With Marcia und Alain Honorez © Photos by Ida Zenna

LADIES FIRST WO(MAN): Interview with Altea Nuñez

I always use poetry to talk about my pieces.  


Define yourself in three words.

Passionate, intuitive and perseverant.

How did you transition from dancer to choreographer?

Somehow it was a very natural and spontaneous process. Thanks to Choreolab – the annual choreographic project by Ballet Flanders – I got the opportunity to start choreographing when I was still a dancer. My very first piece: “Contigo”, a duo that I created for two fantastic Spanish dancers, Cristina Casa and Ion Aguirretxe, was created with no real expectations or ambitions…. I just felt like working and experimenting with them. I found the experience incredibly fulfilling and I immediately felt connected with that new creative side of me.
After that, I created a solo for a student from the Royal Ballet School Antwerp which was performed in Spain. Two directors from Barcelona and Madrid Conservatoires saw the performance and invited me to create something for their students. At that time I couldn’t believe what was happening!! The year after (when I decided to stop dancing) I was invited as guest choreographer by Assis Carreiro (at that time director of the Flanders Ballet) to create a new piece for a larger cast for the new edition of Choreolab. That is when I created “Claroscuro”, with an amazing cast of six committed dancers while I was pregnant with my second child. That was definitely one of the most interesting experiences in my life.
From that moment, when I realized that things where getting serious I got in contact with a great friend of mine: Judith Delmé (former writer for Dance Europe) asking her to help me with promotion and guidance. It was a great gift from heaven as she agreed in helping me out! I don’t know what I would have done without her!! And that is how the ball started to roll.

Were you one of those girls who was dreaming of tutus and main roles?

Jajajaja… Not at all. And somehow I ended up dancing most of them thanks to great people and directors like Kathryn Bennetts and Marcia Haydée, which believed in me and pushed me to overcome my fears.
Preparing a classical role, I find, is at the same time a most scary and fascinating thing… Dancing the great classics made me stronger and made me gain confidence and has without doubt given me the opportunity to grow in other styles. But I always enjoyed more dancing Neo-classical and contemporary pieces. I felt more connected with these kind of works. I loved working closely with choreographers and have always enjoyed the creative process.

So…no, I was not really a tiara person but I have an incredible respect and appreciation for it.

“Stardust” © Ida Zenna

When did you feel that choreography was something you identified with?

The moment I dared to start trying.

What drove you to create your own work?

As I mentioned before, it was something very spontaneous and impulsive. I got the courage to try because of Cristina and Ion. One night I had this very clear vision of them dancing a duo and the next morning I asked them if I could create for them. It took them one second to say yes. From the very first rehearsal they made me feel very comfortable and confident and that is when the creativity started to flow.

When did you begin to feel comfortable in your role as choreographer?

I still have difficulties realizing and considering myself a choreographer since I have such respect for this art form and for all the incredible choreographers I have worked with during my career … Still hard to believe. Let’s say I feel comfortable when I see the dancers enjoying and growing in my work.

Which choreographers do you look up to and why?

My mother. Teresa Nieto. She has been choreographer in her own company in Spain for more than 20 years. She is the perfect example of dedication, respect and passion for dance. I have an unconditional admiration for her.

I also need to mention David Dawson. I had the opportunity to work with him on several occasions. His work had a huge impact on my career as a dancer and as well as a choreographer. I look up to his beautiful artistry, generosity and commitment for dance.

How do you approach a new creation?

Mostly I have a very clear visual idea and a story behind it. Then I spend a long time searching for music that has the right atmosphere, feeling and dynamic. Sometimes poetry or even cinematography help me explored some ideas.

Do you have clear plans when you enter the studio?

ABSOLUTELY. Music, structures, steps, counts. I need to have all these under control. It is very important for me to have a very strong base and idea that makes sense before I share it. But the moment I start working with the dancers I can be very flexible. I like to adapt steps and dynamics depending who is in front of me. Sometimes ideas or structures can also change depending of the energy that they create with the given material.

Do you need a special environment to create?

Give me a studio and motivated dancers and I am the happiest woman in the world!!

Are you always happy to end a creation? Does it ever end for you?

Ups and downs. Creating is like a roller coaster ride. I am extremely demanding with myself which makes it very difficult to be entirely satisfied. Mostly I am more satisfied and happy with the dancers’ performances and evolution than with the piece itself. I am very lucky to have someone like Alain Honorez by my side. I blindly believe in his artistic criteria. Every time he comes to see a new work for the first time I freak out!! He is very honest and straightforward, so I know he is gonna tell me the truth which is vital in a creative process. His feedback and guidance means the world to me.

Rehearsal with Marcia Haydée © Ida Zenna

Is there a specific piece that you would like to choreograph?

I would love to create something with live orchestra and singing choir.

Do you prefer to create for a larger group or for smaller cast of dancers?

Once I created a piece in a ballet studio for 120 people!!! CRAZY.
Of course it is a lot of fun to create on a large group of dancers because you can play a lot with structures and ideas. But I feel that I can give more with a small group… In that way I can focus on the dancers more individually and work deeper into detail and quality.

Did you ever, or do you currently have a „muse“?

There are always dancers who inspire me and with whom I share a deep connection. But a real “muse”.. no, not really.

What or who inspired you to create „Stardust“?

I always use poetry to talk about my pieces, in this case a text by Lang Leav: “If you came to me with a face I have not seen, with a name I have never heard, I would still know you. Even if centuries separated us, I would still feel you. Somewhere between the sand and the stardust, through every collapse and creation, there is a pulse that echoes of you and I.

When we leave this world, we give up all our possessions and our memories. Love is the only thing we take with us. It is all we carry from one life to the next.“

How do you feel after a premiere?


Text and Pictures by Ida Zenna
*with Royal Ballet of Flanders 2004/ „Dornröschen“ Ch. Marcia Haydée
* With Marcia und Alain Honorez 
*„Stardust“ creation for Palucca Hochschule für Tanz Dresden