Dancer hopes to grace Radio City Music Hall stage

By Amethyst Martinez

Marissa Stellato’s biggest fear is not being enough for the world. But that is far from the case.

Stellato grew up in Nyack, New York, on the outskirts of Manhattan. Born to a music teacher mother and city planner father, she had two older brothers making her the youngest and only girl. She had a relatively simple childhood with everything she needed always available.

When she was young, she went to Radio City Music Hall in New York City, home to the Rockettes, where she and her family saw the group perform. A stranger approached her afterward and asked if she wanted to be a Rockette one day.

“I said very enthusiastically, ‘yes,’” said Stellato.

This was the beginning of her biggest passion in life: dancing. Starting at 4-years-old, Stellato has been enrolled in dance classes.

She always knew she wanted to dance. She’d prance around the house as a child, dancing until her feet hurt. It was a case of the artist finding their medium. Her grandmother was also a dancer, which encouraged her mother to sign her up for dance classes as soon as she could.

Stellato has never questioned her path in dance, except once in middle school when her parents made her choose between dance and basketball. “Who knows if I chose basketball,” Stellato said with a chuckle.

Going into high school, she had a never-ending feeling that she was different from most girls her age. At 16 years old, she came out as bisexual, but she now identifies as lesbian.

During one of her dance practices after school, a girl was sitting on the sidelines visiting another friend in the dance program. She grasped Stellato’s attention. “I kept making eyes, and she kept making eyes at me,” Stellato said. Over the next few weeks, the girl appeared at all of her practices. Stellato was enamored without even knowing the girl’s name.

They both were interested in each other, and she ended up being Stellato’s first love. This relationship instilled Stellato’s now greatest fear: never being enough.

She hid the relationship from her parents, so they would rarely see each other. Stellato and her girlfriend were caught kissing by her father one day, leading to her being outed to her entire family.

“It was like, I came out, and then the next day my mom was like, ‘you’re not allowed to see her,’” Stellato said looking back at the relationship. “They honestly thought it was a phase.”

She pretended that she broke up with her girlfriend.

They kept their relationship a secret for nearly two months. Stellato jokingly said, “Well technically, we’re on a break. We never officially broke up.”

While Stellato was in high school, she decided to pursue a career in dance.

She never looked back.

“Dance was the only thing that made me happy,” said Stellato. She now attends Rider as a sophomore studying dance performance.

Lindsay Sherman, a sophomore elementary education major, is Stellato’s dorm roommate.

Sherman said, “I really hope to see [Stellato] on Broadway one day, or maybe like a Rockette…. I know

[Stellato] really wants to pursue dance, and I really believe in them and think they could go really far.”

Through an organization at Rider called “We Are Queens,” which helps dance students meet people with similar interests, Stellato was able to connect with her now mentor, Laura Jakowenko, a Rockette.

Becoming a Rockette was always her career goal, and that hasn’t changed. She braided a lesbian flag-colored keychain as she talked about her hopes and dreams of one day taking The Radio City Music Hall stage. The stage is where Stellato belongs, in New York City in front of an audience who knows her name.

Stellato was enough for the world; she just didn’t know it yet.

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