Over the last 18 years, American Ballet Theatre's Alexandre Hammoudi has become a household name. So Instagram was abuzz when the longtime soloist's departure from the company was announced, leaving fans shocked and saddened. His career has been one that aspiring dancers can only dream of: After dancing for two years with the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the French-born Hammoudi joined the ABT Studio Company in 2002, the main company as an apprentice in 2003, and the corps de ballet the following year. He was promoted to soloist in 2012 and has since danced leading roles in the classical ballet canon, including Prince Siegfried, Romeo, Albrecht and Prince Désiré. He also created leading roles in Alexei Ratmansky's Seven Sonatas and Thirteen Diversions, among others. On top of that, in 2017 he launched Makers Dance Company, which aims to present new dance works through multiple platforms, from live performance to the screen.
Most dancers would already be satisfied with that resumé. But Hammoudi has always been fueled by a drive and curiosity for new ways to tell stories, particularly through film. Pointe caught up with him by phone to talk about his remarkable career at ABT, and what's next for him.
Hammoudi as Espada in Don Quixote
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT
Your departure from ABT seemed to come as a surprise to your fans. Is this something you've been planning for a while?
I have been thinking about it for about two years. I had an injury about five years ago that was pretty hard to come back from, but I did and then I danced principal roles for about two-and-a-half years. But my mind and priorities began to shift. Once I had my surgery about four years ago, it was a a reality check for me on what else could I do if something went wrong.
I've always been into film, so I started taking filmmaking more seriously. I had done a couple of projects where I was either choreographing or directing, and I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed working with people.
Are you sad that you didn't get a final spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House or farewell performance?
I always loved participating in other people's farewell performances with the confetti and everything, but I didn't want that for myself. I'm not a shy person, but I've always had the sentiment about not making a big thing; just making it personal and meaningful. But then when COVID-19 happened and I wasn't going to have that last 2020 Met season to finish, I felt sad about not being able to retire on the stage.
So what's next for you?
I am going to do freelance video and movie-making. I've already presented work at film festivals and produced and directed shorts. I really want to do a lot more with dance on film, and I also would really just like to make movies. I've used this pandemic to work on my student film projects. I have also been fortunate enough to do some work for ABT, which I am very excited about.
Also, Makers Dance Company premiered a work at Kaatsbaan in November 2019, which was really an explosive, creative part of my life. It was great to be able to work with these dancers I have known for a while now.
How did you manage to develop your skills in film while also juggling all the demands at ABT?
Watching movies has always been a passion for me. When I was a kid, my mother did wardrobe for a really successful TV network in France. I grew up on TV sets and theaters and always had that behind-the-scenes curiosity. So, I started taking courses during my downtime and online. I am a big believer that you can learn a lot through practice. I was always doing little things with cameras, just for myself.
Will you still work on Makers Dance Company?
Yes. I hope to dedicate more towards creating new work and not be the company's only creator or choreographer. Once the economy is going again, I would love for Makers to be a place that can curate work. That will be my way of staying in the dance world.
After 18 years at ABT, what are you most proud of?
My colleagues and friends organized a surprise Zoom farewell for me and I am just immensely grateful that I had this career. You work hard and you do what you need to do to better yourself. So many people would love to be in ABT, so I feel very, very grateful and super fortunate. When I joined the company, we had José Manuel Carreño, Ethan Stiefel and Angel Corella. It was already a treat to be in the corps while they were performing.
What's your advice for young dancers?
Work hard. Keep pushing. Now more than ever, if you have the drive and have a dream, just push the envelope. It's a very challenging environment right now because many people don't have a place to dance and are missing out on summer intensives. It's going to be a learning curve. But no matter what, the advice is still the same – follow your dream and work as hard as you can.