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A Discussion with Xiomara Reyes, Principal Ballerina, Reflections and New Dance Projects
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A Discussion with Xiomara Reyes, Principal Ballerina: Reflections and New Dance Projects

- Offstage with the Dancers
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A Discussion with Xiomara Reyes
Recently Retired Principal Ballerina
American Ballet Theatre

(Xiomara Reyes Ballet Biography)

Reflecting on Ballets, a Longtime Partner, Conductors, Projects

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 27, 2015

(See More ABT Interviews, Reviews, and Candids.)

This is a brief series of questions posed to Xiomara Reyes, the Cuban-Born, Principal Ballerina, who danced her Farewell with American Ballet Theatre, which is completing its Spring Season at the Metropolitan Opera House, May 11, 2015 to July 4, 2015. Ms. Reyes has been favorably reviewed for over a decade, on these pages, in lead roles in a multitude of ballets. She is now involved in new dance projects and ventures. I recently chatted with Ms. Reyes at Olympic Flame Diner, on Amsterdam Avenue at 60th Street, NYC, over Fresh Juices, Gazpacho Soup, Feta Cheese, and Shrimp Cocktail.

See an Archival List of Reviews of Ms. Reyes’ ballet performances with American Ballet Theater, circa 2002 – 20015.

REZ: I vividly recall your Don Quixote of 2013, marking the 10th Anniversary of your vivid partnership with Herman Cornejo. It seemed fitting that he partnered you in your ABT Farewell, this Season, in Giselle. Tell me how this partnership evolved, how it enhanced your professional growth as a performer, and how it impacted you emotionally and artistically.

XR: Herman and I were not an easy partnership from the start. At the time we started dancing together, 14 years ago, we were in very different moments of our careers. I was already what we will call an experienced dancer, had a 10 year professional career and had done many of the roles I was doing with him already in Cuba or in Belgium. He was a very young and talented dancer with an amazingly explosive technique and charisma, but not much experience as a partner and still searching (for) himself as an artist. At the beginning, when we performed together, I felt we were not really connecting, but when it became clear that the company was making it a partnership, we put all our energy into making it work. For me it was an eye opener experience, since I always thought that chemistry was something you had or you didn't. I discovered that it was actually something you could work on and develop. I'm very proud of what we both accomplished and the joy we gave to people with our partnership, as I'm (proud) of the artist he has become. I'm happy for him to get the chance now to experience other partnerships, and to grow even more as an artist.

REZ: What is there in your relationships with the ABT conductors that you request to enhance your performance; please be ballet specific.

XR: Well, I'm a fast dancer and I enjoy moving with speed through the stage, so sometimes I will ask my conductors to make certain steps faster, as the “entrechats” in the second act of Giselle, or the little hops on point and the manèges on the variation of the first act, little things that will make the role technically, more distinctively mine. We are given the technique as a tool to express our emotions and the mood of our role, so the ability to do the steps faster or slower is part of our artistic arsenal. The Maestro is our helper with that, and he will come to our rehearsals, so that at the moment of the show, we can both speak the same language. It's also our responsibility during the show to translate to visual with our bodies, the music (that) the orchestra, directed by the Maestro, is playing. I'm very grateful to David, Charles and Ormsby for their support and artistry all these years, as I'm (grateful) to the wonderful musicians that gave voice to my steps for so many years.

REZ: How did your early training in Cuba, then in Belgium, prepare you for ABT in New York? What were your takeaway self-reminders and reflexive skills, that propelled your very successful career?

XR: I came very well prepared to ABT, not only physically but mentally. In Cuba, I trained at the National School of Ballet, which is a very strong school, not only from the technical point of view, but also from the artistic one. I had amazing teachers, such as Loipa Araújo, Laura Alonso, and others that instilled in me the passion for this art form and the technical knowledge to master my body enough, that I could transcend the technique and focus in what I really loved - acting. With Laura, I also got the opportunity of performing amazing roles like Kitri, Swanilda, or Constance at a very early age, which I credit with my fearless approach to performing through my whole career.

I left the National Ballet of Cuba for the Royal Ballet of Flanders, very well prepared to confront any technical challenge I could encounter and in love with acting. In Belgium I learned to accommodate to different techniques and explored many more roles. When I was twenty, I danced Giselle for the first time there, a ballet that has nourished me in many ways since I was very young. Also in Belgium, I meet my husband, Rinat Imaev, who I danced with and who has been an amazing source of knowledge for me. I feel very blessed by his influence in my life and in my career. So when I came to ABT, I had years of good and bad experiences that had made me very strong mentally as well as physically. No need to say that I have always felt extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be part of ABT, who since childhood was my dream company. I think my biggest self-reminder was to always be clear of the reason why I danced - love, stronger than any fear.

REZ: Tell me about your two ballet intensives for this summer and any projects or plans on the horizon.

XR: I'm very happy and excited about these two summer intensives. I enjoy teaching immensely, so this is a great opportunity to share what I have learned. The Summer Intensive in Hartford is called “From Studio to Stage”, and every year presents a different director. The previous years (they) had two amazing people that have meant a lot in my career, Laura Alonso and Angel Corella, so I feel very honored to be part of it too. This year we are staging Giselle with my husband and the wonderful teachers of the school, so I'm very (much) looking forward to that.

IBStage is a Summer intensive in Barcelona, Spain which has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. This August is the third year I will be co-directing it with my friends Elias Garcia and Leo Sorribes, and Rinat as an artistic adviser. IBStage has taught me that teaching could be as exhilarating and rewarding as dancing. To see the joy in the young dancers’ eyes, when they master something that seemed impossible before, is absolutely priceless. To be able to help, to share the stage with them, is just a big present life has given me.

I also plan to dance at the final Galas of IBStage, which this year are two performances at Gran Teatre del Liceu, which is an amazing theatre, and then at the end of October with Oklahoma Ballet, where I will be performing Giselle with Gonzalo Garcia. Other than that, I'm full of ideas that I hope I can get the time and the possibility to do. Excited to see what's next!

Xiomara Reyes and Herman Cornejo
in "Giselle", Xiomara Reyes’ ABT Farewell
Gene Schiavone

Xiomara Reyes at the curtain call
of her ABT Farewell performance
Courtesy of Gene Schiavone

Xiomara Reyes, American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer,
Recently Performed Her Farewell at the Met Opera House.
Guest at Olympic Flame Diner
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at