By IRATXE DE ARANTZIBIA
The American Dream must have seemed a utopian dream for a boy from San Fernando de Henares –a small town 14 kms away from Madrid- who, in the early 80s, was taking his first ballet lessons from Víctor Ullate. However, he did not only made his debut in VU’s ballet (1992-1995) but took a leap to the USA, where he has developed most of his career: Pennsylvania Ballet (1996-1997), American Ballet Theatre (1997-2002) and from 2003, New York City Ballet (NYCB). Principal Dancer in the NYCB since 2005, De Luz, was awarded the “Oscar of ballet” (Benois de la Danse award) in 2009, and has recently been awarded the Spanish National Dance Award. In this interview for DANCE FOR YOU, Joaquín de Luz reflects on his career and recent successes.
At age 40, how do you feel at this point of your career?
I'm at the best moment of my life and career, where I enjoy at its fullest every moment I have onstage; I go out there as if it was the last. And even though I have to do a lot of extra work to keep it finely tuned, my body is responding. There are always unachieved goals. I would have liked to dance at Teatro Real in Madrid (Royal Theatre) and for The Spanish Royal Family, and collaborate with Ballet Nacional de España (Spanish National Ballet) –one of my favorite companies in the world. But there are also things that I hope to achieve before I retire. I'm transitioning into the health and conditioning world. 8 years ago, I had a bad injury in my back. Three different doctors told me I would have to quit dancing. Through research, and developing a program at the gym, I found a way to stay away from surgery and to continue dancing. I have now designed a successful strengthening/injury prevention program for NYCB both for dancers and non dancers, which I hope to be teaching to trainers from other companies.
Joaquin De Luz in Jerome Robbins’ Andantino´, Photo by Paul Kolnik
What has it meant to you to be awarded the Spanish National Dance Award?
It is a great honor. Though I have been living in America for the past 20 years, I feel very Spanish. I carry my country in my heart, and I am always proud to represent it. The award is my country’s acknowledgement of my career and I feel very proud. I come from a very humble place. As a little boy growing up in a small town, mid class family, if anyone had told me I would be where I am today, I would not have believed it for a second. I have always kept my feet on the ground, never taken things for granted. I have earned every single thing I have been blessed with through sweat and sacrifice. Awards do not change any part of that: where I come from, where I am headed...
Joaquin De Luz in George Balanchine’s ´Tarantella´ Photo by Paul Kolnik