Dancing around the world with Yanier Gómez Noda
Cuban dancer Yanier Gómez started his studies at the Alejo Carpentier Escuela Elemental de Ballet. He entered international contests in Havana, achieving Gold and Grand Prix for best partner at 17. In 2008, he joined the dance team at Ballet Nacional Cuba under the artistic direction of Alicia Alonso. He entered various Havana International Festivals, as well taking part in galas with stars from the American Ballet Theatre. In September 2016, he joined the Compañía Nacional de Danza as soloist.
Professional dance demands a lot from dancers and their families. What does dance bring to you in order for you to devote your life to it?
When I was very little, I lived in a rundown neighbourhood and it was the only way my mother found for me to get out of that life.
Along the way, you’ve won many accolades. Which is the most important prize you won and why?
For me, the greatest prize is to be in a company and to be able to carry out my dream to dance; to enjoy my profession every day.
We all have our muse; people who inspire us. Who are the people you look to and why?
Ever since I was little, I always looked to Mijail Baryshnikov. The fist times I saw videos of him dancing, it was like watching a shooting star; amazing and dazzling at first sight.
And in terms of your teachers? Which ones have left a mark on your development as a dancer?
All along the way I’ve had many teachers, all of which I am very grateful to. I’ve had really good Cuban teachers and international teachers. I couldn’t single out just a few because I am indebted to all of them. They have all been important in developing my career.
At just 17, you obtained great renown in Havana. Which was the most thrilling accolade for you?
graduating, I won the Grand Prix for best partner, in the final contest of that year. That gave me the push I needed to start a new stage in my life. My career spring boarded from there. It was also important because I was going through a tough patch, with injuries, and I didn’t expect to get the prize.
Alicia Alonso was a very important teacher for you. What is the most treasured memory you have of her?
Having her in my arms in a rehearsal of Las Sílfides, in which she was showing me how to do a porté. She hadn’t seen me do it but the répétiteur told her I was doing the porté badly. So, she got up and said, “hold me,” and she corrected me there and then herself.
Tell us about your time with Ballet Revolution
It was a great experiment, as it took me away from the “too-classical” thing they taught me in Cuba. It pulled me out of that, it turned me around and it revolutionised my dance. For that reason, I’m so grateful for that period of my life.
Ballet and street dance; for you, are they poles apart or is there overlap?
There is a lot of overlap. Ballet as such… calling it ballet… the word carries a lot of responsibility. But street dance is very free. You can let it flow more and you don’t need classical training. But yes, you can do both together.
Apart from your classical ballet and contemporary dance training, do you dance any other genres? Something more Latin perhaps?
Yes, yes. Cuban salsa.
Since joining the CND, what has been the solo part you’ve most enjoyed and why?
All the roles they have given me, that I’ve been asked to take on, have been very important to me. I wouldn’t leave any of them out. I don’t know… Don Quijote, the prince in The Nutcracker and now Albrecht in Giselle. In this career there are no small roles. Each role has something special. All of them are important in your personal learning process.
You’ve also worked with different artistic directors. And now, what is it like working with Joaquín De Luz?
Joaquín De Luz has a big personality. I’ve known him since I was 18, when he went to Cuba to dance. The truth is, I have a really good connection with him. It’s turning out great working together. For me, he’s a true source of inspiration and having him in the ballet studio every day is a motivation. He instils the importance of work while inspiring passion for dance. He makes you feel like dance runs through your veins.
In the production of Giselle, under the direction of Joaquín De Luz, you played the part of Albrecht and we know you had a serious injury. What was that experience like for you?
It was one of the darkest moments of my career and my life. When the accident happened, I just couldn’t believe it. I got up and carried on walking… carried on running. I wanted to carry on dancing, until I realised that no; no, I couldn’t carry on and I had to exit the stage. But right up to that moment, I was enjoying it to the full. What’s more, this a ballet I’d always dreamt of dancing.
Do you miss Cuba at all; the culture, the flavours, the people …?
Of course. I always miss Cuba. What I miss the most is that special Cuban flavour; the morning music, the beach… I don’t know. I miss that characteristic smell, of old, the smell of the sea and the calm of the coastline.
Cuba is a place where dance is rooted in its culture. Are you thinking of going back to dance there one day?
You bet I am! They invited me but the whole Covid thing put that back. But I have a debt to pay and I hope to go soon.
For your birthday toast, what do you prefer, beer or wine?
A good Spanish beer. An Estrella Galicia to be precise.
YANIER GÓMEZ NODA – SOLOIST DANCERCND
Interview by: Monserrat Martínez