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Alum Monica Barbaro co-stars with Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

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Marin Ballet graduate, Monica Barbaro (31), switched from dance to acting in college.  But the strength, agility, and stamina that she gained in ballet is serving her well in her new role in Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick.

Cast as “Phoenix,” a fighter pilot, Monica uses the grit and grace that has characterized her meteoric acting career. Her roles have included leads in Chicago Justice to The Good Cop to the upcoming Army of the Dead. Here’s what Monica said about Marin Ballet in a recent interview with G. Allen Johnson from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Q: What made you want to be an actress?

A: I grew up dancing at Marin Ballet in San Rafael. My favorite thing about it was getting to perform “The Nutcracker” at the beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright Marin County Civic Center. One year I had to play Clara’s brother, Fritz, and I remember being so upset that that was the part that I got, because I’m not a boy. It wound up being the most fun I’ve ever had because I got to disappear in this character because this character wasn’t me, and I could pull out all of my mischievous energy and meet that with this boyish energy. There was just something in me that lit up and I was like, “Oh I have to chase that.”

 Then I went to my middle school and we had to learn “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to study Shakespeare. It’s a super fun play. I had never worked harder on anything in my life. I knew everyone’s lines in the entire play. … That all happened around the age of 12.

But then I kept dancing because I was really deep within it and really that that was just my world, my friends were there and I was good at it. But when I got a dance degree, I was like, “You’re not getting any younger, you don’t want to find yourself at 70 thinking back and going ‘Man, I wish I had just tried (acting).’ “

Read the complete article in the SF Chronicle, and learn more about this remarkable Marin Ballet alum. Congratulations, Monica!