This Houston Ballet Soloist Dances a Fiery Kitri and Geeks Out Over Bill Nye the Science Guy
Mónica Gómez became Houston Ballet's newest It girl overnight after her sensational April performance of Kitri. All fire, but with ample doses of flash, Gómez brought her natural star power to the role's nuances. "I am a very shy person," says the soloist, "so I had to work on my sass." Her richly textured dancing, combined with her incredibly expressive eyes and virtuosity, created magic onstage.
Company: Houston Ballet
Hometown: Havana, Cuba
Training: Cuban National Ballet School
Accolades: International Ballet Competition in Havana (grand prix, gold for pas de deux)
Breakout role: Gómez danced Princess Stephanie in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's epic historical ballet Mayerling last September, only a month after the city was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. She was promoted to soloist during the run. "It was so dramatic and the first time I had to convey such suffering," she says.
Gómez and Charles Yoshiyama rehearsing for The Tempest. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.
Time well spent: Gómez built her powerhouse technique by putting in the hours with Ramona de Saa and her other Cuban teachers: Fernando, Alberto and Alicia Alonso; and Martha Iris Fernandez, Svetlana Ballester and Loipa Araújo. "It wasn't unusual for us to stay after hours," she says. "There's a lot of repetition in our training, which is why we are so strong. I love to turn and I'm not bad at it."
"I hope she will be a principal soon. That is her trajectory." —Stanton Welch
Havana to Houston: Coming to the U.S. was a choice for Gómez's artistic growth, and Houston Ballet was her first-pick company. "I've been able to dance so much work by other choreographers, and the company is so supportive. Everyone cheers for you. It's like a big family." Of course, being here has come at a cost. "I miss my family and my beautiful city so much."
What Stanton Welch is saying: "She is really lifting our game and helping us become an international company," says Houston Ballet's artistic director. "She's brave, fearless. Her dedication is extraordinary."
Biggest challenge so far: "Being a bird!" Gómez made her Odette/Odile debut in June in Welch's Swan Lake, showing off a stoic yet elegant Odette and a diabolical fierceness as Odile. "The role of Odette/Odile is so surreal. But in this version we also get to be a maiden, so that is more relatable."
Gómez and company artists rehearsing Serenade. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.
Life outside of the studio: On days off, Gómez bikes in the park, and she has taken to Houston's green spaces with verve. "I love nature," she says. "I also love TV like a normal person. 'Bill Nye the Science Guy' is my fave show."
What's on her bucket list: "I've always wanted to dance Manon and Giselle, of course."
Superpower: "I love salsa dancing! It's my passion. And lucky for me there are fabulous Houston social clubs to go to."
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
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:
While you might think of dance as a primarily visual art form, performances engage us on multiple levels. Our ears take in the score, the artists' breathing patterns, fellow audience members' reactions, and the physical percussion made by the dancers' footfalls and partnering. All of this information is available to audience members with limited to no vision, and when it comes to providing them with the rest, there are multiple approaches being refined by experts in the field generally referred to as "audience accessibility."