For those of you who may have not seen this, an interview with Anette published in Havana a while ago.
Shy and magnificent
By: José Luis Estrada Betancourt
April 28, 2008
Apparently, Anette Delgado was born to be the first on many things, as if spending her whole day wrestling with her genuine shyness was not enough. That is why she can not help blushing when somebody maintains that saw her beautiful figure of ballerina on the cover of the prestigious magazine Danse Light Magazine, after the expectant Parisians packed the Grand Palais to see Giselle, choreographed by Alicia Alonso, and first staged precisely at the Paris opera house. Some time later, her picture appeared again on the cover of the French magazine, this time showing Delgado´s interpretation of Don Quixote´s Kitri.
But it so happens that Anette was also the ballerina chosen by the great Julio Bocca to be his partenaire in his farewell performance of Swan Lake ; the same girl who had the responsibility to represent Cuba during the 17th International Ballet Contest in Varna, after 11 years of absence of the Cuban ballet, which had made history in Bulgaria. This young artist, who has been awarded the National Culture Award, also won the first Golden Medal at the First International Contest of Ballet Academies in Havana . And this reason, along with her impressive work as prima ballerina of the National Ballet of Cuba, has led her to be part today —together with figures like Professors Fernando Alonso and Ramona de Saá—, of the select members of this prestigious competition´s jury, during its tenth series.
However, albeit ballet became the center of her world at a very early age, it was not an easy art for her. She was a rhythmic gymnastics student at Isla de la Juventud, until one fine day her parents took her to see a BNC performance, which dazzled her.
«I was only eight years old, but I will never forget that, besides scenes from Les Sylphides and Don Quixote , they staged Muñecos, by Alberto Méndez, played by Ana Leyte. When the performance was over, she gave me a pair of ballet shoes I took home feeling like I was in heaven. Seeing that pas de deux made it clear for me that I wanted to be a ballerina».
Of course, it was not so easy. I told my parents, but my father was working as a doctor in the island, where there is no ballet school. Nevertheless, they decided to change their plans so I could take the aptitude tests in Havana. Even so, at first my mother was against it. She had studied ballet for some time and she had quit it; she worked at the BNC and she knew how difficult it was this career, and that I would have to devote my life to it and she did not want that for me. But I insisted so much that she finally had to give in, recalls Anette now.
I was almost the last one to be accepted at the Alejo Carpentier Elementary Ballet School, where I began taking lessons at the “ nocturna ” [night school]; that is what they called the lesson that began around five pm and ended up at ten thirty pm. Those five years at the school located at L and 19 streets were very hard in my career. However, I am glad they did, because that made me work very hard. I did not have time to think about the usual stuff children think about at that age. I had to go to another school in the morning and then, right afterwards, ballet. However, I was so happy....
Why was it such a complicated period in your training?
Because after so much sacrifice there was a moment when I thought I would die. I was in my third year and I was still a very little girl, the smallest girl of my class, and some teachers talked to my parents because they thought it would be better for me if they take me out of the school, for they did not think I could make it to become a ballerina. Maybe I did not meet the essential requirements. You know at that time they take many things into consideration: extensions, instep, jump, demiplie ... My parents had a very intelligent, tactful conversation with me —I was an 11 or 12 year-old girl—, trying to convince me that I could choose another way. Still, I assured them I wanted to go no with ballet, and that I wanted to see by myself if I could do it or not.
How did you overcome that obstacle?
Working hard. I get surprise myself about my own determination while I was just a little girl... For me, there was only ballet at that time; there was no room for anything else in my head. And I worked thrice as hard as the rest of my classmates. I used to spend all the time studying videos, seeing how I could improve one move or another, and I was given a lot of support too. In addition to other teachers from the school on L and 19 streets who did trust me, I got a lot help from Ana Lobé, who was a BNC member, and I used to take lessons with in the afternoons so I could gradually overcome my shortcomings. I was determined to go to the end. If I failed the grading test, it would be all over, but I could not remain forever wondering what would have happened if I had go on. And, well, here I am.
This is not the first time something like this happens...
Because I have proven it and it is also my belief that there are «limited» children who ultimately go far beyond those who are not —and do not try too hard because they do not need it to meet the requirement and therefore do not go further, while those find it difficult, practice day by day. It is they who become true ballet dancers, because success in this career does not depend only on physical and technical abilities, but also on how much you love it, in devote yourself to it with determination, tirelessly.
But after that period, Anette appeared at the ENA ( National Art School ) and at festivals...
Yes, and I am with all my heart grateful to my teacher Ramona de Saá for that. She visited our school on L and 19 streets one day, when I was in my fifth year, to see the girls before the grading test. I remember she was in our classroom with her daughter, Margarita, with whom she commented, «This young girl has got potential, let us put her to work». And she answered, «Yes, but she is too small (they wanted me to continue in the school for one more year). But Ramona (Cheri) insisted, «No, let us give her the chance to do the grading test. We will see what happens».
Actually, I had no plans to take the grading test, but I did and I got top marks. From that moment on, Cheri placed all her trust in me. She worked very much on me and, all of the sudden, there I was, playing leading roles, my first pas de deux , and participating in contents and festivals, until I got to famous Varna contest —a big challenge.
When they gave us the news, it was rather stressful, because we thought I would be impossible to match the level of those who came before us. Furthermore, we were convinced that we would not get a medal. But there was something very clear for us: we had to do our best, because we were part of the Cuban school. However, —and even Yosvani Ramos and I arrived late because we were at an academies encounter in Italy—, we won the silver medal and the prize to the best couple.
We were very nervous. I remember we even put our makeup on and were waiting our turn to go out and dance when our teacher told us we had been re-scheduled for the next day. The news came as a complete shock, but the next day we danced passionately and you already know the rest.
From Varna we got back to Italy to give the rest of our performances and when we got back to Cuba I joined the National Ballet of Cuba, precisely in a year in which the International Ballet Festival of Havana was to take place. My colleagues had been working for some time in the company, but I did not know what to do, until I gradually adapted to my new home.
When did the important roles appear?
I can not give you a date, but I can tell you as soon as I get here I had the teacher´s eyes on me. Josefina Méndez, for example, used to ask me every time she saw me in the halls, «why are not you practicing today? ». They always made me enter the ballrooms, because I was very shy and instinctively tried to get away. Although I feel they notice my work from the beginning, I am glad that I started at the bottom of the ladder —first in the corps de ballet and later as a corps leader—, because when I first played the leading role in a ballet I knew perfectly all the way up. The first important role I ever played was precisely La fille mal gardée, the same ballet I had played at Varna´s contest. The company was on tour around Spain and I shared the stage with Svetlana Ballester. We played on alternate days with Rolando Sarabia (Senior). After that was The Nutcracker .
Was it surprising for you becoming a prima ballerina?
Well, after I became a corps leader I signed up for two years with the Young Ballet of France, which was a very significant experience, since it allowed me to know a different school. I had to play many contemporary ballets during that period, which helped me to learn how to control my body; how to move it under control. When I got back to the BNC, I did it again as a corps de ballet. Nevertheless, my first ballet was Swan Lake , something I just did not expected. Then I became a leading ballerina. It was a very big change. From that moment on, I played other different roles. I knew that, sooner or later, I would be appointed prima ballerina. Anyway, when they gave me the news in April, 2005, I got very happy.
Is there any role you´d prefer not to play?
I was once given the part of the woman in Bodas de sangre . This is a ballet I love and enjoy to see, but I just could not. The first rehearsals were traumatic, because the Spanish dance, that heel stamping, was not part of me, of my habilities, and I could not get it. Maybe it was something wrong with my mind rather than with my body, and we did have too much time to rehearse either. I have always prayed that I do not have to do it again and fortunately it´s been like that. Another role that scared me a little bit was in Diana and Acteon , because there is this very powerful —technically speaking— pas de deux , that you need to dance very fast, and my dance instead is slow, softer. I can not make de sudden movements with my arms; it is difficult to me... However, I did it, because it is challenges what makes me push ahead.
You mentioned heel stamping but, standing tiptoes does not make you suffer too?
You begin to work on it especially at the ENA. It is complicated but it is a technique you finally learn, although you suffer a lot because because it is not natural to stand on your toes, so your nails get hurt, you get corns... I am lucky not to develop too many blisters, but I know girls who do, and you have no idea how painful it is dancing with blisters. But you get used to it, and you forget about it when you are on the stage. I myself have broke a toenail and danced. It is unbelievable because you end up the rehearsals with tears in your eyes and, however, when curtains go up is like you have amnesia. Probably after the curtains go down I fall on the floor, but before that I enjoy it tremendously.
Curtains go down. Have you ever felt overwhelmingly sad?
Yes, of course. During a performance of Swan Lake. Just when I was going to start my fouettés, I lost balance and went flying like a rag dolly. What I felt at that moment I wouldn´t wish on anybody. I just wanted to disappear, because I am very demanding with myself and I could not allow that happening to me. I had to pull myself together and go no dancing. Maybe for that reason it was one of my most applauded performances. Then Josefina Méndez came to see me and she told me, «Remember a performance is not one technical step, but the whole thing. You just made one mistake, and that happens to anybody. It is more important that you pulled yourself together instead of standing there, terrified. All of us have been there sometime.
Many ballerinas avoid motherhood not to shorten their careers. Is that your case?
Since I was 15 years old I thought I would have my first baby at the age of 28. You see, that is something we ballet girls do not have in common with the other girls. In this career you have to put off motherhood or bring it forward (in some cases, the girls have had their babies and continue dancing without a hitch). It all depends on how they do with the pregnancy. As for myself, I can not wait to become a mother, but I feel I can not stop now, because I feel on top form and I want to take advantage of it. Babies will come in time.
Translation: René Cruz Fernández