Texas Ballet Theater principal Lucas Priolo plans to retire at the end of the company’s 2013-14 season.
Fort Worth — For more than eight years Texas Ballet Theater principal dancer Lucas Priolo has been wowing audiences with his grace and athleticism onstage in works including Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Peer Gynt and Three Preludes. So, it may come as a surprise for many TBT fans to hear that Priolo will be hanging up his pointe shoes at the end of this season.
“It’s time,” Lucas Priolo says. “My body is tired and I am really looking forward to taking over the family business.”
Priolo’s parents own a jewelry store out in California, Sofia Jewelry, and in his spare time he likes to design jewelry in his home workshop. “I have no complaints. I have done more than I ever thought I would in my career and I feel very fulfilled in what I have been able to accomplish. I am very humbled and understand that not everyone gets this opportunity.”
Growing up in Fairfax, Calif., Priolo went to his first dance class at the urging of his baseball coach. “When I was 8 years old my baseball coach had all the guys take this stretch and strength class and I got really into it,” Priolo says. “I stuck with it and at 13 my ballet teacher said I had to make a decision its one or the other and I chose ballet.”
From then on Priolo ate, slept and breathed dance. At 17 his perseverance and prowess paid off when he was asked to join the Houston Ballet. He packed his bags and headed to Houston where he started in the corps and worked his way up to the company. It was at Houston Ballet where Priolo met his mentor and career compass Ben Stevenson. “Stumbling upon Ben Stevenson was the luckiest thing that ever happened in my career,” Priolo says. “I have been fortunate to have my whole career with him and I have learned so much and savored every minute of it.”
Priolo also met his wife, former ballerina Julie Gumbinner, while at Houston Ballet. “We got engaged right before we left to follow Ben to Texas Ballet Theater,” Priolo says. They currently have two children, daughter Olivia and son Jordan.
During his career at TBT Priolo has had the privilege to watch the company grow into one of Texas’ premiere ballet companies, a feat he attributes to Artistic Director Ben Stevenson. “He has a way of making sure the dancers in the back of a scene are just as involved and as important as the leads in the front,” Priolo says. “He can create the most incredible atmospheres on stage and off. His attention to detail and to storytelling is simply amazing.”
“He is definitely going down in the history books as one of the best choreographers and directors of the modern century,” he adds.
When asked about his favorite ballet Priolo quickly responds with Romeo and Juliet. “It will always be very dear to my heart because I got to dance it with my wife,” Priolo says. “I remember one show in particular just being one of those magical shows that had it all. The orchestra, the audience and the dancing just all came together and it was one of the most memorable shows in my career.”
Priolo doesn’t intend to leave the ballet world completely behind. “I was very honored over this past summer to set one of Ben’s most famous pas de deux, Three Preludes, on a company in Nice, France,” he says. “I spent two and a half weeks coaching them and I absolutely loved the experience. I would be so honored to set more of Ben’s work on other companies.”
This piece was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.