Lorena Feijoo. Photo Nick Garcia/via Facebook

The San Francisco Ballet’s prima ballerina, Lorena Feijoo, hosted a special pre-screening of Disney’s Cinderella at AMC Van Ness Theater March 9, imparting her wisdom of dance, grace and artistry to the audience. Afterwards, the Cuban-born ballerina, who portrayed Cinderella in choreographer Val Caniporali’s “A Cinderella Story,” spoke with El Tecolote about that experience and her journey to becoming one of the most celebrated ballerinas in recent history:

When did your passion for ballet begin?
Really early, when I was three or four. My mother took me to the Cuban National Ballet all the time and I was taken care of by the wardrobe people, surrounded by pointe shoes and music and dance—so very early on.

Tell me about your upbringing in Cuba.
It was a phenomenal time of my life, I learned a lot. I was a very happy child. I didn’t have 70 channels and lots of distraction; I was absolutely thrilled with my upbringing. I was just a happy girl with a lot of responsibilities. Being a dancer meant having to study French and piano and character painting, so it wasn’t just classes. I was a very well rounded young girl and that didn’t give me a lot of time to play around and do other things. Today, I’m very happy with what I learned and experienced.

Being born and raised as a Cuban, how has that affected your dance career and the dancer that you’ve become?
I think we all carry with us our idiosyncrasies and our roots and our upbringing and our childhood, so I think, as a dancer, I tend to hear that we [Cubans] have a lot of pizzazz and a lot of freedom and a lot of passion and [are] very committed for what we do every day, even during rehearsals and class—not just show time. I think it’s part of being a Cuban or being a Latino; it integrates those factors into your daily job.

Tell me about your performance in the Val Caniporali’s “A Cinderella Story.” How was this performance special or unique for you?
Performing Val’s Cinderella has been great, because his choreography particularly is based in the ‘50s. He uses a lot of elements like harps and costumes, mimicking Audrey Hepburn like in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” and it has a lot of humor in it, which is usually not that present. For example in one part, Cinderella brings the shoes to the prince, and that’s completely the reverse. So it is a very humorous story and the steps have an ease to them because it’s based on wonderful Broadway music, and [the] composer is Bernstein so it’s wonderful music to dance to. And working with Val C. is always wonderful, so he makes it even better.

Do you think that being a Latina affects this role and, if yes how so?
From Val C., yes I think it does because he uses a lot more movement with the hips. And he gives you a certain freedom where you can use a lot of your body and shoulders and sense of musicality and movement, which I think Latin dancers have it in them a lot because, since you’re a little kid, you’re moving salsa or popular rhythms—even people who didn’t happen to be a ballerina. It’s a little in your DNA and upbringing. That’s why Val tends to love Latina woman, because they come with that chip and I’ve been very blessed with that.

Most girls hear about the tale of Cinderella when they’re little in books, film, or simple bedtime stories. When was the first time you heard the tale of Cinderella?
I think I must have been around three, very early on my mom was a really good story reader. It’s one of those [stories] that is timeless and it’s been there for centuries and when you’re a kid you imagine things when you don’t see in the pictures yet. I remember in my head I had a different image of Cinderella than when I saw the movie the first time, but it was fascinating and of course it’s something that little kids adore—and even moms because now I happen to be a mom and you just discover a whole new entire world inside a fairytale. But at the same time you learn values that you can apply in your daily life of kindness, courage and love, and persistence.

What about the Cinderella folktale do you think continues to captivate people even today?
I think the beauty of her personality and the beauty of her actions being always secluded and not treated well and having the humanity to treat others nicely and be wonderful to the little animals. There are timeless values and themes that run in the movie. We learn about values and principles, following our passion and believing that you are doing the right thing.

Disney’s “Cinderella” is now showing at AMC Van Ness, AMC Metreon, Cinéarts, Kabuiki Cinemas and Century 2