Ángel Corella: “Barcelona Ballet will represent the city and the name of Catalonia worldwide”
CNA interviewed Ángel Corella, perhaps the best known face of ballet in Spain. Corella’s company is now established in the Catalan capital with a new name: ‘Barcelona Ballet’. Furthermore, Corella will manage a new international dancing school and residence in Figueres, a town in northern Catalonia. The school will train young talents aged between 11 and 18, aiming to feed the ‘Barcelona Ballet’ company. In an exclusive interview, Corella explains the reasons behind his recent moves and gives us the low-down on the situation of the dance industry in our country.
Barcelona (CNA).- Ángel Corella (Madrid, 1975) is perhaps the best known face of ballet in Spain. After training in the best ballet companies in the world, he now heads his own classical dance company. After spending four years in Castilla y León, Corella’s company is now finally established in Barcelona with a name change (Barcelona Ballet), a new school and the project of a school residence in Figueres. In an exclusive interview with CNA, Corella explains the reasons behind his recent moves and gives us the low-down on the situation of the dance industry in our country.
Q.- What are the expectations of Angel Corella’s new ballet company?
A.- The first big step was changing the name of the company. From the very beginning it was named ‘Corella Ballet’ and I have always wanted to change it. I don’t want the company to be “authored”. I want the name to give the same importance to the dancers, I want the public to come for them rather than because I’m the person behind it. So now we are called ‘Barcelona Ballet’.
The second big step was arriving to Barcelona, which I think is one of the most important international cities in Spain. Every time I have performed abroad and I was asked about where I came from, people related Spain to Barcelona. I think this new union was just what the company needed and what the city of Barcelona was expecting for so long. We want to represent the name of the city and the name of Catalonia worldwide.
Q.- Barcelona is now starting to stand out for its cultural offer...
A.- I agree! Ballet has been forgotten for so many years and now is taking the lead again. I think that during crisis periods the most important things within society bloom again. And that is when step by step, things that make no sense for society disappear. This is when classical dance came back to theatres, and moves the masses. That is what is happening now. We saw that just a few weeks ago when we were playing ‘Swan Lake’ in the Liceu theatre [Barcelona’s Opera Theatre]. We were there for five nights which where completely sold out! That suggests that something is changing, and people are demanding such change.
Q.- This new project, considering the economic crisis, is quite ambitious.
A.- It was very strange that a foreigner or anyone who came to the city of Barcelona or one of the major cities in Spain could not go to one of the great theatres to enjoy ballet. Theatres only offered ballet very occasionally because these companies came abroad and could only be here for a short time due to cost reasons.
So now to have a company of the same quality or even better, here, at home, right next to the Liceu Theatre, will be highly beneficial for the theatre, good for tourism and great for anyone who loves ballet.
Q.- In addition to the headquarters and the school in Barcelona, there is also the project of a residential school in Figueres (a town in northern Catalonia). Tell me about it.
A.- Any project of this magnitude requires feeder schools from where it will nourish the company. So the project was born with two parts: the creation of an international school for children from 11 to 18 and then the company itself. We started by creating the company because we thought it was the most visible part of the project and because people needed to see what we were talking about and now these dancers were graining.
We also have to thank the Mayor of Figueres, Santi Vila, who has been really involved in the project. He has been working to create this residential school located in the capital of the Alt Empordà County, which we expect to act as a focus for the international dance elite.
Q.- Why Figueres?
A.- Because Figueres is a cultural focus for many reasons. They have the Dalí Museum, the Perelada Castle and its Festival; the Cap Roig Festival is close as is the one in Sant Feliu de Guíxols too. France is so close too. It has a good cultural tourism and the city is now starting to become a focus on summer tourism.
As I said before too, the Mayor of the city, Santi Vila, has been one of the people supporting the project to come back to Catalonia. We both know that it is a project that was needed both here in Catalonia and the rest of Spain.
Q.- Thanks to the opening of the school it will be possible to take a classical dance education without leaving our borders, which is one of the great handicaps of this country.
A.- Yes, right! It was what was happening to all of us for so many years. We were trained in very small schools and when we finished we found out we had no place to work. We had no chance. The Government did not give us a chance to work in any company. We are the first and the only ballet company in Spain.
Thus the company has achieved a very good level quickly. We would like to take hundreds of trained dancers, but because of our size we have to make an accurate selection and prepare the best dancers before they go abroad.
Q.- Leaving Castilla y León was a sad experience?
A.- I’m torn on that. Changes are always great and this one has been for the better for many reasons. First of all, for the city. Secondly for the support because the project was actually born here in Barcelona and thirdly because of the foundation which changed the direction of the project and is now going to be something really different from what it was expected to be at the beginning.
We are also really thankful to Castilla y León for the four years we were there, but that was just circumstantial. It helped us to start the project and let us demonstrate what we wanted to do. Unfortunately, the final agreement was untenable for them because such a project had to be in a big city like Barcelona. The type of tourism and type of company that we were creating made it a cultural project for the Catalan city.
Q.- Are you afraid, in some way, to seem to compete with schools or companies already established in Barcelona and in Catalonia?
A.- We do not come to compete but rather to add. There is no other company of this type and no other school like this. I think that there are other schools more concerned with contemporary dance or flamenco dancing; but nothing about ballet. In Barcelona there are many children, many young people who want to pursue their ballet dream and there is no company of this nature. We are an international dance company which can stage full ballets like 'Swan Lake' with scenery, costume, orchestra, etc. We perform great choreographies and we are the first company worldwide that is operating at a classical level in Spain.
I think we come not to take space from anyone; we come to add to an established dance tradition. If there is a tradition it creates a desire to go to the theatre and enjoy ballet. The more the people go to the theatre the more other types of shows, dance or theatre, classical, experimental or contemporary dance will appear.
The most important thing is to have this foundation that gives the ballet and the classical dance company worldwide recognition. In Germany, for example, there are 64 ballet companies and some contemporary companies.
Q.- Has the Spanish public yet to be educated in ballet?
A.- I don’t think so! It was clearly visible in these last shows at the Liceu Theatre and every time we act in the rest of Spain. The public reacted and was screaming and cheering at the end of the show and most of the audience was on their feet.
Actually what was missing was the offer, there was no ballet company and the people were thirsty for it. When we left the Liceu, there were thousands and thousands of people waiting at the stage door and everyone thanked us not only for the show but also for bringing the company to Barcelona that was so much needed. Almost everyone said the same thing: "We do not have to go away to see good ballets anymore". And that is just what is not going to have to happen. Anyone who comes from abroad, or anyone who travels to the city to come and spend a day in Barcelona, ??can then go to the Liceu or the Tivoli theatre to enjoy a good ballet show.
Q.- What do you think about the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel dance, musical, design and theatre degrees?
A.- Unfortunately in our country we still see dance more as a hobby than a profession. That's why we have been fighting and truly feel that little by little we are achieving things. Sometimes there are actions that take a step backward rather than taking two forward and then it is necessary to stop, to wait, to be patient and keep fighting, because somehow at the end, society will make its voice heard and will dictate what to do.
Q.- Tie-ups with amateur schools. Giving voice to the lesser known...
A.- We have raised the level of our collaboration with different schools, different companies, even with different choreographers such as Cesc Gelabert. There are also very important choreographers in Catalonia with whom we have a good working relationship and that want to choreograph for us.
If dancers come from a lesser-known school, I will never look at the place where they came from but if they are good dancers. If the dancer really shows his worth, I will give them the opportunity. It is also true that thanks to the school that will open here in Barcelona, ??a school that will be open to any dancer or any young or mature person who would like to take classes here and be part of the whole project in the Barcelona Ballet, we will select the best ones to directly go to the school in Figueres. That school will therefore be more selective and will become a centre of excellence.
Q.- Recently Corella’s ballet performed the ‘Swan Lake’ in the Liceu Theatre. Do you think that the media paid more attention to Sarah Lane’s appearance and the whole ‘Black Swan’ movie affair?
A.- The important thing for us is to get us advertised. I also want to explain that bringing Sarah Lane, as many people thought, was not part of any advertising plan. Everything was sold out before her appearance was confirmed!
Sarah has been a great dancer with whom I had previously worked before she did the movie 'Black Swan' with Natalie Portman. She had danced with us in Perelada, in Sant Feliu, in Tarragona... she has danced in different shows with me and I always thought she is an incredible beautiful and delicate dancer. We asked her to dance with us as we did in the past with great dancers such as Alina Cojucaru, Paloma Herrera or Gillian Murphy. It was a great experience for the public, the company and themselves, because they could enjoy working with us.
Sarah was so delighted that is now considering coming to dance with us, alternating seasons with the American Ballet Theatre of New York. So, that reveals that every time a guest artist comes they are amazed by the quality of the company, the dancers, the repertoire and the way we work.