Angel Corella, the 30-year old superstar of American Ballet Theatre, who spins like no one else in the history of ballet, is an unparalleled virtuoso dancer, considered one of the five international dance superstars of all time. Known for his fast spinning multiple pirouettes and his magnetic personality, Corella receives standing ovations every night in NYC and in every city in which he performs. Born in Madrid in 1975, Corella was 19 years old when he was awarded First Prize in the National Ballet Competition of Spain. Next, he won the Grand Prix and Gold Medal at the Concours International de Danse de Paris. In April, 1995, Corella joined American Ballet Theatre as a Soloist, and the following year was promoted to Principal Dancer. He has performed as Guest Artist at the Royal Opera House, The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet, and at La Scala. In 2000, Corella won the Prix Benois de la Danse, and in 2003, the National Award of Spain.
MARGIE GOLDSMITH: How many weeks out of the year do you travel on tour?
ANGEL CORELLA: Pretty much the whole year, though the locations change.
MG: When you're on tour is it hard adjusting to a new environmentnot the just the theater and stage, but everything that's around you: the food, the language, the customs, the ambiance?
AC: It used to be at the beginning, but now, when I'm in Spain or in America or Japan, I adjust from the moment I land. The food, the customs, the ambiance change, and it's like you behave completely differently. In Spain it's all about partying and about enjoying the family and, although I have to work, it's in a very relaxed way; I almost take it as a hobby. When I get to New York, it's more serious.
MG: And do you like to travel or is it just a necessary part of being a dancer?
AC: I love to be in the places, but I hate to travelI hate to go to the airport, the whole hassle of the luggage, especially when I travel on my own. But once I arrive to the city, I love itnot only the museums and architecture, but also the reaction of the audience to my performance. In each place it's totally different depending on the culture. And it's wonderful experiencing that, to actually get a feeling of a country right away.
MG: If an audience can only clap and call out bravo, how does the reaction differ?
AC: It's the energy. As a performer, what you try to accomplish is to have a connection. There is a wall of, of energy between the stage and the audience, and you have to try to break through that and expose your soul, expose who you are as a performer. Once you do that, then the audience receives and they're part of you, they're part of what you're doingthat's how you feel the energy and you feel what's going on. Every country reacts in a different way. For example, in Japan they clap very little as though they're afraid of clappingthey don't want to disturb any moment. Then, at the end of the show, they clap for like 45 minutes and you're really tired and you want to go home. And then, they're all waiting at the stage door for youaround 2,000 or 3,000 people waiting to get a signed autograph.
MG: What about America?
AC: Here in America, from the moment you walk on stage, they start screaming and clap because they recognize you and appreciate that you're there for them, and they want to already be part of the process that you're going to create on stage. In Cuba, it's like fireworkssometimes they even throw things on stage, it's just out of control. Spain amazingly is almost similar to America, which very much surprised me because in Madrid there's not a culture of classical dance. In Spain, the reaction is always very quiet when you walk on stage, but at the end there's a standing up ovation and stomping on the floor, clapping in rhythmvery flamenco sort of.
MG: As an artist do you ever draw your inspiration or your interpretation from a place?
AC: I think ballet and dance in general are an extension of us. Dance is like painting, it's like poetryit's an extension of our souls, a way of expressing that is not just words. Here you can express the feeling of joy, of sadness, desperation, all those emotions that can be expressed by movement because dance is all movement; it's all a way of communicating, a very organized way of communicating.
MG: Do you think dancers need to visit a composer's place of inspiration, whether a mountain or a river, to interpret a piece?
AC: No, but there are a lot of places that greatly inspire me. I'm Spanish and I think in my blood there are those sunny days and those beautiful bullfight squares and beautiful summers in Spain, and I take that with me everywhere I go. There are other places that I visit that also fill my life with incredible joyplaces that will always be a part of me, such as my house in the Costa Brava, where I go to recharge my batteries because it's a very peaceful place.
MG: Do any other places come to mind?
AC: Well, I was in Jamaica, which was a wonderful, wonderful experience. It was very, very relaxing after the Kings of Dance thing and I really needed it.
MG: The Kings of Dance?
AC: We did a show called the Kings of Dance: four male dancers from different countries. We did almost a week at City Center in New York and a week in Orange County, CA. And they're planning on doing it around the world. It includes Nikolay Tsiskaridze from the Bolshoi Ballet, Johan Kobborg of The Royal Ballet, and Ethan Stiefel and myself from American Ballet Theatre. After, I needed some time to just relax and Jamaica did that for me. There are other places that are also really beautiful like Brazil. When I was in Brazil I loved the whole experience. Japan, tooeach one has a different memory that has been very important in my life.
MG:< I understand you're starting a foundation in Barcelona? Can you talk about that?
AC: Well I actually started a foundation five years ago. The purpose of the foundation was to change the situation of classical dance in Spain, because the reason I had to go to America to dance was because there wasn't a ballet company in Spain.
MG: When did you get your break?
AC: After I did my training I joined a very small company called Victor Ullate and that company did mostly modern dance. I always dreamed of doing Swan Lake, Corsaire, Romeo and Juliet. When I was 19 years old, I wanted to quit dancing, I said, that's it, it's enough. I can't take this anymore. And then a friend of mine said, why don't you enter the National Ballet Competition of Spain? I did, and I won the gold medalI was really surprised. I was shocked when they called my name. And then, Marcova was in the jury, and she talked to Kevin Mackenzie at ABT and the rest is history.
MG: So you are trying to change the situation in Spain?
AC: There are many dancers from Spain that have no jobsthey're in the situation that I was in when I was 19. They don't have the courage or they don't have the luck that I had then, so they have to either stop dancing or they start a little school and try to teach, but there's not enough money. So I'm trying to create an international ballet company like ABT, like the Royal Ballet. I'm doing a lot of fundraising. The Royal Family is helping a great deal. They're going to donate two palaces that belong to the Royal Foundation so that we can have a base. It's a very big project but it's something that, in the future when I stop dancing, I want to share everything that I've been doing all these years with a younger generation.
MG:< What's your favorite city in which to perform?
AC: I don't really have any favorites in life: no favorite color, no favorite ballet, no favorite city.
MG: I read in an interview that you said you love Hong Kong, that in your entire life you've never seen a view like that outside the theater. What was that view and what did you love about it?
AC: The view from the theater was one of the most striking I've ever seen. It's like having a theater on the border of the Hudson River and seeing the entire view of Manhattan. It was just so striking in the evening: lights everywhere, different colored lights. It was summer, it was really beautiful, it was a very happy time of my life. And after the show I would sit down and see the whole view of the harbor and watch the little boats, the junks. The whole thing it was surreal. That's what I mean with different places in the world, they take you by surprise. Like Australia. The first time I saw the Sydney Opera House, I was completely amazed. They can't prepare you for such an amazing opera house. Amazingly, the theater inside is really small, really, really tiny. The same in Melbourne. The city is just beautiful, very European and very relaxed people and a great country as well.
MG: I know you're crazy about music and you travel with an iPod. What are the two other things you can't travel without?
AC: One of them is my DVD player. And the other is my ballet shoes. I can't dance with anybody's ballet shoes. I can dance with everything else but ballet shoes.
MG:< Describe to me the difference between a traveler and a tourist.
AC: Sometimes I feel like I'm a traveler and not a tourist, and sometimes I feel like I'm a tourist and not a traveler. I think when you sort of touch the surface of the country or the city that you are in, that would constitute being a tourist. And I think as a traveler, I try to get a little bit more under the skin of the city, try to get to know a little bit more of it. Most of the time I consider myself a traveler.
MG: Do you keep a journal?
AC: No. It's all in my head.
MG: Describe one humbling experience that you've had on your trips.
AC: A humbling experience, wow, there have been many of them, especially when I go to areas in South America, which are not so economically strong. To actually see that people there don't have enough money to eat but they pay to go to see a performance is something that shocks me, because there are other countries that are very very wealthy where people get tickets for free but don't want to go. The fact that poor people have very little but want to feed their souls, and want to feed themselves with beautiful art is very humbling.
MG: Are you a southern person or a northern person? Where are you most physically comfortable? In the tropics? On mountains? In the desert?
AC: Amazingly, I'm happiest when it's a rainy season. And if I'm in the mountains or in a place that's very green, I'm usually happier. I think I would be more of a northern person. I love the beach and I love relaxing and I love the sound of the water, but even more, I love the sound of a river and rain surrounded by mountains and lots of trees.
MG: Tell me the two things you dislike most about tourists.
AC: I respect all tourists in general. I think when you're going to a different country you have to open yourself to something different, and can't expect that the food is going to be the same or the way people behave, or that people's reactions are going to be exactly the same as in your country. You have to be open to that. I was in Morocco, and for me it was harder because most of the time I was there, I was afraid for no reason. So my reaction was always to be alarmed at everything, which it was silly because the second day was completely fine. But sometimes the difference of culture takes you by surprise. But, yes, just be open, that's the reason why you're travelingbecause you want to experience something new and something different. If not, you might as well just stay in your own country.
MG: When you're at a cocktail party what is the question about your job that you most dread being asked?
AC: Probably if my toes hurt when I go up en pointe, that's something that it really bothers me because I always like take it not as an insult, but as something that people still at this time don't know that male dancers don't go up en pointe; or they picture me with a tutu and a pink bow and point shoes. I'm like, no we men don't go up en pointe; so that's something that kind of bugs me.
MG: Do you believe that dance is a universal language?
AC: Yes, I think art is a universal language and we should focus more on that. I think a lot of the problems would be resolved if people were more art orientated. They would be more sensitive.
MG: When you go to a place such as India, can you site an example of any cultural insights you've gained because of your exposure to dance in your travels?
AC: I've actually never been to India. That's my next project. My dance is so attached to who I am as a person and all these places that I visit have influenced me in many different ways. For example, when I went to Morocco and experienced that fear for no reason, or when I went to Japan and felt that the people were so polite, so willing to let you pass if you were in a hurry. All that politeness was so extreme. For example, people were all in line at the subway, waiting for the door to open, and nobody went in front of anyone. It was incredible. In Italy the way the people just sit in cafés and they are enjoying each other and laughing. I mean, in all of the countries there is so much flavor, so much that has actually made me who I am as a person and ultimately as a performer. So travel does influence me a great deal, and I'm very, very blessed and lucky to be traveling around the world.
MG: As a dancer you have been called the master of color and nuance. Is this a sensitivity you've acquired in your travels?
AC: I don't know. I have no idea where most of the compliments they give me are coming from, because I just dance. When I'm in the moment, I don't realize that I'm visiting this incredible place and the effect it's having on me until I actually remove myself from the country. Then I can look back and say wow this was actually a really great experience. When they say a bad thing, I can see it right away, but when they say a great thing it's really hard for me to actually know where it comes from, because I just do it.
MG: What's the next level, what's the next adventure in dance for you?
AC: Well I would still be performing as much as possible. I would like to do new projects, maybe do movies or maybe do something that would take me to a different level. I want to work with new choreographers that I haven't worked with, doing new ballets. But in general I've been incredibly lucky in my career, and never thought in a million years that I would be where I'm at and be who I am.
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