American Ballet Theatre star and Principal Dancer Paloma Herrera will be guest teaching in July for Northwest Dance Intensive: http://northwestdanceintensive.com/ She was interviewed in mid-June 2014 about her teaching approach and her own training background.
What are some of the things – exercises or steps – that you particularly enjoyed while being trained?
I liked everything! I didn’t like one step more than another – I took to ballet right away from when I began at the age of seven. I love class, and I was lucky to have had very good training from the beginning.
What were some of your challenges?
No big challenges or problems. My teacher was very comprehensive, wanting us to have good all-around training.
She sounds terrific – please tell us who she is and a bit about her…
Her name was Olga Ferri and she had been a professional dancer in Colon and a guest dancers with what was then the London Festival Ballet. She made a career for herself outside of Argentina. I had a good teacher/student relationship with her and she, in turn, took good care of me.
What do you particularly look forward to with the daily company classes?
Class is my inspiration, a chance to work on my stuff – it’s a never-ending process. I love to rehearse and to take class, and because of this learning process the technical things become automatic on stage and this gives you the freedom to be free. It’s one of the reasons I love teaching – inspiring the students to work hard.
Any favorite ballet masters, teachers, or coaches that have inspired you? Why?
I work a lot with Kevin McKenzie and Irina Kolpakova and just did my last performance of Kitri in “Don Quixote” earlier in the season – a role that I’ve been doing since I was 19 and rehearsed it up to the very last day. There is always something to pull out and learn.
How do you infuse artistry into your roles? Do you start to do this as you are learning a part, later, or is it a continuing process?
As I said, it’s a never-ending process – music will be different, partners are different and it doesn’t matter how often you’ve done a role.
In looking back at your career, do you have any particular ballets or roles that are most memorable?
I never have any favorites and am happy to be on the stage and approach and regard any role with the same integrity. It’s true I’ve been closely identified with “Don Quixote” since doing the principal Cupid as a student and did the pas de deux at age 17 at ABT. I was given big opportunities at significant times in my career and these are special and dear to my heart. I’m very fortunate to have had a very fulfilling career.
What about partners? What should an aspiring student think about or have as an attitude toward pas de deux? As you know, most are excited about trying it but don’t always know what to expect.
It’s important to have pas de deux early. After working out the mechanics of it, it should look organic and seamless – natural, and shouldn’t look like work, especially for the men.
What do you hope to accomplish during your time teaching here?
I love teaching and it’s nice to give back. I’m still myself a student everyday. I love the work in process.
Most of our students…and readers… are females and would love to hear about the care and feeding of your pointe shoes. What kind do you wear and what’s your process for getting ready?
I wear Bloch – Synergy. I changed from Capezio many years ago. I was trained and believe that the shoe is an extension of the foot and don’t wear anything in the shoes. It’s important to feel the floor.
Any parting thoughts or advice to pass along to young students?
Ballet requires focus and hard work – you have to have heart or it’s going to be torture. If you love it, go full out!
May I ask what are your post-retirement plans?
I’m taking post-retirement planning day-by-day. I want to enjoy the moment. I’ve never really planned my life – it’s been all about the process. I do like teaching, so that will probably be one option.
Human interest — hobby/pet question – Do you have any?
I love theatre, movies, I read a lot, and love to watch other companies and being in the audience. Even though I have e-mail, I like to live the “real” world and don’t Facebook or Twitter, preferring to have dinner and conversations with friends about life.
More about Herrera: http://www.abt.org/dancers/detail.asp?Dancer_ID=28