Osiel Gouneo in Raymonda

Serghei Gherciu, Courtesy Bayerisches Staatsballett

Osiel Gouneo on His Cuban Roots, His Favorite Roles and His Grandfather's Powerful Life Lesson

In Pointe's Fall 2020 issue, Bayerisches Staatsballett principal Osiel Guneo talked to us about his career, life as a new dad and what he misses most about his home country of Cuba.

What has been the biggest adjustment to living in Europe compared to Cuba?

I never realized that cold weather could have such a negative effect on me! But Europe's artistic side has been so influential for my career. Caring ballet masters, new choreography and good friends have all been really positive aspects of my time here.

Which accomplishment are you most proud of?

People label artists. A certain painter makes nice landscapes, or a boxer is known for his defense. I'm proud to have reached a level where I can show different sides of myself. Carlos Acosta paved the way in Cuba. He showed that ballet is more than tricks. I am proud to continue that approach.

Osiel Gouneo wears a black jacket, vest and tights and lunges back on his left leg while holding ballerina Laurretta Summerscales by the waist. Summerscales, in a long-sleeved green and pink 19th century dress, leans against him and does a developp\u00e9 with her right leg.

Gouneo and Laurretta Summerscales n John Cranko's Onegin

Serghei Gherciu, Courtesy Bayerisches Staatsballett

What part of your Cuban culture do you miss most?

I miss the Cuban energy. In Cuba, there is a very strong link between family and music. I have memories of the whole family together, eating and dancing. After work, no matter how tired I was, there was always time for friends—a game of dominos and a little rum. Now, I go home and wind down, send emails and watch TV.

You became a father in March. What has parenthood been like?

My baby was born during the coronavirus pandemic. It was actually perfect timing, because we've been able to spend so much time together. We're adjusting to the new schedule, fighting lack of sleep and figuring it out as a family.

Wearing orange tights and vest and gold dance boots, Osiel Gouneo leaps to the left and extends his right arm forward, holding a dagger.

Gouneo as the title role in Yuri Grigorovich's Spartacus

Serghei Gherciu, Courtesy Bayerisches Staatsballett

What quality do you admire most in your colleagues?

I value honesty above anything. I want the truth so that I can keep growing. I'm so grateful when my friends show me that respect.

What roles have taught you the most about yourself as a dancer?

Certain roles have highlighted different phases in my life. I identified with Spartacus when I was younger, and then with Des Grieux in Manon, who gives everything for love. Ali, Basilio, Acteon and Solor were all roles that opened doors for me.

What lesson has served you best?

My grandfather taught me to have self-respect and pride. He said that as a Black man I had a burden to bear, and that I should never let anyone put a foot on me. In Cuba, one of my dance teachers used to put me down all the time, pushing me way beyond my limits. Because of my grandfather's advice, I was able to use the teacher's criticism to work that much harder. Now I know that good values and pride can be turned into love.

How do you want to be remembered?

I want to be thought of as a complete artist, and as a person who dared to step forward. I recently got to try acting. It was fun to see how far I could go with spoken word—to be dramatic without mimicking. It felt more comfortable, somehow. That's the sort of challenge I've always been drawn to: risks that take my career to the next level. I'll always be hungry to be better. I've learned that I can be content with my life, but I'll never be satisfied.

Latest Posts

Caleb Ennis, Courtesy Merrill

How College Prepped Aerys Merrill For a Career Across the Pond at Northern Ballet

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Aerys Merrill graduated from University of North Carolina School of the Arts with a BFA in ballet performance in 2018.

As a high school student, Aerys Merrill knew she wanted to dance professionally, but her parents wanted her to go to college. After hearing about the University of North Carolina School of the Arts from a friend, she decided to apply. Merrill soon found that the program was exactly what she needed: She could earn a degree and study a variety of academic subjects while continuing her rigorous ballet training. "It ended up being the best four years of my life in preparing me for a professional career," she says. "It's a time that I really cherished."

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Dean Barucija, Courtesy Lopes Gomes

Chloé Lopes Gomes Speaks Out About Racial Harassment at Staatsballett Berlin

In November, the French dancer Chloé Lopes Gomes went public with accusations of institutional racism against Staatsballett Berlin, first reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel. In the article, several anonymous dancers confirm her account. Lopes Gomes, 29, who trained in Marseille and at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, danced for the Ballet de l'Opéra de Nice and Béjart Ballet Lausanne before joining Staatsballett Berlin as a corps de ballet member in 2018, under then co-directors Johannes Öhman and Sasha Waltz. After the company told her in October that her contract, which ends in July, would not be renewed, she shared her story with Pointe.

I didn't know I was the first Black female dancer at Staatsballett Berlin when I joined the company in 2018. I learned that from German journalists who came to interview me almost immediately. I grew up in a mixed-race family—my mother was French, my father from Cape Verde—and I was educated to believe that we all have the same opportunities.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Virginia Trudeau, Courtesy NBT

Viva Las Vegas: Life at Nevada Ballet Theatre, Plus Audition Tips From Director Roy Kaiser

Most people associate Las Vegas with "the Strip," where tourists enter a fantasy universe of blackjack, Cher shows and cocktails. But beyond the razzle-dazzle is a metropolitan area of more than 2 million with its own ballet company, Nevada Ballet Theatre. An ensemble of 25 dancers, NBT is now led by Roy Kaiser, former artistic director of Pennsylvania Ballet.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks