Pointe Stars

Hail Cesar: English National Ballet's Cesar Corrales

Cesar Corrales performing an explosive Ali in "Le Corsaire." Photo by Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy English National Ballet.

At just 20 years old, Cesar Corrales has skyrocketed to principal at English National Ballet.

English National Ballet was midway through a precise but polite performance of William Forsythe's In the middle, somewhat elevated last spring when Cesar Corrales burst into view. The 20-year-old principal turned his solo, a minor one in Forsythe's ballet, into a blaze of technical power and audacious phrasing. The tension at London's Sadler's Wells ratcheted up several notches, and his colleagues joined in his contagious energy.

It wasn't the first time Corrales had raised the stakes on stage. In three short seasons with English National Ballet, he has gone from promising virtuoso to one of the British companies' most vital members. Even among the outstanding crop of men hired by artistic director and principal dancer Tamara Rojo, Corrales' feline technique and generous presence have stood out in ballets including Le Corsaire and Akram Khan's Giselle.



There is more than raw talent to his rise, however. The son of two former dancers with the Cuban National Ballet, Corrales has a solid head on his shoulders, and planned his career accordingly. When offers from companies started pouring in three years ago, he jotted down his goals on paper with his mother. "I was looking for a place where I was going to be given opportunities to do soloist roles while also having good coaching," he says seriously. ENB, reinvigorated by Rojo with a top-notch artistic team, including Russian star Irek Mukhamedov, was just the right springboard.


Corrales as Hilaron in Akron Khan's "Giselle". Photo by Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy English National Ballet.

Corrales was raised in Canada, where his father, Jesus Corrales, was a principal with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Montreal's Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. His parents took him to classes and rehearsals, and Corrales was soon imitating them. "There are videos of me, at one year old, dancing and trying to turn," he giggles. "It even creeps me out!"

The young boy was also a precocious stage performer: after a turn in a ballet production of Madama Butterfly, where he confidently offered a correction, age 4, to the great Canadian ballerina Evelyn Hart, he landed a small part alongside Jennifer Lopez in the film Shall We Dance.

As a child, he enrolled in gymnastics and soccer, but only danced at home for fun. "I was doing double tours and manèges without training, just improvising," he says. When he was around 11, his parents, concerned about potential injuries, gently let him know that the time to train had come if he wanted to pursue that path.

He spent a year at Canada's National Ballet School and was set to stay until an audition for a new production of the ballet-themed musical Billy Elliot in Chicago came up. Corrales made it through the cattle call and several rounds to be selected as one of three Billys, and performed the demanding leading role twice a week for nearly a year, earning a spot on Pointe's Standout Performances list in 2010. Above all, he relished the performance time the musical offered. "It gives you that confidence of being at home onstage and doing technical things. You start improving onstage, and that moment is like a miracle."



Since Billy Elliot only offered two to three ballet classes a week, Corrales started training with his parents, who taught a mix of Cuban and international styles, to keep up. When he left the musical, the arrangement lasted. "I saw how fast I was improving with them," he explains. "They knew my body so well, and what I was capable of."

Corrales followed his mother, Taina Morales, who worked as a guest teacher, from Montreal to Norway. He remembers having to get up at dawn to take class before companies started their day: "The fact that it wasn't easy to have a studio every day was very good for me mentally. I didn't look at it as something that was going to be there waiting for me."

That individual drive eventually earned him a Prix de Lausanne and a spot in American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company. Corrales' original goal was to join ABT; he was offered a corps spot after six months, just before winning the 2014 Youth America Grand Prix, but ultimately decided against it. "I knew at ABT, it took five or six years for someone to do a soloist role. It didn't matter how talented you are."

After his YAGP win, ENB associate director Loipa Araújo, who had trained Corrales' parents in Cuba, showed his videos to Rojo. She came back with the offer he had hoped for: a corps position with the chance to do soloist roles.


Corrales in William Forsythe's "In the middle, somewhat elevated." Photo by Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy English National Ballet.

He joined in 2014, and while adjusting to British life and to dancing in the corps proved a challenge, Rojo kept her word: one of Corrales' first assignments was the Swan Lake pas de trois on opening night in London. "The talent was obvious," says ballet master Mukhamedov, who coaches Corrales in the classical repertoire. "He can jump, he can turn—he can do everything."

In 2016, Corrales leapt into the headlines as Ali in Le Corsaire, now a signature role: reviews singled out his preternatural confidence and technical chutzpah. His director, Rojo, was his Medora in London – a vote of confidence in a dancer who had limited partnering experience up until he joined ENB. "The first time I lifted her, I thought: if I drop her, I wonder what's the worst that can happen," he says with a hearty laugh. He credits Rojo and ENB prima Alina Cojocaru with helping him grow in the studio: "Alina is another legend. Those moments, you savor."

For Mukhamedov, Corrales' biggest star turn came last year with Khan's Giselle, a new contemporary production in which he created the role of Hilarion: "He was absolutely incredible: cheeky, cunning, strong, powerful. I realized he can offer different emotions, use different body language." Corrales relished bringing ideas to the process. "Akram was very open to seeing what you were capable of. I would come up to him with movement which he would later put in in his own way."


Corrales with Rina Kanehara in "Giselle." Photo by Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy English National Ballet.

Albrecht in the classical Giselle followed shortly afterwards, and in July, Corrales was appointed ENB's youngest principal while on tour in Japan. "It has felt very quick," he admits with a smile. Aside from the classical repertoire, his dreams now include working with Forsythe, who is set to return to ENB in 2018; he wouldn't say no to another musical, either. "My goal is to be a complete dancer. I don't want to be known just as a dancer who turns and jumps: I want to be romantic and noble, too."

In the meantime, Corrales has found his rhythm in London: His girlfriend Katja Khaniukova is a junior soloist with ENB, and they share their life with a daschund, Tito. Free time is reserved for watching hockey and soccer, as well as family visits to Canada and Cuba.

The new principal is eager to guest with other companies, but he finds excitement in the time ENB, historically a touring ensemble, spends on the road—and in Rojo's vision. "I think I'm getting exactly what I need at this point in my life. ENB now is a company that is on the rise." And Corrales with it, as a frontman.



Elizabeth Abbick as the Snow Queen in Butler Ballet's "Nutcracker." Photo by Brent Smith, Courtesy Abbick.

Pointe caught up with three college dancers last spring to see what it's like juggling ballet, academics and a social life on campus. First up is Elizabeth Abbick, a student at Jordan College of the Arts, Butler University getting her BFA in dance performance and her BA in mathematics.

Abbick studying in the library. Photo by Jimmy Lafakis for Pointe.

Leawood, Kansas, native Elizabeth Abbick faced some tough choices her senior year of high school. Equally talented in math and ballet, she wanted a professional dance career but also desired to plan her post-performance life. "Butler University had always been on my radar because I knew the faculty was stellar and the students are the best of the best. I realized it could offer me both worlds," she says. Now a senior majoring in dance performance and mathematics, she hopes to work on the business side of the ballet world after her stage career.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

If you're in the NYC area and are in need of weekend plans, you might want to consider heading to the Film Society of Lincoln Center to see Jean-Stéphane Bron's documentary, The Paris Opéra. While the film was originally released in France this past spring, it just made its way to the US on October 18th, and it chronicles the 2015-2016 season at the Paris Opera.

Encompassing the entire institution (which was founded in 1669 by King Louis XIV!), dancers will particularly enjoy an inside look at the Paris Opéra Ballet—both in rehearsals and onstage. Most notably, Bron captures the then POB director Benjamin Millepied as he decides to leave his position with the company barely a year after his appointment.

Check out the full trailer below, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center's full listing of showtimes here.

Your Training
Thinkstock.

Bianca Bulle was always prone to ankle sprains. When she was 18, her recoveries became more complicated: She started experiencing Achilles tendonitis due to muscle weakness and fluid buildup in the ankle. "The last thing to get back to normal would be my Achilles, which was so incredibly tight and painful," says Bulle, now a principal at Los Angeles Ballet.

The Achilles is the body's largest tendon, attaching the bottom of the calf muscles to the back of the heel. It contracts and releases as you relevé and plié, as well as when you jump and even walk. Tendonitis, or inflammation, of the Achilles is one of the most frequently reported overuse injuries among active people, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. You'll know it by the pain or tightness at the back of the heel. If the condition gets bad enough, the tendon can rupture, which requires surgery to fix.

Achilles tendonitis is especially common among dancers on pointe, but it's not inevitable. With rest and proper conditioning, you can work to avoid it with careful technique and a commitment to cross-training.


Boston Ballet School pre-professional students. Photo by Igor Burlak Photography, Courtesy Boston Ballet.

What Causes It?

Keep reading... Show less
New York City Ballet in Marc Chagall's costume designs for Balanchine's "Firebird."

I am a self-confessed costume nerd who really needs little persuasion to travel nearly 3,000 miles to see a costume exhibition—which is what I did when I set off for California for the new exhibition at Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage. I knew Marc Chagall primarily for his sumptuous blue swirling paintings featuring violin-playing goats, his incredible ceiling at the Paris Opéra's Palais Garnier, and murals at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, so I was intrigued to see his work with ballet.

Marc Chagall (1887–1985), was born Moishe Zakharovich Shagal in Belarus. He later moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to study art, apprenticing under famed Ballets Russes designer Leon Bakst. Chagall's work in ballet and opera, however, did not begin until he and his wife Bella arrived in the U.S. as World War II refugees in 1941.

Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage, adapted from an earlier exhibition at the Montreal Music of Art and curated by Yuval Sharon and Jason H. Thompson, is an exciting opportunity to see 41 costumes and nearly 100 designs. But it is the costumes that really steal the show. You won't see any tutus here, but instead amazing, almost cartoon-like realizations of Chagall's artwork. LACMA's exhibition runs through January 7, 2018. For those of you who can't make the trip like I did, here's a rundown of highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Tiler Peck in "Who Cares?". Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck and Emmy-winning actress Elisabeth Moss (of Mad Men and Handmaid's Tale fame) may seem like unlikely friends, until you dig a little deeper into their backgrounds. Both attended Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica and spent summers at the School of American Ballet in their youths. Moss and Peck's career paths diverged when the former fell in love with acting and Peck went on to study at SAB full time, eventually becoming the star we know today. Now, the pairs' artistic pursuits are uniting in an exciting new project.

According to Deadline.com, Moss will produce a documentary featuring Peck and her work curating BalletNOW, last summer's star-studded, critically acclaimed program at Los Angeles's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Peck was the first woman to lead BalletNOW's programming, and she brought together dancers from companies including The Royal Ballet, Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Paris Opéra Ballet, putting them on stage with tappers, clowns and break dancers (sometimes simultaneously).


Keep reading... Show less
Your Best Body

Looking for creative and healthy ways to get your pumpkin fix this fall? First, back away from the pumpkin-spiced latte—the season's unofficial drink is often laced with sugary syrup and comes with a complimentary mid-rehearsal crash. Instead, try these simple snacks with puréed pumpkin. It's high in beta-carotene, which converts to immunity-boosting vitamin A, and is a good source of vitamin K, iron and fiber. You can buy it canned or make the purée from a "sugar" or "pie" pumpkin (they're commonly available at grocery stores or farm markets).

Fruit-and-Spice Toast

- Spread purée onto whole-grain toast.

- Top with sliced pear.

- Add a dash of cinnamon.

Keep reading... Show less
Pointe Stars

When Maya Plisetskaya first toured abroad with the Bolshoi Ballet, she stunned the world. Her dramatic and technical abilities were far beyond what anyone outside the Soviet Union had seen before. She quickly became an icon, symbolizing Russian ballet.

Plisetskaya was the perfect ballerina to play the Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse when choreographer Alexander Radunsky and composer Rodion Shchedrin recreated the classic Russian folktale in the 1960s. This vintage clip of the ballet offers a glimpse into an era gone by. Although ballet technique has advanced since then, Plisetskaya's performance is still electrifying. She is daring and agile in her manèges and fouettés, while she shows gentle purity and authentic emotion in the pas de deux with the wide-eyed Ivan. Even half a century later, this magnificent artist continues to transfix us with her radiant presence onstage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!


Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!