Far & Away: dancing and living abroad

24.08.2013

Far and Away

Six Principal dancers from six world renowned companies talk about dancing out of their countries. Big roles, sacrifices, favorite partners and dishes: six conversations on the challenges of living (and working) abroad

Carla Körbes
B
orn in Brazil, she is Principal dancer at the Pacific Northwest Ballet.

What brought you to the Pacific Northwest Ballet?
A desire to expand myself as an artist. I loved dancing at the New York City Ballet. It was my first job as a professional dancer, and while there I got to perform incredible roles as a corp member, and Principal roles as well. However, after six years with the company I felt I needed more challenges in terms of getting to dance roles that perhaps I wasn't comfortable with. At the NYCB I got to dance many lyrical ballets, but I didn't get to explore the classics or more contemporary work. Since I arrived in Seattle, eight years ago, I have had the chance to explore leading roles in ballets such as Swan Lake, Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, but I have also had the opportunity to dance ballets by William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, Jiří Kylián. I love how diverse PNB's repertory is, and how it allows us dancers to grow in many different ways.

The most important role you danced with your company?
Every role I have danced has been important to me: it taught me new things. But there are a few roles that did change me as a dancer forever, like dancing Odette/ Odile in Swan Lake. That is a powerful role because of its history, and because of how demanding it is technically and emotionally. After I performed Swan Lake for the first time I felt that I had accomplished my childhood dream. I felt that I could tackle any other role. It was a very important time in my career.

Which is the biggest sacrifice you made, choosing to dance abroad?
Leaving my family behind in Brazil. That has been such a big sacrifice, to leave them when I was only 15 years old and go live in New York by myself. I miss my mom, dad, and sister every day.

Which dish or food of your country do you miss the most?
Pao de queijo, hot from the bakery! I loved eating this cheesy bread in the car on the way home from the supermarket!

Any favorite partner, among the ones you danced with in Seattle?
I am so lucky to have had the best relationship with my ballet partners over the years! To name one would not be fair.

What are some places in Seattle you like to go to in your spare time?
I love to go to Discovery Park on Magnolia Bluff. It is one of my favorite places in Seattle because you get both the wilderness of forest groves and spectacular views of the water – it overlooks Puget Sound, with the Olympic Mountain range beyond that. Another place I love to visit is the Ballard Farmers’ Market on Sundays. Since I care about where my food comes from, I like to go to the market and meet and support the local farmers. The food is always fresh and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.

Do you think you’ll ever return to Brazil?
Good question. I love Brazil and I love my family, but I also love the USA. I now have lived here longer than I lived in Brazil, and I feel a big attachment to both countries. I can only live in the moment and see where my life takes me next!

Filip Barankiewicz
Born in Poland, he is Principal dancer at the Stuttgart Ballet.

What brought you to the Stuttgart Ballet?
In 1992 I saw a Gala in my home town: an unforgettable moment was seeing Marcia Haydée and John Neumeier performing Maurice Béjart’s The Chairs. I have never forgotten that performance: these two artists inspired me so much! In 1995 I had the opportunity to take an open audition for the Stuttgart Ballet: I wanted to try my luck in the company of Marcia, whom I fell in love with as a young boy.

The most important role you danced with your company?
Petruchio in John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Which is the biggest sacrifice you made, choosing to dance abroad?
I would prefer to say “challenge”, and not “sacrifice”. It is always a challenge to dance with people from different backgrounds on different stages, but that is what makes our art so special.

Which dish or food of your home country do you miss the most?
Pierogi, boiled dumplings stuffed with varying ingredients, and Bigos, a traditional stew.

Any favorite partner, among the ones you danced with in Stuttgart?
Undoubtedly Sue Jin Kang, because it was at her side that I began to dance my big roles, such as Petruchio.

What are some places in Stuttgart you like to go to in your spare time?
I like to go ride Go-Karts with my son Djamal and go swimming to the pool with my daughter Helen, and I also love biking through the beautiful Schlosspark on a sunny day with my whole family.

Do you think you’ll ever return to Poland?
Up until now, I have never thought about it! But, coincidentally, right now I am in Warsaw teaching classes for the Polish National Ballet. And I am having a wonderful time!

Eleonora Abbagnato
Born in Italy, she is Principal dancer at the Paris Opéra Ballet.

What brought you to the Paris Opéra?
Everything began with a summer apprenticeship in Venice. Claude Bessy was teaching. In September the same year I was admitted to the Paris Opéra Ballet School. I did my four years at the school and I was engaged in the company in 1996. And I have never thought about leaving Paris. I am deeply grateful to Claude: she has always believed in me and gave me several chances to dance important roles. She was in the audience when I danced the leading role in ballets such as Swan Lake and Don Quixote.

The most important role you danced with your company?
Roland Petit’s Carmen. All Roland Petit ballets I danced have been important for me.

Which is the biggest sacrifice you made, choosing to dance abroad?
Leaving my family and my home city. But it didn’t feel difficult when I was a child. At school I felt protected, somehow, and I was strongly determined to become a ballerina. It was harder when I left the school at 18 and I started living on my own. Alone in a city like Paris.

Any favorite partner, among the ones you danced with in Paris?
I have danced a lot with Hervé Moreau. We were schoolfellows, I have always loved dancing with him. Benjamin Pech has been one of my best friends from the first day we met: I feel so confident dancing with him… he says I never do the same thing on stage, but our partnership works incredibly well! Nicolas Le Riche is a wonderful artist, a true Principal dancer: I danced many memorable roles with him and he helped me a lot. Manuel Legris supported me a lot too.

What are some places in Paris you like to go to in your spare time?
I lived in Montmartre for twenty years, and it is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris. Today I live closer to the Arc de Triomphe and, after I had my daughter, I like to go to a green area with her. I often bring her to the Monceau Park.

Which dish or food of your country do you miss the most?
No one actually. I know some good Italian restaurants in Paris… and I am a good cook, I often prepare my favorite Italian dishes!

Do you think you will ever return to Italy?
It all will depend on my husband! Right now I don’t think so… anyway, it won’t happen that soon.

Artur Shesterikov
Born in Russia, he is Principal dancer at the Dutch National Ballet.

What brought you to the Dutch National Ballet?
After I graduated from the Perm Ballet School I joined the Perm Opera and Ballet Theatre. While I was working there I heard a lot of good things about the Dutch National Ballet. Since we were traveling a lot, I had a chance to audition for the company while we were touring in the Netherlands… and I was lucky enough to get a contract at the Dutch National Ballet. I was a little surprised… it was my first audition!

The most important role you danced with your company?
I don't think I can pick one particular role. All of them are important… Principal or secondary roles. Though, of course, when you dance as a Principal you feel more responsible for the whole performance.

Which is the biggest sacrifice you made, choosing to dance abroad?
I was a bit afraid to move to another country. The first few months were a little hard… you know, getting used to the European way of live... The biggest sacrifice is that I don't see my family as much as I used to.

Which dish or food of your country do you miss the most?
In these days you can get any type of groceries in Amsterdam. There are Russians stores too. And I like cooking as well: I can prepare all the dishes I wish!

Any favorite partner, among the ones you danced with in Amsterdam?
I have danced with all the female Principals and with other members of our company. Right now… I am enjoying dancing with my girlfriend! We know and feel each other very well.

What are some places in Amsterdam you like to go to in your spare time?
No one in particular. Restaurants, cinema… I like live jazz as well.

Do you think you’ll ever return to Russia?
Maybe one day I will. But probably not as a dancer.

Bridgett Zehr
Born in Florida, USA, she is Principal dancer at the English National Ballet.

What brought you to the English National Ballet?
I fell in love with London the first time I visited in 2006, and knew in my heart that it was the place for me. English National Ballet has a wonderful reputation of being one of the hardest working companies around with many tours and performance opportunities. The dancers all seemed to have a very close family feel with down to earth attitudes. The company was there to work no matter what, and it was amazingly refreshing to see a group of people so committed.

The most important role you danced with the company?
I recently had the opportunity to dance Jiří Kylián's Petite Mort. It was my first time back on stage after a year off which made it all the more special. Our répétiteur for the piece, Ken Ossola, created a calm and supportive atmosphere in the studio, so when I finally got back on stage I was only excited and unbelievably grateful. It was a beautiful experience.

Which is the biggest sacrifice you made, choosing to dance abroad?
I would have to say leaving my family. I left my home when I was 14 to dance and I have been away ever since. I have never been this far though. I miss so much of what happens there, my cousin having her baby, my dad selling our family home and not being able to say goodbye to it, the holidays. But I know they are proud of what I've achieved and they want me to be happy.

Which dish or food of your country do you miss the most?
America has so many options for food it's hard to pick just one! Breakfast foods are my favourite though, and ever since I was little I have loved buttermilk pancakes.

Any favorite partner, among the ones you danced with in London?
A beautiful dancer named Junor Souza. He is an amazing partner because he's generous, intelligent, sensitive, musical and artistic. Also, he is very tall so I feel like I can stretch to my limits when I dance with him.

What are some places in London you like to go to in your spare time?
I work six days a week so it doesn't leave much spare time, but when the weather is nice I like to go across the street to Hyde Park and enjoy the sun. I like to spend time with my boyfriend who is an artist, we go to art exhibitions all over London. I also enjoy Covent Garden, but only when it's not too busy.

Do you think you’ll ever return to the U.S.?
It's hard to know what will happen in the future, but as for right now I've never been happier. I've always felt that I was searching for the perfect place for me and I feel I've found it. I also know that nothing is certain, and that I will always have a home in Florida. To be near my family again would mean the world to me, but I still have so much I want to experience here. London has become my home away from home: I'm incredibly grateful for that.

Yoel Carreño
Born in Cuba, he is now dancing with the Norwegian National Ballet.

What brought you to the Norwegian National Ballet?
First of all the necessity to dance other styles and other choreographies. I wanted to try new challenges and to keep growing as a dancer.

The most important role you danced with your company?
All the new works I am still discovering, since I joined the company in October 2010. If you are asking with regard to the Cuban National Ballet as well… of course Albrecht in Giselle!

Which is the biggest sacrifice you made, choosing to dance abroad?
Besides leaving behind my family, I must say that the biggest sacrifice has been not to be able to dance for the Cuban audience in our theatres, the Gran Teatro de la Habana and the Garcia Lorca Theatre.

Which dish or food of your country do you miss the most?
All the dishes cooked by my mom...

Any favorite partner, among the ones you danced with in Oslo?
Every partner I had until now: they all have been an inspiration. And a challenge! But so far my favorite has been Yolanda Correa.

What are some places in Oslo you like to go to in your spare time?
The Hardanger area: it is one of the most beautiful places in Norway. It is not that close to Oslo, actually, and it is a shame: I can't go there often enough…

Do you think you’ll ever return to Cuba?
I go back – or at least I try to do so – every year. But of course I would love to dance there again any time.

Photos:

Carla Körbes in Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake © Angela Sterling

Filip Barankiewicz in The Taming of the Shrew © Stuttgart Ballet

Eleonora Abbagnato in Petit's Carmen (with Nicolas Le Riche) © private

Artur Shesterikov as Artur in Giselle © Dutch National Ballet / Angela Sterling

Bridgett Zehr © Eduardo Patino 

Yoel Carreño in Le Corsaire and Don Quixote © private

 

 

 


           

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