Devon Teuscher is On Pointe

Devon Teuscher wasn’t born with good hand-eye coordination. As a child, the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) soloist attempted to play soccer, tennis and basketball before discovering the art of dance. “My parents said, ‘You’re really terrible at sports but you have a lot of energy and you have to do something with it,’” Teuscher recalled. “One of my best friends was taking dance classes so I tried ballet. I was hooked on the first day.”

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image: sarah kehoe

image: sarah kehoe

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When Teuscher was 12, she studied at the Vermont Ballet Theater School under the tutelage of Russian ballet dancer Alexander Nagiba. Despite her failings in sports, she showed a natural ability for athletic leaps and turns. There weren’t any boys in the school so Nagiba decided to teach Teuscher the males’ steps in addition to the traditional pointe work. When the class performed Études, Teuscher did the male variation. “I was excited to do anything, so it didn’t make a difference to me if it was a small jump or a big jump and turn. I actually didn’t find out they were males’ parts until I was at ABT and saw male dancers doing them.”

image: sarah kehoe

image: sarah kehoe

After taking part in American Ballet Theatre’s summer programs, Teuscher received a full scholarship to dance at ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York City. In order to attend, the 15-year-old shared a tiny studio apartment with her mother, whom she credits for keeping her grounded. Teuscher eventually worked her way through their Studio Company, where she danced leading roles in Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake, became a Corps de Ballet member in 2008 and was promoted to soloist in 2014. She refers to ABT as her “dream company,” consisting of the best dancers from all over the world with the most diverse repertoire. “ABT offers such a great mix of classical and contemporary ballet, which is important to me,” said Teuscher, now 27. “I wouldn’t be artistically satisfied if I didn’t have the opportunity to do both.”

image: sarah kehoe

image: sarah kehoe

Two of Teuscher’s most memorable roles are the strong-willed Myrta in Giselle and the vulnerable Hagar in Pillar of Fire. Myrta will always be special to Teuscher because it was her first principal role, but it was also a physically challenging one in which the male variations she practiced as a child truly paid off. Filling in for a dancer as Hagar in Pillar of Fire was also an honor. Not many ballerinas get the opportunity to play the role. “It was a huge artistic growing experience for me to carry such a human story at that level. I cried for half an hour after the show because I was so overwhelmed with emotion from doing it.”

image: sarah kehoe

image: sarah kehoe

It’s hard to believe that the graceful Teuscher, once praised by The New York Times for her “elegant arms and épaulement,” was ever uncoordinated. A recent recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship, which is awarded to talented, young artists to help broaden their skills, Teuscher plans to travel abroad to coach and learn from other ballet companies. Often complimented on her natural arm movement and extension, or port de bras, Teuscher will have a lot to draw from when teaching others. “It’s a lost art in the world of ballet, and a classical, really clean port de bras is something that I’ll try to keep as I’m growing.”

lisa heffernan

Lisa Heffernan received a master’s in Communications from Emerson College before moving to New York. She has worked for publications such as: Details, Nylon, Rolling Stone, Time Out, Newport Mercury, American Songwriter and W magazine.