The Philly Ballet Maestro | AL DÍA News

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Growing up in Madrid, Spain, Ángel Corella was an energetic child. He describes himself as a happy child surrounded by his family who loved to dance.

To deplete her energy, Corella would end up doing ballet with her two older sisters, a non-traditional activity for a young boy in Spain, especially at the time.

In a conversation with AL DÍA, Corella spoke about her career in ballet, and it all started with a short career in karate:

“One of the children of [karate] the class broke their noses … So my mother would take me to ballet class with my sisters, ”said Corella. “She used to say, ‘Sit here, because I have to do some shopping, and I’ll be back.’ She thought she was going to find me on the roof because I couldn’t stand still.

To her surprise, she returned and found young Corella sitting still, watching intently, intrigued by the ballet lesson.

Once, while Corella’s mother was talking to a teacher about an end-of-year recital, Corella got up, started doing turns and jumps, and danced.

Getting into dance and ballet

At two years old, Corella danced like John Travolta, like the actor at a time when the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever was on storefront radios.

“I always had the pacifier in my mouth, so I think for me it’s always been easier to express myself through dance than through words,” said Corella. “It was always easier to show who I was and how I felt through ballet.”

Corella continued to dance with her sisters until she was around 13 years old. Around this age, the dancer began to be teased and bullied in school. Corella recalled that football and bullfighting were of the utmost importance and that ballet had no place among the interests of her peers.

In the Corella house, Ángel’s mother was an art lover, a writer who enjoyed opera, ballet and music. A sister would later become a dancer at the American Ballet Theater, and her eldest would become a hairdresser and makeup artist.

While her mother had the strongest influence on her decision to enter ballet, Corella’s father – once a boxer – worried about the reaction of others:

“The first time [my father] saw me dancing at the Metropolitan Opera House, he said he was crying the whole time, because he was so emotional about it, ”Corella said. “But at first he knew I was going to have problems at school, when the kids found out I was a ballet dancer … and he was right.”

There were no ballet companies in Spain when Corella finished his initial training, so for a while he was out of work.

He considered getting into carpentry, explaining that he still enjoys fixing things up, but a friend’s suggestion to participate in a dance competition put him on a different path.

Originally reluctant to participate, Corella found himself in a dance competition in Paris, where he was shocked to win the gold medal and the Grand Prix.

A member of the jury suggested that Corella try her luck at the American Ballet Theater. The dancer then traveled to the United States to do just that.

Corella joined the American Ballet Theater as a soloist and became a Spanish national hero in the process. Gettyimages

Life after leaving Spain

When Corella arrived in New York City at age 19 in 1995, he was alone and overwhelmed.

For the first time, he was not surrounded by his family and was confronted with an unknown language, having studied French at school.

His anxiety subsided at the start of the metropolitan season. When he started dancing in America, the warm reaction from the audience made him feel right at home.

“I started to learn English very quickly… It was a difficult start, but then it was fast… I adapted to the city, to my new life.

When Corella left Spain, her father had recently lost his job. Corella raised income from additional performances and galas to open a ballet boutique in Madrid. The store, run by his parents, sold ballet clothes, such as tutus and leggings. With success, they will later open another store in Barcelona.

Many dancers approach the Corella family and ask for advice on pursuing a dance career abroad. Upset by the lack of options for dancers in Spain, Corella was influenced to establish a greater presence for ballet in the country.

“I decided to create a foundation … to start funding the creation of a business. In 2007, we gathered enough support to be able to open the business, ”said Corella.

The company, The Barcelona Ballet, has toured New York, Mexico and Portugal. The company was supposed to tour China, but when the political party changed in Spain, support for the ballet changed.

“A new party of colors… decided they didn’t want the ballet anymore, so they took all the support away, and we had to shut it down,” Corella said. “I had to sell everything I had at the time. I had to sell my house, my car… to be able to pay all the dancers.

Corella was still dancing until his company closed in Spain, but around the same time he decided to retire from his dancing career.

Corella’s final dance, move on

Corella’s time as a dancer ended with a performance of Swan Lake at the Metropolitan House in New York City. He was 37 years old.

Corella struggled to leave behind the audience’s positive energy and reactions to his performances, but for him, it was about time:

“It was really like I closed this cycle of my life, closed this chapter, and then I opened a new one that would lead the [Philadelphia Ballet] and share all this knowledge that I have acquired over the years to the new generation. I was really happy and really ready to do it, ”he said.

Today he is a director, choreographer, spectator and coach.

“I think it’s important to know when your time is up and it’s time for someone else to take your place,” Corella said.

Corella had no plans to run another company, but after seeing the position of artistic director at the Pennsylvania Ballet (now known as the Philadelphia Ballet) in 2014, he applied.

After two interviews, Corella got the job. Due to the timing, the dancer thinks it was meant to be.

“I loved the city, and I loved what the company stood for… I was very happy, and it’s been seven years now… I feel like it was yesterday.

“I loved the city, and I loved what the company stood for… I was very happy, and it’s been seven years now… I feel like it was yesterday.

Today, Corella hopes to elevate the stature of the dancers of the Philadelphia Ballet to worldwide recognition. Harrison Brink / AL DÍA

Philadelphia Ballet Experience

First on the agenda, after becoming the artistic director of the Philadelphia Ballet, was to address the dancers, re-energize them and re-energize the company.

“[I] danced with… companies from all over the world. I knew what kind of energy and what kind of art was unfolding in the world, so I tried to implement that in the business, ”said Corella.

In some cases he was reluctant at first, saying that when things have been done a certain way for a long time people tend to fall into patterns.

There was a bit of resistance, but Corella had two years with the dancers to figure out who was and didn’t want to be in the new direction. After two years, some people left, others did not renew their contracts, and soon the business grew to where it is now.

“I wanted to make dancers into movie stars … so that everyone in the city could recognize who the dancers are so that they can really relate to them and want to go to the theater to see them. “said Corella.

Corella wanted to take the company on tour to achieve a more international presence and be seen alongside other arts organizations such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Opera House.

“This is one of the reasons we moved from the Pennsylvania Ballet to the Philadelphia Ballet, because I wanted to be part of that pillar of the most important arts organizations in Philadelphia. I think we’ve been doing it for the past six years, ”Corella said.

He cites patience and listening as virtues learned from working with the Philadelphia Ballet, because people work best when their ideas are heard and when they are part of the decision-making process.

The future of dance and ballet

It’s difficult to predict the future of dance and ballet, according to Corella, as the culture is constantly changing.

When it comes to the Philadelphia Ballet, Corella wants the process to flow naturally, while keeping the focus on the Philadelphia arts community.

“Everything will come with us in the future of Philadelphia Ballet, but I think it will be important that we represent the city we live in, the city we train in, the city that sees us,” said Corella.

On a more global scale, and particularly in Spain and Latin America, Corella hopes that dance and ballet can flourish.

When asked how to involve more Hispanics and Latinos in the dance, Corella replied:

“In most Hispanic countries, dancing is not part of their heritage or their culture. I think about outreach programs, and our outreach department does an amazing job bringing ballet to all of these schools. “

Corella believes parents should give support if their child decides to get into the arts, as there are many misconceptions about what the arts, ballet, has to offer, both professionally and artistically.

“There’s a preconceived idea of ​​what ballet is, what classical ballet is, to Hispanics, so it’s something we’re trying to change for the future.”

The work involved in eliminating the inaccurate preconceptions surrounding ballet is considerable, but Corella knows it better than anyone:

“One person can make a change, but in most cases it takes more than one… As the artistic director of an organization like the Philadelphia Ballet, it would be crazy if I could say it’s all done by me. .


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