Dancing around the world with Anthony Pina
My name is Anthony Pina and I joined the CND in September 2012. As a dancer I would describe myself as sharp and energetic. I love to work fast and test the limit of how quickly I can move while still working with clean technique. One of my favorite things about dance is that it is a never ending learning experience. There are so many ways to approach dance and technique, and I want to learn all of them!
You started dancing when you were only eight at the Boston Ballet School. What does dance have to make you decide so early that you wanted to devote yourself to it?
When I was very young my mom put me in gymnastics. I was very hyper active and needed to release all that energy. Later Boston ballet school came to my academic school looking for children who had potential to be dancers and they noticed that I already had a lot of coordination and knew how to control my body. They accepted me into a program called Citydance, and later into Boston Ballet School. Immediately I loved it. Ballet was a lot more artistic than gymnastics was and I remember it being so much more fun. A few years later I had to decide which program I wanted to continue and I knew it had to be Ballet.
The development of your career as a professional dancer begins in large companies, such as the American Ballet Theater. What is the greatest lesson you take away from these experiences?
Actually my year in New York was at the Jacqueline Kennedy School at American Ballet Theater. I had already graduated school but felt like I needed one more year of training before entering a company. In that one year I learned so much. It was the first year of the school and Franco De Vita was the new director. He really brought me back to the basics and opened my mind to thinking in a new way. He helped me build a foundation that would later make it easier to be an artist.
In 2006 you became part of the Alberta Ballet where you worked alongside Jean Grand-Maitre for six seasons. What do you take away from this experience?
When I joined Alberta Ballet I was only 18 years old. I had been living away from home since I was 14 but it was my first time leaving my country. It was my first contract and I was so nervous. Immediately I realized I was in the right place. Jean pushed me from the day I arrived, I could feel he believed in me and it helped me believe in myself. He gave me opportunities to dance soloist roles even though I was only an apprentice. Jean was the one who showed me how to take the foundation I had built at ABT and turn it into art.
Once there, you got to dance different roles in classic pieces: The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beautyand many others. Which of them would you highlight? Why?
The role I connected to the most in my time at Alberta Ballet was Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Christopher Wheeldon. I was only twenty years old and it was my first big principle role. In Wheeldon’s version Puck is the character who tells the story and it was a lot of responsibility for someone so young. I had never developed a character in that way and it was a huge challenge. We only had one month to work on the ballet and I felt so much pressure. The week before the premier I didn’t think I was ready, then suddenly it was time to step on stage and I knew there was no turning back. Suddenly all the nerves were gone and I felt excited.
In 2012 you joined the Compañía Nacional de Danza under the direction of José Carlos Martínez. Why did you decide to come to Spain? Why the CND?
Spain was one of the first places I visited in Europe. I was able to take class with the company in January 2012, and I really liked the environment and energy there was in the company at the time. I had also heard that the company would be dancing ballets by Willam Forsythe, and I had always dreamed of dancing a Forsythe ballet. In July of 2012 the company announced the audition and I knew I had to apply. I knew Spain was where I wanted to be.
A year later you are promoted to principal dancer. What is it like to work in this category?
I really didn’t expect to be promoted to principal dancer as quickly as I was. My first season in the company, Jose gave me so many great opportunities, and I was so focused on making the most of each one that I didn’t really realize how great they were. I felt like Jose and I were building a great working partnership. His trust in me helped me grow so much as an artist. Since being promoted I try my best to work as hard as I can every single day. I try to challenge myself technically and artistically, and I try to keep my mind open to find new ways of working.
Within the Company you have danced works of various different styles, such as Don Quixote, In the Middle of Somewhat Elevated, Pulcinella, Raymonda Divertimento or The Nutcracker. Which of them do you identify with the most?
Of all the rolesI have danced there are two that I identify with the most. Of all the roles I have danced there are two that I identify with the most. I feel most comfortable, and most myself onstage when dancing anything by Willam Forsythe, but the one I connected with the most was “Herman Schmerman”. It was the first Forsythe I learned and loved every moment of the whole process. It felt like the choreography was made specifically for me and my body. I also loved working on the Balenchine ballet “Who Cares?” I first saw the ballet when I was fourteen years old, and in Alberta Ballet I was given the opportunity to dance one of the soloist roles. My premier with the company was a surprise because a fellow dancer suffered am injury just before leaving for the tour and Jose asked me if I felt like I could take on the challenge. There were only two days of rehearsal, and I was dancing with three new partners who I had never worked with before. But this was my first opportunity to dance a principal role in the CND. Of course I said yes. Both ballets we danced over the following three years and every time I came back to them they felt better than before.
How would you define yourself as a dancer? What styles do you like to dance the most? I think neoclassical is the style with which I defend myself best, or the one I have worked the most, but contemporary is where I feel freer and have greater capacity for expression.
Since 2019, with the arrival of Joaquín De Luz, you have played new parts. What is it like to work with Joaquín?
When I was fourteen years old I saw a video of Joaquin dancing the role of Birbanto en ABT’s “Le Corsaire”. The energy, the technique, and the character he had was so inspiring to watch. I watched the same scenes over and over trying to learn how he did it. Then when I was cast as the Jefe de los Gitanos, in Don Quixote, here in the CND I went back the the video of Joaquin for inspiration. I was so surprised when it was announced that Joaquin would join the CND as a guest to dance Basilio. Being able to see him here in our studios was a great experience. I learned so much just from watching him rehearse. I remember thinking if he ever became a director of a company I would love to work for him. Imagine how excited I was when he was announced the director of the CND! Since he arrived I have learned so much. Gisellewas the first big role I have danced under his direction, and honestly it has been very challenging for me. I never saw myself as a prince, and never thought I would be cast in that role. I had to discover how to be myself in the role while telling the story to the audience.
Thinking about the future, what would you like to dance next season?
This year I has the opportunity to work with the great Nacho Duato. He was so much fun to work with and brought an amazing energy to the studio. I would love to have the opportunity to work with him again someday in the future.
Finally, a more personal question: How do you expect to celebrate your birthday this year?
The best thing about having my birthday in August is that I am almost always on vacation. Normally that means I can return home to the EEUU however last year because of the world situation i could not. So this year i am currently home in Boston for the first time since 2019 celebrating with all of my family.
ANTHONY PINA – SOLOIST DANCER CND
Interview by: Natalia del Buey