A Prince of Artistry: Herman Cornejo

Photo by Katsuyoshi Tanaka via ABT.

What's it like to dance in a company like American Ballet Theatre that has so many excellent men?

Having stars around you is a good thing. It creates an energy that drives you to improve.

What's different for you when you dance a ballet without a plot?

It's a more physical experience. In a certain way it is more difficult because it requires complete physical control. With story ballets, there is a lot of interpretation—which is what I like most.

What was it like to work with Alexei Ratmansky on Seven Sonatas for ABT?

He is a gem—extremely nice, but he needs to see the movement exactly the way it is in his mind. It was hard, but the result was really good.

You made your debut as Siegfried in Swan Lake with the Corella Ballet in February. What was that like?

Dancing the classical roles is my dream. Since the creation of Corella Ballet, I've been able to dance two ballets I haven't yet performed with ABT, La Bayadère and Swan Lake.

How was partnering Natalia Osipova in ABT's La Sylphide last year?

Incredible. She's amazing, and her jump was unbelievable. I was saying to myself, “Oh my God, what do I do now?"

Have you ever seen a ballerina with a jump like that?

Only my sister Erica Cornejo and Osipova.

Have you ever danced with your wife, Carmen Corella?

Yes. We decided we just had to dance something together! An Argentine choreographer, Margarita Fernández, made a piece for us set to Mozart, Amadúo.

Do you have any rituals before a performance?

I try to do everything just as if it were a regular day. Class, rehearsal, and if I need to walk 10 blocks to go somewhere, that's fine. I like to stay pretty calm.

What music do you like to listen to when you're not working?

I love Philip Glass. I listen to his music a lot, when I'm trying to fall asleep or in the dressing room. But sometimes some Michael Jackson slips in there too!

What is your hidden talent?

I draw—I love architecture and design. I've always designed the places where I live, and my wife does the interior decoration.

Has your height affected your career?

It's always been on the table. Argen­tine dancers, and Latin American dancers in general, are on the small side. I think what matters are proportions. It's been hard sometimes to change the way of thinking of com­pany directors or coaches. Despite the fact that I'm small, my movements can be big, slow. That's why I think La Bayadère is one of my favorite ballets—because the movement is adagio. People always see me as a fast mover, and I enjoy it, but I feel much bigger than that.

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

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News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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