My second interview is with Maestra Alejandra Paredes. From Argentina, she is a teacher, ballet mistress, and choreographer. She graduated from Instituto Superior de Arte of the Colon’s Theatre, Licensed in Dance Pedagogy, and graduated from Instituto Universitario de Danza. She has been part of Fundación Ballet de Las Américas since 1999.
Alejandra Paredes made an incredible career in Argentina, Venezuela, and the United States. Here she is, telling us a little bit more about her wonderful life experiences.
CS: How where your beginnings in ballet, Maestra?
AP: "I started very young at a school close to my house. My sister was going to ballet classes, so my mom took me too. Then, in one of those open classes we had, many important dance people in Argentina saw me. They encouraged my mom to take me to an audition at the Colon Theatre Institute. So then, when I was ten years old I got accepted. For the course of my studies, I was the only person that finished the student career in six years... it was supposed to be eight or ten."
CS: What is the best memory you have from those first years?
AP: "I really liked to dance everywhere! I used to go with my family to any park or plaza and I always gave a show. I was not shy at all. My family always put music for me, and if I was at a birthday party, I always had to dance for the guests. It was like a passport: “If you don’t dance, you cannot come!"
CS: Were there any difficult steps for you?
AP: "I think jumps. I was always a “turner” and jumps were always hard for me. However, I always kept trying until I could do everything. I ended up being a versatile dancer."
CS: Do you have any funny memory before or during a performance?
AP: "One time when I was in the corp de ballet at the Colon Theatre, we were dancing the second act of Don Quixote. Before the Dream Scene began we were in our positions, ready, behind the curtain. I was always one of the shortest girls, so I was in front. And then, the Don Quixote's donkey (real-life donkey) began to kick and run everywhere on stage! Everyone was altered and did not know what to do! That is one of the funniest memories that I have from Colon Theatre."
CS: What is your favorite ballet and why?
AP: "I really like Carmen. But I liked it more because of a dancer: my life idol, Maya Plisétskaya. I always watched Carmen with her, but I could never learn the choreography because I always got so into the character with her. She was everything for me! I also like Don Quixote. More than anything, I like character ballets, because even if I danced softer, more lyrical ballets, my personality was always rowdier."
CS: Do you remember teaching your first class?
AP: "I got to teach my first class at the Colon Theatre Institute. I was very young, I had not graduated yet. I was a back up for the corp de ballet at the time while studying to be a ballet teacher, and during this time I got a contract to teach the younger classes, and that is how I began."
CS: Discipline in the studio: Is there anything you cannot tolerate?
AP: "It makes me upset that the students are not respectful with the teacher. Perhaps we are at different times and the manners are not as before. We should teach the students the manners we learned, shouldn't we? Also, students sitting down in class or getting out without permission are maybe the things that make me upset. We have to recover the respect.”
CS: What are the most technical problems that you see in your students?
AP: "Perhaps the extensions. Maybe more flexibility exercises can help. Of course, in my times we used to put our feet under the piano or slept on froggy position or used a stool to do oversplits. Right now there are more modern accessories, so they should manage to achieve the best."
CS: Do you have any favorite dancer?
AP: "Maya Plisetskaya. Definitely, she is my favorite."
CS: Tell us about your company career and experiences.
AP: "I started at the Colon Theatre, moving on to dance with Maurice Béjart at the Ballet of the XX Century (Belgium). At the age of 15, I got a scholarship to study in MUDRA with Maurice Béjart after an audition with about 150 people. They chose me to study and work parallel with the company. I also worked in the United States: Cleveland Ballet, and finally at the Ballet Nuevo Mundo in Caracas, where I was Principal Dancer for 19 years."
CS: If you could dance with someone famous, dead or alive, who would that be?
AP: "With Baryshnikov! He is still alive, but I don’t lose the hopes… Just kidding, I am retired. But yes, I really like him and he is also a character dancer as I am."
CS: "Did you watch any dancer on stage and got impacted?"
AP: "I saw Maya Plisetskaya live on stage, of course. Also Nureyev and Cynthia Gregory. When I worked with the Colon Theatre as corp de ballet dancer, I could see them dancing by my side."
CS: One last advice for those students that want to dance professionally?
AP: "Is not only important to have the physical conditions to dance, but also have the desire and tenacity to triumph. With all these years teaching, I have realized that the people that do not have the physical conditions are the ones who succeed. They because they give their life for ballet. You have to establish a goal and say, "This is where I want to be." But, it has to be without hurting anyone, because that can return to you. A person can achieve the goal if she or he deserves it and if she or he works for it”.