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Born in Brooklyn, New York, Nancy Raffa received her early training with Madame Gabriella Darvash. In 1980, she became the youngest and first American female to win the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne competition in Switzerland. New York Times Dance Critic Anna Kisselgoff wrote of her: “(she is)…a young and extremely talented dancer” who “made mini-history in ballet. The dance is in her.”
Raffa joined Makarova and Company on Broadway and then, at 16, became a member of the corps de ballet with American Ballet Theatre. She went on to become principal ballerina at Ballet de Santiago, Chile and Ballet National Française de Nancy, France. She returned to the U.S. as principal ballerina with Miami City Ballet. During her career, Raffa partnered with ballet legends Rudolph Nureyev, Patrick Dupond and Fernando Bujones. She has also worked with prominent choreographers including Twyla Tharp, John Neumeier, Roland Petit, Hans Van Manen, Merce Cunningham, Birgit Cullberg, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Ben Stevenson, Ulysses Dove and George Balanchine. Her repertory as a principal dancer has been extensive and diverse.
Raffa began her teaching career as an adjunct faculty member in Miami at the New World School of the Arts. Transitioning from dancer to coach and stager, she became Senior Faculty member and Assistant to the Director at Miami City Ballet School, directing its Summer Intensive and Apprentice Program.
In 2005, Raffa was named Director of American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) Summer Intensive programs, Company teacher, Director of Repertoire for ABT II and faculty member for the ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.
Raffa was appointed Director of Repertoire at ABT in June 2007. In addition to her Repertoire duties, she performs roles in ABT’s Cinderella, Giselle, La Sylphide, Onegin, On the Dnieper, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
At ABT, Raffa has assisted Ratmansky on nearly all of his work since his appointment as Artist in Residence in 2009. She has re-staged many of Ratmansky’s creations for ABT at Atlanta Ballet, Het National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, The Paris Opera and The Washington Ballet.
Raffa assisted Twyla Tharp in the workshop production of Tharp’s Tony Award®-nominated Broadway show Come Fly Away. She has also staged Tharp’s Push Comes to Shove for Tulsa Ballet and In the Upper Room for ABT in collaboration with Shelley Washington.
Raffa has judged the Prix de Lausanne and Youth America Grand Prix in several countries. She delivers Master Teacher Classes by request and has taught all over the United States, Europe, South America, Japan and Asia.
In 2019, Raffa was nominated for the Isadora Duncan Dance Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Restaging/Revival/Reconstruction” for her re-staging of Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy (2013) for San Francisco Ballet.
Raffa holds an Ace certification in exercise physiology, graduated magna cum laude in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from St. Thomas University in Miami and is certified as an Ayurvedic Wellness Practitioner. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Ayurvedic Medicine.