News

Paloma Herrera and Xiomara Reyes Say Good-bye at ABT

 

Today, two of American Ballet Theatre’s longtime stars, Paloma Herrera and Xiomara Reyes, retire from the company in what is sure to be emotionally-charged back-to-back performances of Giselle. Herrera, who has danced with ABT for 24 years, will say good-bye during this afternoon’s matinee, while Reyes will give her final performance tonight. The departure of both dancers marks an end of an era, and a sign of change for ABT’s future. In two seperate interviews, both dancers offered reflections on their careers, retirements and future plans.

 

Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

 

Paloma Herrera

For many of my generation growing up, Paloma Herrera set the bar—she was the one whose abilities we all strove to match. One year older than me, Herrera was a principal dancer before I was even an apprentice. Back in the 90s, my friends and I devoured news articles about the teenage Argentinian prodigy with to-die-for insteps (her name alone becoming a synonym for beautiful feet). We tore out her famous black-and-white New York Times Magazine cover and taped it to our walls. We rewound her Don Quixote video with Angel Corrella over and over, hoping to emulate her never-ending balances and whip-smart attack.

 

As she matured, we looked beyond the prodigious talent and got to know her as an artist. And she is an artist who resides very much in the moment, who loves both the process and the final product. In an interview with me in March, she spoke often about the “magic” she feels and tries to create onstage. “For me, it’s about being natural,” says Herrera. “You have to figure out all of the technique in class and rehearsals, because onstage, it has to be free.” And she sees the learning process as never-ending. “Last year, when I danced my last Don Q, until the last rehearsal it was, ‘Oh, maybe I should do this, or maybe I should do that.’ And how many times have I danced Don Q? I’m always looking for something else, something more.”

 

Herrera was originally scheduled to retire in June as Aurora in Alexei Ratmansky’s new Sleeping Beauty (a decision she says was not hers), but she ultimately changed her retirement date to dance Giselle, a production she feels more attached to. “In a way, I feel like my retirement was last year,” she says. “That’s when I said goodbye to all of my roles—Don Q, Coppélia, La Bayadère. Every performance was huge because they were all ballets I had done with ABT for so long.”

 

Following Giselle, she’ll return to Argentina, officially retiring with Onegin at the Teatro Colón in October and a small tour in November. According to a recent article in the New York Times, she also plans to start a dancewear business. But today, she says farewell to her American audience—and she will be sorely missed.

 

Photo by Marty Sohl, Courtesy ABT

 

Xiomara Reyes

Xiomara Reyes is one of those rare dancers that you never have to worry about onstage. Technically assured, calm and confident, she brings ease and purity to her performances. Dancing effortlessly, no matter how hard the role, is a skill she learned in her native Cuba at the National Ballet School. “I ground myself in the knowledge of the love for what I do," Reyes said in an interview over e-mail. "When I get nervous, I ask myself, ‘What’s really important?’ And the answer is I give it my best, that I forget about myself and become alive to the story. And then I pray real hard and trust!”

 

Although Reyes danced with the Royal Ballet of Flanders for seven years, joining ABT was a lifelong dream. She didn’t think a career there was possible—but her parents did. They sent her videos and resumé to the company, “and the rest is history,” she says. She recalls one of her favorite memories at ABT, during her first onstage rehearsal for Don Quixote: “It dawned on me that it was the same decor and costumes of the Baryshnikov production, the one from the video that I was in love with growing up. Seeing Natalia Makarova’s name in the costume I was wearing, I understood that I was part of something much bigger than the dreams of a little girl, something that encompassed the dreams and achievements of so many amazing people.”

 

Giselle has special meaning for Reyes—it was the first ballet she saw and the first role she studied in depth. As she matured, Reyes found it easier to personally connect with the role. “The reason is simple,” she says. “I have lived. I know how my Giselle feels because I have experienced a degree of heartbreak that feels like you can lose reason. I understand that someone frail could die from it.” For tonight’s performance, she hopes to tap into those years of experience. “I just want to be present to the moment so the history of my Giselle can flow from me to you. It’s not about a retirement, it’s about having the chance once again to let her live through me.”

 

After she retires, she heads to Spain to co-direct IBStage, a summer intensive in Barcelona. Her advice for young dancers? To search for what is unique inside them and to trust it. “It is the only antidote to the comparison sickness that we all suffer from in this competitive world. Live, feel, trust.”

popular
Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.

popular

Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

Keep reading... Show less
Summer Study Advice
Thinkstock.

Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

Keep reading... Show less
Career
Thinkstock

I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

Keep reading... Show less
Videos

They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

Keep reading... Show less
Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!