LARUICCI X PHOTOBOOK MAGAZINE
Bella Luttrell, originally from New Jersey, is a dancer now living in New York, to further her dance career at Marymount Manhattan Dance Department. Inspired by the fear of being average, she expresses herself by telling stories through dance ranging from Hip Hop dancing to Olivia Rodrigo to contemporary performing to Antonio Vivaldi.
At what age did you start dancing, and how did you get into it?
I started dancing when I was two years old. My older cousin was a dancer at the time and my mom thought it would be cute to dress me in little tutus, so she enrolled me at the same dance studio. I was hooked immediately and haven’t stopped dancing since.
Where does your inspiration come from?
One concept that has always inspired me is community, being a part of something that is bigger than yourself. I think the possibility of being able to facilitate change and share important stories through the medium of dance is something that motivates me to keep working no matter how tough it gets. I want to leave this world one day knowing that I left a positive impact and doing that through something I love inspires me.
What is your favorite thing about dancing?
I’ve always been drawn to the power that dance has to make an audience feel something. Movement is a universal language; I can tell a story without using any words and share a message with people regardless of their language or background. I think that’s so special and allows dance to be such a powerful changemaker. My intention behind all of the art I create and share is to tell important stories that can have a strong impact on the audience. For me, it's the medium I hope to use to advocate for the change I want to see in the world.
Laruicci Into The Clouds necklace from the new FW23 Collection
What are your favorite performances you’ve been a part of?
Every opportunity I have to perform is something I am grateful for, but some of my favorite performances have been the ones I have had at Marymount. This past spring, I had the chance to work with Caleb Teicher in a piece they choreographed for the school’s Mainstage show. It was such a fun process and Caleb really gave us the opportunity to highlight our genuine selves. It was also my first Mainstage show at Marymount, so it holds a special place in my heart.
How do you balance your career as a dancer with family and social life?
It’s definitely a challenge to find that balance, but I think it’s really important to have it in order to stay grounded and humble. In an industry that requires so much physical and mental work, it can be easy to get lost and forget why you’re doing it in the first place. I’m close to my family and even though we are all busy people, we make it a priority to find time for family adventures. Spending time with them always reminds me how important it is to laugh; life doesn’t need to be so serious all the time. Without the support of my parents and my sisters, I truly wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m also super grateful to have such great friends in the dance department at school, so it’s amazing to have them by my side while working towards my goals.
How does music affect how you dance, and what is your favorite style to dance to?
I think I’ve always been musically inclined and a majority of my inspiration in dance comes from the music itself. I love all genres of music and because of that, I love all styles of dance. Storytelling is a big aspect of who I am as an artist, so typically when I find a song with lyrics that resonate with me, I feel more inclined to dance to it. It’s hard for me to pinpoint a favorite style, but if I had to choose right now, it would probably be theater jazz or contemporary.
How has your experience built your confidence through dance?
Confidence is arguably one of the most important qualities to have as a dancer, yet it can be such a struggle to maintain in this industry. You’re constantly under a microscopic lens, being critiqued and picked apart. Striving to better yourself is essential to the process, but it’s easy to get lost in the comparison game and be too hard on yourself. The past year I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on what I bring to the table and how nobody can take that away from me. Once you’re aware of what constitutes the core of who you are, it’s harder to let life’s curveballs tear you down. It’s made me depend less on external validation and as a result, I’m a stronger and happier artist.
What drove you to further your career at Marymount, and what have you taken away the most from your experience so far?
I knew I wanted to dance in college practically my whole life and I knew I wanted to be in New York City. When I really started to research schools in my junior and senior year of high school, what drew me most to Marymount was the wide variety of jobs their alumni had within the dance industry. The dance department offers different concentrations within the dance major, which allows me to focus specifically on what I hope to do after graduation. I concentrate in both choreography and jazz and through that, I get to train under some of the best in those respective fields. My professors have really encouraged me to take risks and have an open mind which led me to discover so much more of my potential as a dancer and as a person. I am naturally a perfectionist, Type A personality; I’m so afraid of making mistakes. But my experience at this school has taught me about the importance of pushing myself to take giant leaps of faith because more often than not, something greater than we ever could’ve imagined lies beyond that. I can undoubtedly say that I would not have experienced the growth I have had over the past two years without my experience at Marymount.
Do you have any hobbies besides dance that inspire you?
Yes! I really love to sing, and I’m also hoping to get into acting in the near future. Pretty much everything under the umbrella of “performing arts” inspires me. Outside of the arts, I am passionate about history and politics. There is so much change I hope to see in this world and I try my best to educate myself on current and historical events so that I can do my part and advocate for what’s right. Honestly, I really just love learning new things in general, so in the little spare time I do have, I try to consume as much knowledge as I can. Knowledge is power and it provides me with inspiration for my artistic endeavors as well.
What is your process when it comes to curating your own choreography?
I’m primarily driven by the aspect of storytelling, so when it comes to my own choreography, I almost always start with what it is I want to convey. Once I’m aware of that, I focus on what movement can best portray the message. A lot of my movement vocabulary is inspired by mimicking the words I would literally use to tell the story or the words in the lyrics of the music. However, I’ve discovered that our bodies hold so much knowledge, and sometimes I choreograph something impulsively, only to later find that it actually fits into the narrative perfectly. There are also collaborative efforts involved and I am so lucky that I get to choreograph on my exceptionally talented friends. They provide so much inspiration to me in my process and I value their own artistic voices so much.
Who is your biggest inspiration or muse within the dance world?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one person. One of my biggest inspirations would have to be Marinda Davis. Her passion and wisdom are unmatched and shine through in everything she does. She tells such powerful stories through her choreography, and I can only hope to have as much of an impact as she does on people one day. I also am so inspired by all of my friends within the dance community. I have the privilege of going to school with such talented people and they motivate me every day to keep working towards my goals. Most importantly though, my parents are my biggest inspirations. Even though they’re not dancers, they are both perfect examples of how hard work can get you anywhere. I admire them so much and hope I can be as strong as they are one day.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a dancer?
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is my height. I’m very short, only 4’11, and it’s definitely been hard for me to not compare my body to everyone else. I constantly find myself wishing I had longer legs or more flexibility, but at the end of the day, some things are genetic and I have no control over them. I think people sometimes underestimate me from a surface level glance, but I try to remind myself that I am capable and deserving just the way I am. I’ve realized I’m actually doing myself a disservice by wishing to be someone else instead of loving who I already am.
Are there different ways you would like to translate your artistic expression through new mediums?
For sure. I’m taking a class called Digital Sound Workshop this semester so I’m hoping to experiment more with making my own music and possibly trying to write my own songs in the future. I also love filming and editing videos, and it would be cool to get into directing one day.
What advice do you have for aspiring dancers?
Trust the process. It’s easy to let rejection get into your head, but always believe that something better is on its way. Reflecting back, there’s been so many times where I thought the world was ending because I didn’t get the desired result out of an audition. But really it was just preparing me for another opportunity. Rejection is just redirection, so never give up and remember that everything happens for a reason.
Laruicci Rocket earrings from the new FW23 Collection
Do you have any upcoming performances you're excited about?
Yes, I am choreographing for Marymount’s student choreography showcase, Dancer’s At Work, for the second time this semester. Getting to choreograph your friends is such a fun experience, so I’m so excited and grateful that I have the opportunity to do it again.
Have any media representations from film, books, or fashion inspired you as a dancer?
I recently watched Apple TV’s documentary on Steph Curry and was so inspired by his story. My boyfriend is a huge fan of his and insisted that we watch it, but I ended up resonating so much with his story of persistence. It’s people like him, people who never give up despite all odds, that encourage me to keep going after what I want.
What are your long-term goals as a dancer or outside of dance? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I have many dreams and aspirations. Sometimes people think I’m a little delusional, but I’m determined to accomplish all of them. When I graduate, I want to book a job on Broadway. Hamilton and Moulin Rouge are two of my favorite shows, but I’d be open to any job in the realm of musical theater. I definitely want to focus more on the commercial dance world, so I’d be interested in working as a back-up dancer or in music videos as well. I also mentioned earlier wanting to get into acting, so I’d love to work in TV and film too. Of course, my body will only be able to keep up with the physicality of dance for so long, so I hope to choreograph as well. One of my dream jobs is to direct and choreograph a movie musical, so we’ll see where life takes me. I’m determined but I know I can’t control the future, so as long as I’m doing something I’m passionate about, I will be happy.
PhotoBook Editor-In-Chief: Alison Hernon
PhotoBook Creative Director + Photographer: Mike Ruiz + @mikeruiz.one
Talent: Bella Luttrell
Fashion Stylist: Alison Hernon at Exclusive Artists
Hair + Makeup: Deney Adam
Fashion Stylist Intern: Mia Fyson
Tearsheets by Daniel López, Art Director, PhotoBook Magazine
Interview by Renata Salazar, Contributor, PhotoBook Magazine