Dancing around the world with Daniella Oropesa
Daniella Oropesa, a ballet dancer of Cuban origin, began her training at the Escuela Elemental de Ballet Alejo Carpentier. She continued with her training at the Escuela Nacional de Ballet in Havana and, in 2020, she joined Laura Alonso’s company. She has danced in different countries such as Australia and New Zeland, within the Ballet Revolución programme, as well as an invited guest dancer with Les Ballets de France in Paris. In 2017, she joined the Compañía Nacional de Danza, where she has performed in pieces such as The Nutcracker, Giselle, Concierto DSCH, Triple Bach and Arriaga, among others.
You were born in Havana, the Cuban capital. How is dance lived on the island?
Yes, there is a saying that goes “everything’s brighter dancing”; a dyed-in-the-wool expression for us in Cuba. It’s in the blood; it’s in the culture.
What stands out for you as a lasting mark from the teachings at the Alejo Carpentier school and the Nacional de Ballet school where you took your first steps?
I’d say the teachers. From tiny tots we are so lucky to have teachers with such incredible human quality. They prepare us artistically and mentally for the world we are going to face later. Without them, it just wouldn’t be the same.
At just 15, you started to compete in international contests. How did you cope with the pressures at such a crucial and tumultuous age?
As I said, I think they prepare us very well, right from little kids, to face up to the world, contests included. The fundamentals lie in what you learn, how you grow in preparing a variation or a pas de deux and how you enjoy it all on stage. In the school, we are very united because we have grown together from the age of eight and we’re in the same group right up to eighteen. The relationship is so close and nice that competitivity is not so important and we work as a team.
In 2010, you joined Laura Alonso’s company, where you interpreted main roles both in Don Quijote and The Sleeping Beauty, among other ballets. What does it mean to you to dance the iconic roles of ballet tradition? How did you work on, for instance, the sweetness and innocence of princess Aurora’s character?
I was very small then, and the process was a very valuable one. I worked with Fernando Alonso and Laura Alonso, who really helped me grow artistically. I’m a very shy girl and that shows in my way of dancing. The search for a carácter I can interpret without stopping being myself has always been fascinating to me; to be able to be somebody else dancing without losing my essence. It’s very hard to do and it is what I admire most in other artists.
In 2015, you started to do tours in Australia and New Zealand; what a change! What was that experience like?
I joined the Ballet Revolucion, an Australian Project that opened the doors to a lot of stages. We danced almost every day; each week on a different stage. It was an incredible experience; truly rewarding both artistically and at a personal level.
And in 2017 you are invited by Les Ballets de France to dance the pas de deux in the Le Corsaire and Flames of Paris. What differences did you notice working in Europe, against you experiences in other continents?
It was a really nice experience. Audiences from different countries, or even different cities, can vary tremendously. But you still enjoy it the same and you learn a lot dancing on different stages. At the end of the day, all those experiences leave their mark on you as an artist.
In 2017, you join the CND, a year after your partner, the dancer and soloist Yanier Gómez Noda entered the company. What is it like sharing time and workplace in such an intense and tough profession like dance?
It has its pros and cons, like everything else. The best part is that nobody understands me better than Yanier. Ours is a complicated career with really bad days. When I am with him, I don’t even need to speak. We look at each other and he just knows how I am. When I talk with my parents and tell them a problem I have, well, as much as they want to understand, they just don’t see the importance in things I see because dance is not their world. Yanier understands me perfectly. He knows how to encourage me; how to take the sting out of problems…
Since 2019, the CND has a new director, Joaquín De Luz, a dancer of great experience. How has the change at the company been for you?
Like I said before, I really like dancers to show their personalities when they dance; and that is what happens with Joaquín De Luz. When you see him dance, you see the energy that he has and the commitment he has to this art; and he also transmits that as director. He always tries to inspire us to grow as dancers, day by day. It is just so good to work with him.
Being away from home and your homeland so long must be tough. How do you stay in touch and not forget your Caribbean roots? Do music and food help?
It is impossible to forget your Cuban roots… Yes, I listen to Cuban music because Cuba also has so many wonderful musicians. What’s more, nearly all my friends are from there and we stay in touch and organise trips. We try to go there once a year, if we can.
And on the subject of food, on your birthday are you going to enjoy a typical Cuban dessert or dish?
I usually eat Cuban food and so, on my birthday, I feel like going Italian. A dish of pasta carbonara, for example.
DANIELLA OROPESA – CORPS DE BALLET
Interview by Sandra Cadenas