What Soccer Players Could Learn From Dancers, According to Herman Cornejo
Whenever World Cup season comes around, Herman Cornejo is as happy as a kid on Christmas morning.
"Since I joined ABT 20 years ago, every time there's a World Cup, we are also at the Met," says the American Ballet Theatre principal. "It's the biggest event in soccer happening simultaneously with being able to dance on the Met stage!"
Like most Argentinians, Cornejo grew up playing "the beautiful game," first with his dad when he was little, then more seriously at school from ages 10 to 14. He was a natural, playing forward because he loved scoring. "For me, it was quite easy," he says. "But my passion for dance was stronger, so I had to stop playing to prevent any injuries."
But that doesn't mean he's ever lost his love for the game. During this year's World Cup, he's rooting for his beloved Argentina—the team plays France on Saturday morning in the first round of the knockout stages. "I'll be at the theater warming up for Don Q, wearing my Argentina shirt," says Cornejo.
Despite ABT's busy performance schedule, he still finds a way to catch most of the matches, typically in his dressing room through an app on his phone or, if he's in rehearsal, a friend will give him updates from the side of the stage.
Cornejo believes that any dancer—even those that don't know soccer well— could appreciate the teamwork that happens on the field. "It's not just about passing the ball and trying to make a goal, it's the beautiful things in between, the connection between the players," he says. "It's the same as in ballet when you have the corps connected to the principals, that's when a good show comes alive."
As much as he idolizes soccer players, though, he thinks they could learn a lot from dancers. "We always push to the end. We hide how tired we are, how hard it is what we're doing," Cornejo says. "Sometimes you see a soccer player when they are tired, they just stop running."
He also has an issue with the fad of faking falls to draw a foul: "In ballet, we hide those moments so the audience keeps looking at the good stuff and not when something goes wrong. Of course, in sports, you have to win and that's what matters. But for me, those moments are important as a human being. If you win by faking something, I wouldn't feel good about it."
Even though he hasn't played a full game in 10 years, Cornejo always keeps a ball in his theater case for whenever he gets a spare moment to kick it around with friends. "When I first joined the company, there used to be about 20 Hispanic dancers, and we'd set up the barres as the goals and play in the studio. Which was not allowed, so we did it when everybody left. It was amazing."
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
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So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: