Dancing around the world with Martina Giuffrida
I would define myself as a versatile dancer. In other words, I am not a dancer who offers a very defined trait in this or that particular aspect but, rather, I offer balance and adaptability.
You started out in the world of dance when you were only five years old. What later prompted you to devote yourself to it?
It actually just happened, without thinking. I remember the reason I did my first dance class was because I was so shy and didn’t talk much and my family told me I needed to do something to express myself. So they tried to get me to do dance. That’s why I started so small. I immediately liked it, and so carried on. I went from one contest to another and another, and I was winning prizes. One day I was in Milan. The next day I won a scholarship to Montecarlo… And I practically completed my dance studies in that way until, one day, doing school work while studying in Catanzaro Lido and participating in a contest, Víctor Ullate turned up and offered me a scholarship for his school in Madrid. Ever since I was young, I’ve always said to myself, well, another experience. After spending a year at the Víctor Ullate School, he himself offered me a place in his company. And I said yes. As you can see, none of this was planned. Let’s say that I was getting ahead living day by day. And here I am. In the end, one thing leads to another. These are opportunities that were offered to me, put in front of me, and I accepted them.
During your formative years you got to study at different schools, such as the Teatro alla Scala di Milano, the Academie de Dance Princess Grace in Montecarlo or the Artedanza Catanzaro Lido school. What did this diversity contribute to your learning?
What it gave me, fundamentally, was the understanding that dance helped me communicate and express things that I normally didn’t convey with words. It was at Artedanza, Catanzaro Lido (Calabria), that I consider my professional career studies to have started and I thank the entire artistic team for two wonderful years.
I was at the Accademia del Teatro Alla Scala di Milano. I was also at the Monte Carlo Academy. Both very important schools, and similar in terms of discipline and rigor. It is worth mentioning that dance requires, among other things, a food discipline during the school period. It should be treated very carefully, since it is the growth period of an adolescent and this aspect is often not supervised by nutrition professionals.
Finally, in 2012 you graduated from the Víctor Ullate school where you learned at the hands of great teachers. Do you consider any of them your role models?
During my time at the Víctor Ullate School, my teacher’s name was Giselle. And I think that she has marked something of what I am about now because I had always been in schools with the Vaganova teaching method, previously. She was Cuban, and she had another method of teaching and giving the class. I learned a lot and grew artistically. And I think that both she and Víctor -because he also taught classes and is a great teacher- contributed a lot to me. And on top of that, at school we did three and a half hours of class in such a way that, many days, I spent the whole day practically alone doing the class. They have definitely marked what I am and have helped me perfect myself and grow as a dancer.
In 2014, still at the hand of the same choreographer, you joined his company. Being a foreign dancer, why do you opt for Spanish dance?
I remember when I considered entering the company. The first thing I did was go to YouTube to see what they were doing… I really had no idea. And I remember that I used to say to my mother, “Whoa! I don’t see myself doing that”, because, obviously, it was another style. But my mum didn’t agree, telling me it was all a matter of starting, “don’t worry, little by little…”. When I started at VUB I initially spent my time just watching the rehearsals. And I watched, I watched and watched until the day I started rehearsing. The day I started they immediately taught me a ballet. And it was as if I had already done it, I had so absorbed it in my body… I felt very comfortable. And I said to myself, I like this. And when you like something at first, it is later easier for you to learn, because you have much more interest. And from there, choreography after choreography, I have always felt very comfortable, very comfortable.
During the years you were there, you danced soloist, main and corps de ballet roles in pieces such as El amor brujo, Carmen, Bolero or Jaleos, among many others. Which of them was the most special for you?
For me, within the repertoire of Víctor’s company, my favourite is Samsara. It was the ballet I debuted with in the company. And it has an emotion all of its own. I remember being there, on stage, and feeling at one with the music. It was a privilege to have passed through the company and, to top it all, with that particular ballet. Then I danced Jaleos, which is quite a technical piece but also very beautiful to dance. These are the two pieces by Víctor with which I was better able to express myself. I also fondly remember El amor brujo, which was my first ballet as principal dancer. But it was hard and complicated, as it is a story that you have to tell. Let’s say Samsara and Jaleos are more technical and El Amor more dramatic—and so presenting another challenge for me as well. It represented the moment when I really grew artistically, because I had to express; I had to tell this story and if the public didn’t understand it, then maybe it was my fault too. I felt that responsibility, which made me grow a lot.
In 2019 you change register when you participate in The Nutcracker by José Carlos Martínez for the Compañía Nacional de Danza. What do you like about the classical style?
It was actually like going back to the beginning, when I started. It’s just another kind of job. Sometimes it is good to change, so as not to get stuck in just one style. It was very nice.
A year later you joined the CND under the artistic direction of Joaquín De Luz. What would you highlight about forming a part of that?
It is a big deal, because it is a national company. And I never would have expected to end up here, really. When Víctor Ullate closed, the world fell in on me. Being here means reaching a goal, an objective that makes me very happy. And in the end it came to me totally unexpectedly. I had thought my career was over. But arriving at the National Company was a dream. I can’t explain the feeling. A mixture of gratitude but also pride: pride in myself for achieving it. I had to start all over again from the beginning and I finally landed here. It is a very important company. I’m very grateful…
During your years at the Víctor Ullate Ballet, you had the opportunity to dance De Triana a Sevilla with Joaquín De Luz. What was that experience like? What is it like having him as director now?
It was wonderful. I have memories of that moment on stage at the Teatro Real and dancing with Joaquín De Luz; such a big artist… it was a very special moment. The emotion of being there, dancing and expressing that joyous Spanish character in De Triana a Sevilla… it was a moment of absolute freedom. And I really enjoyed doing it with him.
Looking to the future and thinking about new projects, what would you like to dance in the coming season? Some Spanish dance like Carmen maybe or something more classical like Giselle?
I like the Forsythe style and also Balanchine. I love a Balanchine choreography called Who cares? Since I was in school I have always liked it, both for the music and for the style. As I told you before, I define myself as very versatile. I am neither very classical nor very contemporary. This choreography is very technical, yet without the rigidity of classical dance, so there is room to express a little more.
And finally, what should never be missing on your birthday?
My family. My family is very important to me but months have passed without being able to celebrate anything with them. And it is not the same to celebrate your birthday on FaceTime or Zoom as having them there in person. I would love to be able to celebrate it with my family and my closest friends.
MARTINA GIUFFRIDA – CORPS DE BALLET CND
Interview: Natalia del Buey