From Ballet Dancer to Small Business Owner
I began to take ballet class at the age of eight in Manila, Philippines. At an early age, I knew that I had entered a world of competition, a world unknown to me, yet it had a very exciting ring to it. In 1978, I was granted a full scholarship by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. When I braved the move to New York, I had no references, no money, two leotards, two pairs of tights, a pair of ballet slippers, and a part time job at a hamburger joint on 86th and Lexington. That, plus the determination, endurance, and humility that I learned as a dancer.
Within a year, I was recruited by Artistic Director Vicente Nebrada to join the Ballet Internacional de Caracas, which later became Ballet Nuevo Mundo de Caracas. Mr. Nebrada baptized me with a new stage name, Gloria della Casa. I started as member of corps de ballet, then soloist, and ultimately principal dancer. Seeing my name next to ballet geniuses like Zhandra Rodriguez, Dale Talley, Gina Goetchius Bugatti, Vanessa Ortiz, and Alexis Zubiria (to name a few) was the biggest honor I have ever been given. I also had the privilege to work with renowned choreographers such as Vicente Nebrada, Alvin Ailey, Margo Sappington, Dennis Nahat, Choo San Goh, Carlos Orta, and performed works by George Balanchine and John Butler.
I retired in 1985 to marry Austrian-born Albert Kutternig, who I met in Caracas when he was the Pastry Chef of the Caracas Hilton. We got married in Vienna and made it our home for the next five years. In 1990, we emigrated to the US and opened our own business, Konditorei Austrian Pastry Café, in the college town of Davis, California (Konditorei translates as Pastry or Sugar bakery in German).
I never imagined I would be a business owner as a third career (second is motherhood to three beautiful daughters). Albert is a certified Master Pastry Chef with over 40 years of experience to his name. He is the producer, chief financial officer, and the artistic creator of an unparalleled array of desserts and cakes. We produce and bake everything we sell, which is baked from scratch thanks to his expertise.
I work with Albert side by side as sales associate, marketing and payroll officer, purchaser, developer of breakfast and lunch menus, and creator of all soups and goulasch. My stage is now the front counter in sales and customer service where I interact with our clientele, making sure that every customer who leaves our building is one happy diner who will come back for more. As a former ballerina, I embrace the love, respect, and recognition, especially when your audience appreciates your performance with their endless cheers and applause. In our business, the daily grind of 120 hours a week combined is genuinely gratifying when our customers express their gratitude for the work we do.
I truly believe that my background in the performing arts has taught me the fundamentals in discipline, focus, and drive to achieve great heights of success. Tasting it is only sweeter because I have climbed the ladder to get there. There were always controversies, financial difficulties, mistakes, failed romances, criticisms, indecisions, and the eternal journey of growing up and identifying who you are. Despite these difficulties, I chose to dance because I believed I had a gift to share.
Twenty-eight years ago, I also believed that I could be an asset to my husband as his business partner. I have no college degree to boast of, but I am an owner of a very successful, thriving small business. My husband and I will always be grateful to this country which we now call home. The American dream is well and alive. If you have a gift, you have a talent. But if you don't use it, it is nothing.