By Helson Hernandez (photos: N. Reyes)
HAVANA TIMES – Yanier Gómez is one of the young prodigies trained by the Cuban Ballet School, who was invited to the Stars of American Ballet Gala, presented on the island during Havana’s last International Ballet Festival. “We live with the social challenges that stem from my country’s economic problems,” said Gomez in his interview with HT.
Havana Times: How old are you now?
Yanier Gómez: I’m 23 years old, going on 24.
HT: Tell us about your family environment as it relates to your highly demanding profession.
YG: Thanks to my family I’ve been able to meet all of my professional and personal objectives. They’ve always been there to support me, through thick and thin. My mother has been the fundamental pillar, since she’s the one who’s been closest throughout the course of my career. More than a mother, she’s a friend, a guide, and a source of support in the most crucial moments of my professional life. My little brother also inspires me. In him, I find an angel that inspires me to dance with more strength and passion.
HT: You are one of the privileged few chosen upon graduation to be a part of Cuba’s National Ballet.
YG: I always dreamed of being part of a company as prestigious as Cuba’s National Ballet. It’s something I worked hard to achieve. Although I was scared and insecure, the results made me happy and proud to be a part of this troupe.
HT: How did you personally experience your time with the most distinguished Cuban company?
YG: Over the years, I acquired experience in the rigorous work and efforts that are required of its members. I had the opportunity to undertake important roles, which allowed me to gain the knowledge I have, though I know I still have a lot to learn. That’s why my dream doesn’t stop here. I want to look for new challenges, paths and boundaries, which will bring me more life experiences as a person, and as an artist.
HT: Tell us about the Death of Narcissus?
YG: It took a lot of work to adapt this ballet to me as a dancer. I saw it as complicated and unusual. It was difficult to combine the music with the choreography. It was a rather peculiar style for these times, and because of that, I had to read about what the character’s story was based on, and above all study him photographically to achieve a resemblance.
I put in extra and intense hours at the gym, working on all the muscles in my body to attain a similar physique to the one I saw in pictures of the famous Narcissus. I think that ballet was made for me, and I had the opportunity to work on it alongside and directly with the Alicia Alonso. She trusted me to embody this character based on the original interpretation, which marked me as an artist, and I know my audience remembers me for Narcissus.
HT: How would you describe the daily life of a young exponent of ballet in today’s Cuba?
YG: Perhaps it’s interesting for many people to know that the daily life of a dance artist, especially an exponent of Classical Ballet, is the same as anybody else’s daily life in Cuba today. We must face the rigor of our profession, which, as everyone can imagine, demands much sacrifice. In addition, we live with the social challenges that stem from my country’s economic problems.
For example, the payment a dancer receives for his dedication doesn’t meet expectations, and doesn’t fulfill all the needs required by the profession itself.
HT: You were selected to be a part of the “Stars of the American Ballet” Gala during the last International Ballet Festival of Havana, a privilege few people can claim.
YG: It really was a privilege, and I want to thank the people who made possible this wonderful opportunity to dance with some of the American Ballet Theater (ABT)’s stars, namely José Manuel Carreño and Xiomara Reyes, who accepted to dance Tchaikovsky’s pas de deux with me, and for giving me enough confidence to rise to this famous troupe’s level.
HT: Your engagements with Cuba’s National Ballet have come to an end, just as your artistic renown is growing.
YG: Just as I knew that I was growing artistically, there were people who didn’t want to accept that, and I felt they were putting obstacles and barriers up around me. Thinking that they wanted to crush me, I decided to leave the ranks of Cuba’s National Ballet with confirmed possibilities of being able to dance in another company off the island. I’m now making my way towards new critical acclaim for my career, as I feel confident about my potential and technical abilities.
HT: Most urgent aspirations?
YG: Succeed in dancing for one of those grand, world-renowned companies, without being forgotten in my homeland, my beautiful Cuba.