Lifting the Curtain

Oklahoma City Ballet’s powerfully expressive new dancer.

story by Whitney Bryen | main photo by Jana Carson

Upon entering the studio where he spent the past four months perfecting his trade, Jonathan Batista exudes the elegance of a stage-worthy performance. Polished street clothes can’t hide the grace with which he glides through the stark white entrance of the Oklahoma City Ballet studio. High ceilings and smooth surfaces vibrate with the echoes of even the slightest noise, but it is silent as the 25-year-old makes his entrance without so much as a tap of his shoe on the hard floors.

Batista’s posture is that of a refined man with unwavering discipline. But a tweed blazer and sophisticated scarf are not enough to distract from the twinkle of youthful exuberance in his eyes as the dancer talks about sacrifice and dedication to his craft.

‍photo by J. Gwyn Rainey

“For every degree of success there should be a greater amount of sacrifice,” Batista said. “You must be willing to sacrifice things in your personal life so you can grow and add value in the areas you’re passionate about. It’s an investment.”

Oklahoma City Ballet’s newest principal dancer made his stage debut in November as Prince Siegfried in the company’s opening night of Swan Lake at Civic Center Music Hall. The performance was Batista’s first principal role in a full-length production, and his emotional expressiveness and powerful physicality let the audience know a new star had arrived.

“It was everything I ever dreamed of,” he said.

The native of Rio de Janeiro took his first dance class, a ballroom class, when he was 9 years old. Dance was one of many activities his mother encouraged, including graffiti painting, martial arts, soccer and jewelry making, which later paid Batista’s way to the English National Ballet School in London. A broken foot left Batista feeling antsy as he trained so far from home, but he continued to grow as a dancer despite injury. It was only four years ago, during his time with The National Ballet of Canada, that Batista decided to focus solely on dance.

“It was thanks to the people there who spotted my talent and encouraged me,” Batista said. “Their main ballet master wrote me a note, a letter about how to succeed and enjoy this career, and it was so encouraging.”

His position as a principal dancer at the Oklahoma City Ballet has allowed him to get a green card, making him an official U.S. resident, but it’s the little things that make him feel at home in OKC—the studio in his apartment where he produces music; relaxing with friends and a glass of wine; brunching at Stella; and stacks of books and music from Ella Fitzgerald to The Weeknd that set Batista’s “wild personality” free.

For the full story, pick up the Winter 2017 issue of Territory:OKC.