Cover Story

5 Lessons We Could All Learn from Marianela Nuñez

All hail Queen Marianela. Photo by Laura Gallant

After 20 years at The Royal Ballet, Marianela Nuñez has more than a few words of wisdom to share. As writer Lyndsey Winship points out in our September cover story, over the past two decades Nuñez has never missed a season, and never once had a serious injury. She's stayed with the company through four directors, rising through the ranks to become its star.

So what's the secret of her staying power?


Here are five of our favorite insights from Winship's story:

Pace Yourself So That You Don't Burn Out

Nuñez tells Dance Magazine that she's grateful for the way her career has been "managed," as she puts it.

"I did everything at the right time," she says. "The way the roles came my way, even my guesting. I started guesting quite late on in my career and that helped me stay free from injuries."

It's interesting to hear her talk about being "managed" at a time when some dancers are seeking to take more independent control over their careers. "I feel sometimes people are too young, they travel the world, they do all the repertoire," says Nuñez. "They are 28 and you look at them and, well, you can see that it's not fresh anymore."

Work Hardest On Your Weaknesses

Nuñez makes a heartbreaking Odette. Photo by Bill Cooper, courtesy Royal Opera House

As a teenager, Nuñez was nothing short of a prodigy, and her dazzling technique net her a company contract with The Royal when she was only 16. But, she tells Winship, there was a lot left to learn.

A skillful technician, Nuñez never had any trouble with the steps, but she credits her coaches at The Royal, including former ballerina Lesley Collier, with teaching her "how to develop properly as an artist." Having thought she might be consigned to flashy supporting roles—Gamzatti in La Bayadère, the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty—Nuñez has proved herself the consummate all-rounder, a deeply lyrical, moving actress as well as a dancer of bravura flair. She makes a heartbreaking Odette with wings fluttering like sobs; in Bayadère, she dances both Gamzatti and Nikiya. She is particularly strong in the sparkling allégro and specific épaulement of Sir Frederick Ashton, The Royal's founding choreographer, the very definition of the English style.

Don't Let Personal Worries Distract From Your Work

With Thiago Soares in Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain. Photo by Tristram Kenton, courtesy ROH

Nuñez has learned to not let life's natural ups and downs throw her off course when she's on stage.

After her marriage to Brazilian Royal Ballet principal Thiago Soares ended, the pair kept their split quiet for over a year, going to work as normal and dancing together. It must have been hard for her, I mention. "Well, you know," she says, rolling her eyes. "Life!"

"We respect each other as artists and as people," she says, by way of explanation. "We are lucky that we could keep that relationship onstage. Life moved on. I've got my boyfriend [Argentinian dancer Alejandro Parente, who just retired from Teatro Colón], I've got my life, but we need to dance together, and professionally it works."

Never Settle

Nuñez rehearsing Carlos Acosta's Don Quixote. Photo by Kristie Kahns.

Winship had an obvious question for Nuñez: After 20 years in the same company, what can there be left to do? But the ballerina finds plenty more to discover within each role—sometimes even returning to roles that some might consider "beneath" her.

"I still have a big chunk to improve," says Nuñez, ever the perfectionist. There are a few ballets she hasn't danced (she mentions Ashton's A Month in the Country), but she also loves to revisit old ones. Two years ago, after dancing many Giselles, she effectively asked for a demotion to revisit Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. "I thought it would be great to go back, now that I've learned more over the years," she says.
"You grow up as an artist, and also as a person, so every time you revisit a role you see it with different eyes," she says. "If I do a ballet I've done 300 times, it still feels like it's the first time. I just want to keep growing. I still want more from myself and from the ballets."

Embrace The Pressure

Nuñez in Christopher Wheeldon's Aeternum. Photo by Bill Cooper, courtesy ROH

And the adrenaline of an opening night never fades. "The pressure felt from every angle—I don't know if people are aware of what it takes, mentally. It's a big night! But I love it." She grins. "You press that button on me and vroom!"

To read Dance Magazine's full cover story on Marianela Nuñez, get your copy of our September issue.

Broadway
Amber Gray and Patrick Page. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Courtesy Hadestown

There's a rare moment in Broadway's Hadestown where the audience is able to breathe a sigh of relief. The smash-hit success is not well-known for being light-hearted or easy-going; Hadestown is a show full of workers and walls and, well, the second act largely takes place in a slightly modernized version of hell.

But deep into the second act, the show reaches a brief homeostasis of peace, one of those bright, shining moments that allows the audience to think "maybe it will turn out this time," as the character Hermes keeps suggesting.

After songs and songs of conflict and resentment, Hades, the king of the underground, and his wife, the goddess Persephone, rekindle their love. And, unexpectedly, they dance. It's one of the most compelling moments in the show.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by NYCDA
Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Keep reading... Show less
News
Amber Star Merkens, Courtesy Mark Morris Dance Group

There's always been something larger than life about choreographer Mark Morris. Of course, there are the more than 150 works he's made and that incisive musicality that makes dance critics drool. But there's also his idiosyncratic, no-apologies-offered personality, and his biting, no-holds-barred wit. And, well, his plan to keep debuting new dances even after he's dead.

So it should come as little surprise that his latest distinction is also a bit larger than life: The New York Landmarks Conservancy is adding Morris to its list of "Living Landmarks."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox