Dancing around the world with Marcos Montes
Marcos was born in Madrid, where he graduated at the Mariemma Real Conservatorio Profesional de Danza. In 2011, he accepted a scholarship to attend the Boston Ballet School’s summer programme, where he studied under Mikko Nissinen. In 2014, his dancing career continued with the caraBdanza dance company, where he danced a neoclassical and contemporary repertoire. Subsequently, at the request of José Carlos Martínez, he was invited to collaborate with the Compañía Nacional de Danza (CND) in its production of Don Quijote and, while there, he also took part in the ballet Raymonda Divertimento.
What does ballet mean to you?
For me, it can mean a lot of things. It is a form of escape, of disconnecting from normality; from all the day-to-day stuff; all that routine of commuting to work. For sure, I’m lucky enough for my work to be dance.
Dance is a way of life. Ultimately, you dance, and when you leave the building, you still need to keep yourself in check. So, I go to the gym to do a bit on the running belt and keep in shape, and I stick to maybe a more balanced diet than your average Joe; basically, looking after your body.
It’s a way of life; a disconnection. It’s an absolute thing in itself. The music, the piano, the teacher … I don’t know. Since I was little, that has been my dream and I’m really happy to still be doing it. I hope to be doing it for many more years to come.
How and when did you opt for professional dance?
I started to dance at the municipal dance school in Alcobendas when I was eight or nine. I was there for two years when a teacher at the school told my mum, “You’ve got to take this boy away from here and to the conservatory, he’s got what it takes to do dance, you can be sure of that.” Eventually she said to her, “you’ve tried the ‘no’, now try going for ‘yes’.”
I went to do the trials at the Mariemma Royal Profesional Conservatory and they accepted me. I spent two years at elementary grade and five years at intermediate grade, which is professional training. And, well, I opted for classical dance. At seventeen I went to the USA to work. We count the conservatory as a professional degree, which it is, and so my career training started at eleven and I’ve been dancing professionally since I was seventeen.
You’ve studied dance in different companies. In terms of technique, what aspects would you highlight?
At the conservatory, we are taught classical technique, which is the European technique; that is really to say the French school, which is the one that comes the closest here. And then, for instance, in USA, I guess I got a taste of different techniques such as Balanchine. I also spent a lot of time living with some Cuban dancers. Fantastic dancers! They taught me a lot. So, I got a feel for Cuban dancing, which is very different from European or American dancing.
In the end, I’ve picked up a little of each technique and have managed to make a kind of fusion, which, to be honest, is a really good thing for a dancer to have in their bag.
You’ve used the opportunity to dance on different stages with people of all different nationalities and styles. Do you identify with any particular style and why?
I would have to say yes and no because, ultimately, each dancer is a world unto themself and I think that that is the really beautiful thing about dance. We all have an essence; we all start from the same base, from the same studies; the plié is done all over the place.
You were the recipient of a scholarship at Boston Ballet School. How did it feel to get that opportunity?
To be honest, it was a shock, as I never expected it at all. I managed to get them to accept me to do the trial and, from there, I got to do the six-week summer course! When I got back to Spain, they wrote to invite me to return and stay the entire year as a Company apprentice. And that’s what I did. I went back in September. My sister came with me to help me settle in a bit … to find an apartment; she speaks English really well. And so, yes, I spent a year there. It was a dream come true. I’d gone from dancing in the conservatory in Madrid to making the big leap over the pond to the Boston Ballet; a highly renowned company internationally, with some of the most spectacular dancers. I just couldn’t believe it. I woke up every morning pinching myself to see whether I was dreaming or whether it was all real.
You spent a long time away from Madrid. What was that experience like? What did you get from it?
I was away three years in the end. I just loved the USA. I still do. To be honest, I had everything I could want. I had my work and my friends. I went so far away and so young. It wasn’t like being in Europe at just a 2-hour flight away; it was eight hours. But it was a really rewarding experience. I carry some really precious memories of it with me. Eventually, the time came when I felt the calling to return to Spain; and that was at twenty-one or twenty-two. And I told myself, “There’s plenty of time to go back to USA whenever I wish. It’s not going to disappear.” And that was my return to Spain, in 2014.
Back in Spain, I went to the Compañía LAMOV in Zaragoza, with Víctor Jiménez as artistic director. From there, I went to caraBdanza, where I stayed a year and a half with Gonzalo Días. Finally, I joined the CND in 2015.
Did you miss Spain being so far away?
Well, I missed a lot of things other than my family and friends. I’m from Madrid and very from Madrid (laughs). All the same, I love to travel. I can be a global person but, to be honest, I also have strong roots in Madrid. I love to stroll through my city, sit and have a coffee in some street café somewhere, discover new nooks and crannies. I need to be here. If I’d wanted, I could have stayed in USA and, maybe, in 2021, I would still be there, I don’t know. But I needed to come back.
How did it feel when José Carlos Martínez asked you to dance with the CND?
Well, at that time, I was working for the Compañía caraBdanza. In the afternoons, I taught classes at a dance school. I had eight groups and I taught classical and contemporary dance. I even dared to do musical theatre with the kids. And I worked Thursdays and Fridays at Starbucks.
So, I remember it really well. It was Thursday. I was leaving the café and they called me and said, “We need you to come to the Compañia Nacional to join us in the production of Don Quijote that will permiere at the Zarzuela in December 2015.” Of course, that was in October. I’d just left work and I took off my apron and just screamed and cried in the middle of the Plaza de España. In the middle of the street, I cried out, “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe it! I’m joining the Compañia Nacional de Danza!” The call was for just two months of production but, for me, it was like a dream.
The next day, I told my boss at Starbucks that they’d called me from the CND. He kind of went mad and started shouting, “Marcos. Say no more. Get out of her. Congratulations. You deserve it all. I hope it all goes really well for you in life and that you dance as much as you can.” I worked that afternoon. I said goodbye to my workmates and boss and I’ve never been back.
And now, what’s it like to work with Joaquín De Luz and his team?
That’s a big deal; I mean, who doesn’t know Joaquín De Luz…? I mean, even outside the world of dance, who doesn’t know him? It’s quite imposing to have somebody like that there; a public figure of sorts, as he’s a real star dancer. He’s been a big hit wherever he has gone in the world. He’s a real pro, from head to toe.
It’s so rewarding having him at the studio; when he gives classes and to see how he marks everything… I sometimes get a bit dumbstruck when I see him dance. It’s a great experience. And as I always say, these are things we each save in our bag and they are key to training and development, both as a dancer and as a person.
What do you like to do in your free time?
To be perfectly honest, I like to disconnect from dance. What’s more, I’m restless and need activity. Before the pandemic, I was going to sewing classes with a marvellous teacher. I love photography. I’d now like to see if I can get into the world of interpretation.
And at home I don’t stop. I’m cooking this or that while changing the spot for the sofa. I just can’t stop. I love time with my friends, grabbing a coffee, having a beer, going for a walk with my dog, etc, etc.
To finish, and with a view to your birthday, what is your favourite cake?
There are endless cakes but, I must say, if you should arrive on my birthday with a cheese cake, you’re going to be a friend for life, hahaha. Only kidding. But yup, up to now, cheese cake is my favourite cake.
MARCOS MONTES – CORPS DE BALLET CND
Interview: Monse Martinez Zabaleta