Anthony Cannarella partners with Isabella Velasquez in a pose in front of the mural “It was only a dream” by Miles Toland on R Street in Sacramento in March. “We created this project called Dance Graffiti that fuses mural art and dance,” Cannarella says. “We think that the combination of murals and dance paints a grittier picture of what ballet can be, but still allows it to maintain its grace.” (Photos by Sara Nevis)

Photos: Art in Motion

Dance Graffiti creators Anthony Cannarella and Isabella Velasquez juxtapose ballet and street art

Back Web Only Mar 26, 2021 By Sara Nevis

Sacramento Ballet dancers Anthony Cannarella and Isabella Velasquez started Dance Graffiti in January 2019 to make ballet more accessible to the general public. The couple believed they could expose new audiences to this dance form by mixing ballet with murals found around the city — they photograph themselves in poses in front of the artwork, which they then share on social media.

After the coronavirus pandemic shutdown began in March 2020, the dancers were no longer performing live shows, and they used the time to push this project forward. “We felt like it was a really great opportunity to take Dance Graffiti and make it the vision we wanted it to be,” Cannarella says. “With such incredible murals around Sacramento and a lot of time on our hands, I think we created a really cool product.” 

Isabella Velasquez performs a move she calls a tuck jump in front of the Micah Crandall-Bear mural on R Street in Sacramento. “I think a lot of people sometimes think ballet isn’t, like, their style,” Velasquez says. “So getting to see it (here), I think, opens up the world of ballet to more people.”

Anthony Cannarella jumps in front of the Jose Di Gregorio mural on S Street in Sacramento. “We’re taking ballet to the streets and it has a new backdrop, something maybe you walk by every day,” Cannarella says. “We think it brings it to a new light and I think it definitely makes it more approachable.”

Anthony Cannarella performs a move he calls legs in attitude in front of the Anthony Padilla mural on the corner of 12th Street and Rice Alley in Sacramento. “The reaction has been really great, actually,” Cannarella says. “One of our favorite things is when we hear back from other muralists.”

Isabella Velasquez poses in front of the Alex Forster mural on the corner of 12th Street and S Street in Sacramento. “A memory that sticks out to us, doing Dance Graffiti, is getting to see the photos that dancers or muralists have done themselves with the two arts combined,” Velasquez says.

Isabella Velasquez poses in front of the Alex Forster mural on the corner of 12th Street and S Street in Sacramento. “I wanted to dance after seeing the ‘Nutcracker’ when I was younger. The dancers were mesmerizing to me onstage,” Velasquez says.

Anthony Cannarella poses with his partner Isabella Velasquez in front of the KiriLeigh Jones mural on the corner of 14th Street and R Street in Sacramento. “Our relationship has enhanced what we’ve been able to do as artists and with Dance Graffiti,” Cannarella says. “We work together really easily and are comfortable being honest with each other. And, of course, it always makes performing (and) creating feel extra special.”

Anthony Cannarella partners with Isabella Velasquez in a pose in front of KiriLeigh Jones’ mural in Sacramento.

Anthony Cannarella and Isabella Velasquez perform what they call a close encounter in front of Raphael Delgado’s mural on the corner of 12th Street and F Street in Sacramento. “It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that we really started going for it,” Cannarella says. “We didn’t really have much going on. We were (taking) classes inside our house and we weren’t able to perform anymore.”

Anthony Cannarella performs a move he calls a spiral in front of Raphael Delgado’s mural. “I love dance because it provides an escape for both myself and the audience,” Cannarella says. “When I dance everything just kind of stops and life feels surreal.”

Isabella Velasquez leaps in front of Beth Emmerich’s mural on the corner of 20th Street and J Street in Sacramento. “We see us as the dancers are the graffiti on these amazing murals,” Velasquez says. “(On a photo we posted) someone commented and they said that they went to the mural and they were expecting to see the ballerina there. And it just goes to show you how well they meshed together.”

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