Sterling Baca grew up in Colorado playing sports and doing musical theater — not discovering his passion for ballet until his parents pushed him to try a class at age 11. Within a few years, he found himself performing with the renowned American Ballet Theatre in New York City, dancing alongside stars like Misty Copeland.
In 2016, however, Baca traded the Big Apple for Philly for an opportunity to dance with the Pennsylvania Ballet. In their upcoming production of “Le Corsaire,” Baca tackles three principle roles under the direction of famed artistic director Angel Corella.
The young dancer chats with us about “Le Corsaire,” working with his idol and how Philly compares to New York.
What makes “Le Corsaire” stand out from other ballets?
It has everything. It has the love and the fighting and betrayals. I would say it’s a great ballet to see if you’ve never seen ballet before because it’s so exciting. There are six principal parts, so that’s very rare in a ballet. It’s really action-packed from beginning to end.
The dancers play different roles for different performances. Which is your favorite to play?
That’s hard to say. I’m lucky to dance three of the main roles — Conrad, Ali and Lankendem. Ali is the most famous role in the ballet, and in ballet in general. The variation itself has been tackled by many great male dancers throughout history. It’s kind of a staple for a male dancer’s technique and what you need to be able to do. However, Conrad is the main character and has the most dancing throughout the ballet.
You come from American Ballet Theatre in New York. What’s different about performing with the Pennsylvania Ballet?
ABT is a very large organization. It’s one of the top five companies in the world. I was kind of pulled through the system there. I was very happy and was getting a lot of roles so there was no reason to leave, but after Angel offered me this incredible opportunity, I really couldn’t turn it down. Also, he was my idol growing up. I always was inspired by him. I was also very interested in the repertoire that he is picking. I find it to be very eclectic and interesting for an artist.
What’s it like working with your idol?
It’s great. When I first met him, I was kind of starstruck, but he has a way of talking to everybody like he’s known them forever. Coming in to work with him has become more of a friendship than anything and he really has a way of bringing out the best in you. Just like he did on stage, he excites people in the studio and inspires them to do more and push themselves to expand their dancing horizons.
You lived in New York City for a while. How does Philly compare?
I’m definitely a fan of Philly. Coming here, I have really fallen in love. I find this city to be a perfect medium — the size, the pace, the feeling of it. Art is really booming here — the Avenue of the Arts is exploding. The food is incredible. I haven’t had better food. I’ve been to 13 countries and honestly I’ve had the best food in Philly.
“Le Corsaire” runs from March 9-19 at the Academy of Music.
For more information, visit: paballet.org.