Dancing around the world with Ana María Calderón
Ana Calderón, one of our soloists, started out in the world of dance at a very young age, learning jumps and pirouettes at the Mariemma Conservatorio Profesional de Danza in Madrid. Throughout her career, she has passed through different European and American companies, such as Switzerland’s Zurich Ballet or the Houston Ballet, where she acquired great expressivity in her dance. Her path brought her to Spain, where she joined the dance company of Ángel Corella, with whom she would later work with again at the Pennsylvania Ballet. In 2019, her dancing speed and versatility brought her to join the Compañía Nacional de Danza under the artistic direction of Joaquín De Luz.
You started dancing really young, since you were nine, which is when you joined the Conservatory but when did you really feel you wanted to devote yourself to dance?
I entered the conservatory on medical advice. I have scoliosis in my back and the doctor told my mum she could sign me up for rhythmic gymnastics or ballet as activities that would be good for me. My mum was also a ballet dancer and she decided to sign me up for the conservatory in order to get proper training.
In the fourth year, when I had to choose my specialty, I went for classical and that was when I knew I really wanted to devote myself to dance. At the conservatory, they really instilled in me the drive to push through. I was also aware that I’d have to go outside Spain for my career; but I didn’t mind. And I pushed through.
On finishing your training you landed your first succcess: the Princess Grace Foundation Award. What did such recognition mean to you at such a young age?
It was the first time I had been with ballet dancers who were going through the same thing as me. That helped me see what the working world was like, the different schools and what I would have to face in auditions. The prize also included economic support, which facilitated travelling to auditions and to go for all in my profession.
In 2005, you danced in Europa dance and with the Zurich Ballet in Switzerland. Why did you opt for dancing outside Spain?
My devotion was to classical dance and to grand ballets like Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet or The Sleeping Beauty and Spain didn’t have that kind of company. I auditioned for a variety of European companies. I got options on Florence and Zurich and, in the latter case, there was a group of Spanish people I already knew which tipped the scales for that one.
I really liked the repertoire there. They did complete ballets but also more modern pieces. The scope was wide.
Two years later, you got to work with Ángel Corella, first in Corella and Friends and later in his company, where you entered as soloist. What did that mean to you?
When I Heard that Ángel Corella was going to start a classical company in Spain, I didn’t think twice about doing the auditions. And I was lucky enough to be selected. At first, I formed part of a small group made up of ten dancers; five girls, five boys. We did gala shows in Spain and we prepared for the big company. Later, when the company grew, Ángel chose me to dance with him. He was a star. I learned a lot. Everything was so thrilling in the Company because we had a very wide repertoire. I remember we premiered Bayadère in Madrid’s Teatro Real, with Makarova. We danced pieces with American choreographers… I grew, both technically and artistically.
Your experience as soloist grew when you joined the Houston Ballet, under the direction of Stanton Welch. What was it like to hold the same position in two different companies?
When the Compañía de Ángel Corella closed, I had already married. My husband is American and we opted to live in USA. There, I got a contract with the Houston Ballet. It was a really good company, with spectacular facilities, a varied repertoire and a demanding director who taught me a lot about love for individual work.
The downside was that I was living four hours away from my husband. But then I got a new work offer, once again from Ángel Corella. They had given him the post of directing the Pennsylvania Ballet and he offered me a position. I held great fondness for him as he had spurred my career on and believed in me. So, I decided to take it up, even though it was hard to leave Houston.
In 2015, you joined the Pennsylvania Ballet where you danced soloist and principal parts in works by some of the great choreographer. Which of those would you highlight and why?
In USA, the work is more frenetic than in Europe. In a three-week period, you work with different choreographers and the premier comes two weeks later, at the same time as preparing and performing a ballet. That gave me the chance to dance some of everything and to get to know great choreographers.
One of the best memories back then was when I danced the role of Kitri, in Don Quijote, for the first time. Dancing a part set in Spain when you are living abroad is really special. My whole family came to see me. I also have a really great memory of working with choreographers like Forsythe and Dayson because I danced in a completely different register with them. I had thought that was a style that wouldn’t adapt to my own. But they encouraged me and got me to see how I could do it.
Is there a choreographer you consider to be your point of reference?
I don’t have specific reference as such as my career has not centred around one particular thing. I’ve danced different styles with pieces from all kinds of choreographers. I really like that kind of variety.
Currently, you are one of the soloists with the Compañía Nacional de Danza, directed by Joaquín De Luz. What is it like to dance in the national company of your own country?
I don’t know why I never thought of coming here before. Ever since the conservatory, I wanted to do classical ballet, with pointes, and my path led from there. USA, I coincided with Joaquín De Luz; just there. They had just handed him the directorship of the Company and I got it together to do the auditions. I was aware of the challenge, as there were great soloists but, I tried anyway and I got a place.
For me, it was a great opportunity . I always said that, when I stopped dancing, I would return to Spain. And now, being able to spend my last years dancing on home soil is just wonderful. I’m simply delighted with the CND because I’ve been able to do parts that I really love, like Giselle or Apollo. I really like the repertoire. What’s more, being near my family helps me a lot; especially when it comes to being able to look after my son and spend time with him.
In the current season, you’ve danced classical pieces such as Giselle, by Joaquín De Luz, and other more contemporary pieces, such as Remansos, by Nacho Duato. How would you define the Company’s style?
The CND has a very good thing which is that its dancers are very versatile. Some have a speciality in classical dance, others in contemporary. I think this is really positive and is something in high demand. It is really important for a dancer to know themselves in order to interpret a varied repertoire. That is what the CND has and that is what enables it to do whatever it sets its mind on.
And to finish with, a personal question: What thing should never be lacking in the celebration of a birthday?
Now that I am in Spin, my family. That is what I most missed when I was abroad. I really feel like having one of my mum’s dinners with my siblings all together.
ANA CALDERÓN – SOLOIST DANCER CND
Interview by: Natalia del Buey