WMS people

Alumni Spotlight: Quinn Pendleton, ’99


One thing I have learned over the course of the last seven years is that life is full of surprises, sometimes bearing no resemblance to what was originally planned.   An opportunity can suddenly appear that leads you in a completely different direction. I’ve realized it is important to always be ready and flexible to take advantage of anything that might come up. I never imagined myself living abroad, but looking back, I am so thankful I took the chance, as daunting as it seemed at the time.

Growing up as the only child of dancing parents (Moses Pendleton and Cynthia Quinn of Momix), I was surrounded by art, dance and music from practically the moment I was born I started at WMS at the age of three in the Lower School with Chaunda and graduated from Middle School in eighth grade. While at the time I couldn’t imagine sitting on the brown circle for one more minute, I can now deeply appreciate all the lessons I learned during those years. The freedom and independent work they emphasized allowed me to travel the world with my parents, taking weeks off to go to Mexico, Munich, Brazil or Australia. I can remember in Nancy’s class, I was given a huge folder labeled “Bon Voyage” with all my work and assignments for the time I would be gone. My childhood did not consist so much of school buses and playdates, but of theaters, dressing rooms, airplanes and late-night dinners. While this seemed a normal life growing up, I never imagined a similar one for my own future, instead planning to study and work in a “normal” job.

After graduating from WMS, Shepaug High School and the ten-year intensive training program  at Nutmeg Conservatory, I was on course to attend New York University in the fall. One week later, I received a surprising phone call that would turn my world on its head. My old ballet teacher called to encourage me to take an open class in New York for a new company in Germany. That “new” company turned out to be the Berlin State Opera Ballet. The director, Vladimir Malakhov, offered me a contract to join the company in three weeks! Suddenly, my entire life had shifted and I found myself scrambling to obtain visas and working permits and a plane ticket to Berlin. Three quick weeks later, I arrived in Berlin with six suitcases packed with the American essentials such as peanut butter and Kashi bars that I absolutely could not live without. I somehow managed to find an apartment, set up a bank account, get a cell phone and all the other logistics that come with moving to a new country. I soon became a real “ballerina,” dancing the major classical ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle and Sleeping Beauty, among many others. I also began to learn German, which kept my mind active while physically training my body. I would have never imagined myself living anywhere other than the United States, but suddenly I was walking the streets of Hackesher Markt and Unter den Linden with the confidence and familiarity of any Berliner.

The next surprise came four years later, when I had tired of the strict and confined world of the corps de ballet, and decided to weigh my options. Home? School? Another company?  I sent out my résumé and auditioned in Europe and the U.S., but the competition  is extraordinary, a fact anyone in the ballet world will confirm. Nothing was working out as planned. Then, in the middle of the SLl1l1ffier vacation, I received a surprise phonecall from Les Ballets Monte-Carlo, one of the many companies I had auditioned for. They wanted me to start in less than a month. Already accustomed to the express visa process, I packed up and moved to Monaco to begin a whole new adventure.

Quinn Pendleton2

Company life in Monte-Carlo is very different from Berlin, where we performed year-round  in the opera house. Now, we spend most of our time on tour. We have traveled to many incredible places, such as China, Japan, Israel, Spain, Italy and Greece. We even had one performance in Pittsburgh, which was the closest we have gotten to Connecticut. Throughout these seven years of dancing and traveling, I have never let go of my desire to learn and be creative. It started by bringing suitcases of English books overseas, and writing in various notebooks and journals.

Now, I am fluent in German, French and Spanish and am currently learning Turkish. Last fall, I began an online degree program with Harvard Extension, hoping to eventually obtain my bachelors in Liberal Arts.

As I begin my fourth season in Monaco, I am tempted to think and worry about the future. Stay in Monaco? Move to another European company? Return home to the states? Everything is possible. But, for the moment I am very happy, and what more can one ask for? I am living in an amazing place, dancing and performing, and having the opportunity to travel the world.  The online study is a challenge, but a rewarding one.

As much as I love to plan and organize every element of my life, for the time being I will try to relax and enjoy the present, and take whatever surprises as they come along.