During a visit to Cuba in 2014, Queensland Ballet’s Artistic Director Li Cunxin was moved by the work of two dancers, Yanela Piňera and Camilo Ramos. So much so, in fact, that he invited them to join his company.
Two of the National Ballet of Cuba’s top artists, Yanela and Camilo moved to Brisbane earlier this year to take up their new contracts, as Principal Dancer and Soloist, respectively.
“Yanela is one of Cuba’s top ballerinas,” said Mr. Li. “She is a beautiful dancer and brilliant artist, with incredible technique and musicality. Camilo is an elegant, strong dancer and a wonderful partner.”
Both artists performed at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane with the National Ballet of Cuba five years ago, and were very pleased to return.
“This is a great opportunity for us and Li Cunxin is an amazing director to work with,” said Yanela. “He was a wonderful dancer and he is now a wonderful teacher. Li is also a beautiful person too.”
Yanela trained at the Center Pro-Danza in Havana, the Provincial School of Ballet and then the National School of Ballet. She joined the National Ballet of Cuba in 2005 before being promoted to Principal Dancer in 2011. Her current position is generously supported by Queensland Ballet’s International Guest Artist program, funded by the Jani Haenke Charitable Trust, which aims to bring versatility to the company and its dancers.
It’s an exciting year for Queensland Ballet, and both new dancers are particularly looking forward to performing in October’s production of Sleeping Beauty.
“We are excited to be performing in this production because it is a different version to that which we have danced before and is also one of the most loved ballets of all time,” said Camilo. “It’s a beautiful story and we are very excited to be telling that story through dance.”
Camilo trained at the Elementary School of Balet Alejo Carpentier before attending the National School of Ballet. He joined the National Ballet of Cuba in 2008, was promoted to Soloist in 2010 and Principal in 2011. He has performed all over the world, including Latin America, Canada, the USA, Italy and the United Kingdom, but says that his favourite place to dance is his home country.
“Many people love the ballet and the audiences know and understand the ballet. Cuba was where we formed as dancers and started our careers.”
Ballet Nacional de Cuba was founded in 1948 by Alicia Alonso, one of the most celebrated figures in Latin American ballet. The company regularly tours internationally, with a vast and varied repertoire of classical and contemporary works.
“I would like to keep dancing many different classical and contemporary ballets and to perform ballets by other respected choreographers such as Frederick Ashton and Sir Kenneth MacMillan,” said Yanela. “At some point in my career I would love to work with Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian as I respect and admire his work.”
Both dancers share some advice for young dancers looking to succeed in the industry. Says Yanela: “If you really love the ballet, with discipline and sacrifice you can make your dreams come true.”
“The most important thing to remember if you want to succeed,” adds Camilo, “is to never give up.”
By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Camilo Ramos. Photo by Christian Tiger.