gather again?
JM: I would like to have a barbecue with all my friends that I haven’t seen since our last day of rehearsal back in March. I know that we’ll have fun.  

Jonathan Montepara started his training at the age of 7 in his hometown Orsogna,Italy. He joined the Rome Ballet School in 2016, and graduated in 2018. During the 2017-18 season he was chosen to create the Rome Ballet Junior Company where he performed the new neoclassical version of Coppélia choreographed by Milena Zullo. He also performed in Switzerland Notti Bianche, a new choreography by his Russian teacher Alexandre Stepkine played by the famous pianist Vovka Ashkenazy. In the graduation show he performed the Adagio from Paquita. He trained with Alexandre Stepkine, Giulia Rossitto, Milena Zullo, Matteo Levaggi. He joined the 2018 PBS Summer Intensive where he received a full scholarship for the trainee program. This is his second season with ARB2.

Photos: Blue Until June by Trey McIntyre, Beyond the Normal by Riccardo De Nigris, and the Spanish dance from Nutcracker.