BWW Interview: Xiaoxiao Cao, A CHINESE BALLERINA IN THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Majestic Theatre
Xiaoxiao Cao, a twenty-nine old ballerina born, raised and trained in China, made her Broadway debut in February 2019 as a member of Phantom's dance corps. As small as the role is, it is still a big step for her to become an official cast member of this legendary musical.
"I have auditioned three times in 2018, January, July and December. The first two times I passed the audition but didn't get a spot because there was no opening. The production manager asked me to keep coming back. So many people have auditioned for this musical, they said, and many of them tried for years, I was told. Fortunately, I not only passed the third audition but also got a job!"
Her American journey began at the Roxey Ballet in 2012, and then the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in 2014. In the fall of 2018, she joined the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and in the winter of 2018, she received an offer from The Phantom.
The biggest challenge for the ballet corps was the stage floor, which is not ballet friendly. As part of the prop design, the floor has holes, metal grooves, and interaction with the props underneath. Ballet dancers need to wear specially made pointe shoes to protect their toes.
Will musical experience ruin a ballerina's ballet professional level? I shared my concern with Xiaoxiao. Given the fact that there are only three scenes in The Phantom of the Opera requiring the ballet corps, the workload and tasks for a ballet dancer are tremendously reduced.
She didn't seem to worry. She told me she goes to Metropolitan Opera Ballet's training class almost every day. "The backstage of the Majestic Theatre is not spacious, and there is no way we can get to class, so I always make sure I am still in the loop of daily ballet training. It helps me warm up better before the show."
It is not her first time to wear multiple hats. Back in 2015, during the summer break, she started her own dancewear brand, Xiaoxiao Designs, designing and testing each pair before they are sold. Her designs are now being worn by professional dancers around the world, including celebrity ballerina Marianela Nunez, who was wearing a leotard designed by Xiaoxiao on the cover of Dance Magazine in September issue in 2018.
For Xiaoxiao, her six years in New York have been an incredible journey. Whenever she talks about New York, she'll tell you it's not only her shelter, but also her guiding light.
photo credit: The Phantom of the Opera