July 9, 2021
Volume 2 Issue 3
By: Katie Watkins
Dancer and stage manager Angelina Pellini never anticipated her successful career in production. A bunhead at her core, Pellini had always shared a deep love for classical ballet. Yet, the journey from her classical technique roots to her career as a sought-after stage manager took years of self-discovery. Pellini always knew she wanted a career involving dance, but she was not passionate about performing professionally. She discovered her love for dance production while majoring in dance at Kennesaw State University. During her college years, Pellini worked in every production role from stagehand to stage manager for KSU Dance Company performances. “It was just one of those things. It’s like it chose me,” Pellini says, describing her first exposure to working in dance production. She knew that a career in dance production “just felt right.”
Pellini remarks that while her perfectionist attitude and classical ballet training had previously made it hard to take pride in performing, dance production allowed her a greater degree of satisfaction in her skill and success. Like performance, Pellini finds that stage management is “never perfect and there’s still things to constantly improve on,” [but] “it’s a lot more internally gratifying.” For Pellini, production and calling shows provide the same creative outlet and adrenaline rush as performing. There’s joy in being a part of something greater than oneself, and Pellini finds that the recognition she received as a performer was something that never truly mattered to her.
Pellini, who now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, recently relocated to the area to work full time for Ballet West as their stage manager and production operations coordinator. Prior to her recent move, she had lived and freelanced in Atlanta since her graduation from KSU in 2017. Pellini remarks that the most pressing challenges in her career thus far have come from the nature of her work as a freelancer. “The biggest challenge that I had with freelancing was always juggling my schedule,” says Pellini. “When you’re freelancing, it’s kind of a full-time job on top of the things you’re doing to book.” Once she had worked in the city for a time and had become more established, the challenge shifted to how she might choose between her many opportunities. However, the road to becoming established, according to Pellini can be difficult. Freelancers have to work at getting their foot in the door and getting people to trust their work. In her own career, she says, “I was fortunate with a lot of the things that I got to do early on in Atlanta. Working for Terminus and working for Emory helped propel my career; I was lucky to do those things early.”
Pellini had a hand in the start of many companies’ earliest productions in Atlanta. “I feel like I graduated from college at a pivotal time for Atlanta dance where a lot of companies were just getting started,” she says. “I got to see them grow up.” Pellini notes that this hands-on and collaborative production work is one of her favorite aspects of stage management. During her time working for Terminus, she was “intimately a part of the creative process,” managing world premieres alongside artists, such as Heath Gill and Tara Lee.
Now, in her full-time position with Ballet West, Pellini appreciates the immense creativity along with the challenges she faced freelancing for up-and-coming companies while in Atlanta. “There is something really special about creating so many world premieres and doing shows in outdoor or non-traditional spaces,” she says. “There’s the struggle of having to deal with potential hurricanes, but there’s also getting to see Tara Lee create something that is unlike anything that I will do at Ballet West.” Pellini loves to see the work come together before her eyes and finds that being a part of the process often increases her appreciation for the work.
Looking forward, Pellini is excited for the scale and resources at her disposal as she works for Ballet West. “When I took this job it was because I always had this goal of working for a bigger ballet company. . . . It’s much more structured, and it’s a bigger operation than anything that I’ve done in Atlanta,” she says. While Pellini will be less involved in originating new works, she will play an important part in the restaging of iconic classical ballets. A self-proclaimed “ballet nerd,” Pellini finds working with the dancers is a reward in and of itself. “The payoff is getting to watch classical ballet,” she says. “That’s why I do this. Watching the dancers onstage is why I’m here.”
Pellini looks back on her time in Atlanta, grateful for all the opportunities it afforded her. “I had such a diverse experience in Atlanta: from working for Atlanta Ballet and Terminus to Core Dance and staibdance, as well as my university experience at Emory,” she says. Pellini feels her years in Atlanta built her skill and confidence, as well as helped her develop her style. According to her, Atlanta is a great place to learn. “There are so many different things going on that if you can get your hands in all of them, there’s so much to be absorbed,” she says. Pellini hopes that Atlanta artists can work to build a more connected and integrated dance community, allowing artists to take full advantage of all the opportunities the city can provide.
Katie Watkins is a performer, choreographer, poet, and educator from Metro Atlanta. Currently, she is pursuing a B.A. Dance and B.A. English double major from Brenau University and is working as one of DanceATL’s 2021 Summer Interns. For two years, she has served as Editor-In-Chief of The Elixir, Brenau University’s student-run Literary & Arts Magazine. In her two years at Brenau, Katie has been cast in concert dance works by choreographers such as Nicholas Palmquist, Allyne Gartrell, and Xavier Lewis.
Donate to DanceATL