Lizeth Leonhardt Avalos won the RAD Members’ Photo Competition with a picture of her daughter. She discusses her journey into teaching and leaving Mexico for Canada.
Congratulations on winning the photo competition, Lizeth! How do you feel?
I can’t explain it, I’m still in shock! I’m so happy and thankful. Honestly, the past two years have been full of monumental moments in my life, and this is one of them.
Where did you begin dancing?
I was born in Morelia in Michoacán, Mexico and started dancing ballet at four years old. My mom enrolled me in ballet classes but when it was time to go to university my grandparents said: no more ballet, it’s only a hobby and you have to focus on your career and the family business. So that’s what I did – I used to work in the morning and went to university in the afternoon. I graduated as an accountant and got an MBA, specialising in finance. I was working but still wanted to be a ballet teacher. My grandmother gave me some money to start a business, but instead of using it to open a business I used it to pay for my CBTS.
Who were your most influential teachers?
My first ballet teacher was Lourdes de Alzua who made me fall in love with ballet. When I moved to Queretaro, Julieta Navarro, the RAD’s National Director in Mexico and an amazing lady, recommended me to Consuelo Dueñas. She was tough and extremely honest: when I arrived she told me that my technique was deficient and she would not present me in the exam. I said, wow, this woman is exactly what I need!
Once you know her she is the most amazing person. She was my teacher, my mentor, my friend and I will always be thankful to her. She shared all her knowledge and experience, she really cared about me. With her support I started my CBTS. She taught me to be a teacher.
At the same time, I also worked in a huge school with Asereth Salazar and learned a lot from her too. She has a real gift, making miracles, making things happen, and being honest all the time, no matter what. A pure example to follow.
When did you qualify as an RAD teacher?
It was in 2016. I went to London seven months pregnant with my daughter Rachel and was in a wheelchair. I had to buy bigger shoes the day before my graduation because my feet were so swollen! When I look at photos from that day, I know that Rachel was in my tummy as I received my certificate from Darcey Bussell [the RAD President] – and now she is in her own picture as the winner of this amazing competition. I couldn’t be happier!
Where do you teach now?
We used to live in Queretaro, Mexico but moved to Canada in December 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. Just before my son’s passport expired we took a flight, leaving our home, our life and our belongings in Queretaro. We went to Canada to start a new life. My husband is Canadian and my children have dual citizenship but I don’t, so for a year and a half I couldn’t return to Mexico or travel abroad until I received my permanent residency in Canada.
Finally I can travel again and right now we are in Mexico, enjoying the perfect weather that I didn’t appreciate until we moved away. That’s why the competition photo has a deeper meaning to me – for someone coming from a country with amazing weather the whole year round, Canada is a big change. Now I appreciate every warm, sunny day.
Teaching is my passion. When life started opening up again and restrictions were removed, I started looking for a ballet school for my daughter and eventually they invited me to teach again. In Mexico I used to teach in Spanish, but now I do it in English – another big change! I have met an amazing new ballet family with my adorable students, my daughter is dancing and loving it – and now I’ve won the photo competition. I feel blessed in every single way.