Dancing around the world with Natalia Muñoz
Natalia Muñoz, a soloist at the Compañía Nacional de Danza (CND), began her dance studies at the Real Conservatorio Profesional de Danza, where she learned classical technique at Berlin Deutsche Opera at the hands of great masters such as the director herself, Virginia Valero. In 2002, she joined the Berlin Deutsche Opera under Sylviane Bayard. There, she spent eleven years dancing different classical and contemporary pieces, all forging her talents as a versatile dance. Since she joined the CND in 2012, under the direction of José Carlos Martínez, her cheerful spirit and the capacity for work she demonstrates daily have been contagious.
Your wish to become a ballet dancer started when you were little. How do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to dance?
From what my mum says, I liked watching ballet on TV. At three, I burnt her ear telling her that’s what I wanted to do, until she finally signed me up. I learned stuff in those after-school classes and my teachers saw I had potential and thought I should take it up seriously. While they wanted me to go to the María de Ávila Conservatorio Superior de Danza in Zaragoza, my family opted to send me here, to the Madrid Real Conservatorio Profesional de Danza.
Indeed, your first steps in dance really started at the Real Conservatorio Profesional, where you learned at the hands of great teachers, such as Virgina Valero, Marisa Martínez or Luisa Ramos, among others. What would you highlight about those teachers?
They all have great vocation and their zest for dance exuded from them. They are great professionals and they gave me good advice that really spurred me on as a dancer.
In 2002, you decide to continue your career abroad and you join the Berlin Deutsche Opera. Why did you make that decision?
A teacher of mine at the conservatory, Rosa Naranjo, told us they were looking for two dancers. Normally, they only look for one at auditions; so, this was a great chance. Me and a classmate put our names forward and they picked us both. So the decision was due to that opportunity arising; it wasn’t like I’d fixed my mind on going to Germany or anything but, rather, it’s where the chance of an audition arose.
What did you learn about dance outside Spain?
Mostly, I learned to dance different roles. The company had a repertoire made up of great choreographies in which all the dancers took different parts without worrying about professional category. In the very same show you might be principal, soloist and corps de ballet. What’s more, they had their own theatre and being on stage the whole day helped a lot.
In 2012, you joined the Compañía Nacional de Danza under the direction of José Carlos Martínez. Two years later, you are promoted at soloist. What was it like to be able to work for the national dance company of your country?
I’d been in Germany for eleven years and, while I was happy with my company, I really felt an urge to return to Spain. I really liked the repertoire at the Compañía Nacional de Danza and it so happens they were looking for dancers. I was so missing my roots that I decided that, at the end of the season in Berlin, I would do the CND auditions. And they took me on.
Throughout your career, both in the CND and other companies, you’ve taken up the opportunity to dance great classical pieces like Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Don Quijote and Romeo and Juliet. Which character type do you like to interpret most?
I like parts with character, like Mercedes in Don Quijote, or Myrtha in Giselle. I love the baddies and those that just naturally put a smile on your face. The ones I like above all are those that you can play around with a little or that involve some complicity with the audience.
You have also worked with highly prestigious neoclassical and contemporary pieces by choreographers such as Balanchine, Forsythe or Duato, as well as by José Carlos Martínez. What would you highlight about dancing such varied styles?
I love the neoclassical style. I really enjoy Balanchine pieces, such as Allegro Brillante, Who Cares or Apollo, among others. And Concerto DSCH, by Ratmansky, along with pieces by Forsythe are my favourites.
Which style do you think defines you best?
I think I am a dancer with a classical base and whose professional development has evolved towards the neoclassical. My training is classical and, although I’ve danced in the style of that repertoire in other companies, on stage I enjoy performing pieces that are closer to contemporary.
For this season, Joaquín De Luz, the current CND director, proposes finishing it off with Carmen, by Johan Inger, who you have worked with. What does the return of this piece mean to you?
Carmen is a marvellous piece however you look at it. Everybody how sees it really enjoys it. For us, as dancers, it’s great fun to interpret it and quite user-friendly to take around on tour. When we dance it, we create a really lovely connection with the audience.
From your perspective having enjoyed being with the Company for some years, what advice would you give to a dancer that has just entered?
You choose to devote yourself to dance because you like it; however, it is a really tough profession. You have to work hard and consistently because nothing is given to you on a silver platter. There will be times of highs and lows and you’ll get your fair share of no’s. Sometimes you won’t get picked for a choreography or for entering a company. But the important thing is not to lose your motivation or sight of what you are worth. We should remember the luck at being contracted and enjoy it.
How do you combine the life of a dancer, the discipline, the tours and trips with being a mum?
I never found it difficult to adapt to that. As ballet requires a lot of discipline, I am used to doing a lot of things in a day. What’s more, being in Spain means my family helps me a lot. When my daughter was born, I did indeed feel the change more because I had to take a break, something I’d never done. But it served me well. I later returned with even more zest.
To finish, and thinking of summer, how would you like to celebrate your birthday?
I’m going to be in Sardinia, at the beach. After last year and all that pandemic stuff, I really feel like celebrating it with my loved ones. I really want to put on a big-time bash.
NATALIA MUÑOZ – CORPS DE BALLET CND
Interview: Natalia del Buey