Paloma Herrera Talks Returning to Company Life—As a Director
Paloma Herrera's final performance of Giselle in 2015, like the rest of her 24-year career with American Ballet Theatre, was impeccable. The New York Times described her as "wonderfully musical, unexaggerated and unmannered," words that more or less encapsulate the quality of her dancing in a vast array of classical and contemporary works.
Now, just two years after her retirement and subsequent return to her native Argentina, she has a new role: director of her country's largest and most celebrated ballet company, the Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón. The company, founded in 1925, has around 100 dancers and a storied past—as well as a gorgeous home theater—but has been hobbled in recent years by meager seasons, labor strife and a crisis of confidence in its leadership.
Herrera's directorship was announced in a surprise press conference in February and she got to work right away. As she says, she has barely left the theater since.
So, what happened to the freedom you were looking forward to after your retirement?
I know! Where did it go? I'm in rehearsals and then, during my breaks, I'm in the office, and afterwards I stay late answering emails. I have no life! But I'm happy.
How did the appointment come about?
It was a total surprise. María Victoria Alcaraz, the Colón's general director, contacted me at the beginning of the year to tell me they were looking to completely replace the artistic team at the opera house. Once I understood her vision and could see that they really wanted to make a change, I was interested.
I gave them a long list and said that if these things couldn't be accomplished, I wouldn't take the job, because it wasn't something I needed or wanted. I was perfectly happy teaching, coaching, traveling.
What were the conditions?
Some things are more immediate and some of them will take time. First of all, the dancers need to dance more, including tours. [For the 2017 season, the ballet company is scheduled for only 27 performances.] Then there's the issue that the dancers need more coaching. And then there's the question of retirement age. [The federal retirement age is 65, which makes it hard to hire new, younger dancers.] No one wins with the situation we have now.
But the retirement age is beyond your control, isn't it?
We're discussing different options with the authorities. It's a complex problem, but I'm determined to change it, because that will change the expectations of the dancers, and help them value what they have. There have to be opportunities for everyone. The best person—the one who works the most and deserves it the most—will be chosen for each role.
Paloma Herrera danced Giselle for her final performance with American Ballet Theatre in 2015. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT.
How were you received by the company?
It was incredible. Already on the first day the dancers put in a great effort, with lots of energy and a positive attitude. They've been amazing. I hope it continues. I talk to them a lot, and I'm brutally honest, about the good things and the things I don't agree with.
You've just written a memoir, haven't you?
Yes! It's called Mi Intense Vida [My Intense Life], and it was presented in May at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair. Writing it was an intense experience, in every sense.
Have you found it difficult to see yourself as the leader of a company?
You know what? I haven't. Not at all. I use the same formula that served me well during my entire career. It's simple: pure hard work, and a love for what we do.
Capezio, Bloch, So Dança, Gaynor Minden.
At the top of the line, dancers have plenty of quality footwear options to choose from, and in most metropolitan areas, stores to go try them on. But for many of North America's most economically disadvantaged dance students, there has often been just one option for purchasing footwear in person: Payless ShoeSource.
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"What struck me the most was the pace, and the erratic feeling it had," she says. The camera's quick shifts and angles reminded her of bodies in motion. "I was like, 'What is this movie? This is so insane and marvelous and excessive,' " she says. "And excessive is I think how I approach dance. I enjoy the challenge of swiftness, and the pushing of the body. I love piling on a lot of vocabulary and seeing what comes out."
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While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.
When Hollywood needs to build a fantasy world populated with extraordinary creatures, they call Terry Notary.
The former gymnast and circus performer got his start in film in 2000 when Ron Howard asked him to teach the actors how to move like Whos for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Notary has since served as a movement choreographer, stunt coordinator and performer via motion capture technology for everything from the Planet of the Apes series to The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and this summer's The Lion King.
Since opening the Industry Dance Academy with his wife, Rhonda, and partners Maia and Richard Suckle, Notary also offers movement workshops for actors in Los Angeles.