Dancing around the world with Alessandro Riga
Alessandro Riga, lead principal dancer at the Compañía Nacional de Danza, has shared his passion for music with us since 2013. He has worked in different European companies, suchas as Germany’s Semperoper or the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, in Italia, his homeland. His talent has thrust him onto some of the most prestigious theatre stages of Italy, where he has danced a wide repertoire, from the most widely known classical pieces to the most relevant contemporary choreographers. In 2013, he joined the CND as principal dancer and later rose to lead principal. Since then, we have witnessed his versatility and capacity to thrill us on stage.
True artists are always led by their passion and vocation. When exactly did you realise you were going to devote yourself to dance?
I began when I was six because my parents wanted me to do something after school. They always said I was an active child and never stopped moving around. It started as a hobby but my teachers demanded more and more of me. At 15, I moved to Rome to study at the Escuela de Teatro de la Ópera, where I also did my graduation studies. And I haven’t stopped dancing since.
Your first steps as a dancer were in Italy, where you won major prizes for young talent. What did it mean to you to receive such recognition?
At the time, I wasn’t really that aware of what I was experiencing. I entered many contests thanks to the company where I worked. I was up for anything they offered me. I was up for anything they offered me. And looking back over the years now, I realise I’ve participated in many things.
What advice would you give to young people who, like you at that time, are now starting out in the world of dance?
It can be very tough because not everybody understands what we do. A lot of people don’t see it as a job and that can really rankle; sometimes it see it as a game; others, a hobby. But all the same, I personally believe that if you do it with passion and determination, dance can be a very satisfactory job.
The advice I would give to beginners is to keep trying. If it doesn’t come off, they still have the important experience of having trained hard, of taking care of their body and of having worked with music.
Throughout your career you have worked in some of Italy’s most prestigious theatres What was it like for you to dance on those stages?
Each theatre has its own different atmosphere. I tried to adapt to each one. At the beginning of my career, I was invited to many places as principal dancer. I always tried in my performances to work on the idiosyncrasy of each company; a very enrichening experience. The essence is not in the theatre physically—though of course they may be extremely prestigious—but rather in the people that work there and form part of it. I have very good memories of them.
And now you are dancing in Spain, what do you see as the differences between Italian and Spanish audiences?
I was very surprised that the Company does not have its own theatre but, rather, it is us that have to do the moving. In other countries where I’ve worked, each company has its own theatre but, rather, it is us that have to do the moving In other countries where I’ve worked, each company has its own theatre. In such places, the audience would get used to you and each theatre was like your home. In Spain, we travel a lot and we relate with a lot of very different types of audience, which can also be a very rewarding experience.
Having opted for a profession requiring so many sacrifices, what’s it like, for instance, having to live so far from your family?
When you’re doing something you really like, you are not missing out; you’re simply choosing what to do with your life. Sure, in this profession, we have to make decisions early on. Sometimes we make the wrong ones. But I don’t feel like I’ve had to renounce anything.
Of course, I’ve missed my family ever since I left home. But, in my case, coming from a small village, I knew that that is was something that had to happen sooner or later.
At the same time, you’ve been able to learn from some of the great choreographers of our time. Which of them have had most impact on you and why?
I think the world that Forsythe has created is the closest to what I want to be doing on stage. His choreographies are very physical with a special aesthetic. That has raised dance to a different level. For him, you are not another character or a dancer from the cast but, rather, somebody who moves in a certain way and who pushes themself to an extreme. He always tries to get the best out of you.
In 2013, you join the Compañía Nacional de Danza under the direction of José Carlos Martínez; and you do it in style, taking the post as lead principal. What did that opportunity mean to you?
José Carlos Martínez has always placed his trust in me, for which I’m extremely grateful. He gave me the chance to show him my working capacity and that his trust was not misplaced. I think I’ve always given the best I can and I hope that he is satisfied with the decision he made in placing me in the Company’s highest category.
What is your daily routine like?
I always do class first. Also, as a dancer who is in nearly all pieces, I spend a lot of time in the studio. I also have a personal trainer and I go to the gym.
Now, Joaquín De Luz is Company director. What’s it like working with him?
Joaquín and I have a really good professional relationship. He always shows trust and respect towards my position in the Company and towards me as a person, for which I am very grateful and the attitude is totally mutual. I hope our relationship carries on like that.
Apart from classical dance, another of your great passions is rock. Do you find any link between the two?
Sure, absolutely. I think the power of classical music played by an orchestra has that same energy as a rock song.
What do each of them make you feel?
I have to say they move me in different ways; but both thrill me. My passion is music; it thrills and moves me and I transform that into dance.
To finish with, your birthday this year coincides with the presentation in Bilbao of a triple programme: Remansos, Arriagaand In Paradisum. What has that working process been like for you?
TIt’s been a great opportunity to work on all three pieces and with each of them I experienced something quite different. Remansos gave me the chance to dance an iconic Nacho Duato piece, which I worked on both with our repetiteurs and with him, and that was such a rewarding experience. Arriaga was the piece we first took to the stage after confinement. I felt it as a tailormade piece for us, bearing in mind that the three choreographers are from the CND and that they know us and our strong points well. The last piece, In Paradisum, also created for the Company, was a really pleasurable process for me, both with Antonio Ruz and with my colleagues. I feel really lucky to have taken part in staging this programme, as many companies have still not got back into action, yet we are creating new pieces
And at a personal level, how are you going to celebrate your birthday; with some typical Italian dish perhaps?
As it coincides with the performance, the celebration will be sharing the stage with my colleagues and, who knows, maybe dinner afterwards if there is time. But it will be a good and memorable birthday, for sure.
ALESSANDRO RIGA – LEAD PRINCIPAL DANCER CND
Interview by: Natalia del Buey