How do you treat young people who dream of dancing, between 12 and 18 years old?
I am not going to judge anyone: I speak from my 41-year experience with my school. You have to treat them like human beings. They have body and mind, they are not a product. They are making an extra effort because most of them are clear from a young age that they will dedicate themselves to dancing. You have to be very empathetic and receptive. Teaching is not just teaching. It is listening and advising.
Who were your teachers?
I started dancing ballet at school. I had a teacher whom I adored until the day my mother and I went to explain to her that I wanted to be a professional dancer. ‘I’m sorry but I don’t prepare dancers,’ he replied. What a great rejection I felt! I felt lost. I couldn’t understand that she, who taught me to love dance, who had made me so happy, was saying something like that to me.
That caused my first crisis. That night I slept hugging my mother. There was no internet so my mother went to ask Mr. Casimiro where he bought the ballet shoes and recommended that he go to the Liceu. I ended up studying with Teresa Farràs, with ‘madame’ Elsa Van Allen and with Josep Maria Escudero, a teacher at the Institut del Teatre. Then I studied the last two years of my career with Rosella Hightower in Cannes.
Did your first teacher affect you that much?
That rejection helped me to know what I would never do with my students. I have always looked at them as if they were sons or daughters and I have taken their problems home with me. Beyond technique and professionalism, I have known how to listen and advise them. If a dancer cries or looks bad, we go to the office immediately to talk. His problem is the most important: you have to listen to solve.
How does it motivate? Do negative references to the body help?
I have read some real atrocities in the EL PERIÓDICO article that make me think of the former USSR. Or at the Institut in the 70s and 80s, when there was a Polish director who used this type of treatment. Maybe someone still has it registered on the hard drive. My two children have studied with me.
The girl, up to 17 years old. Then he went to Russia for a year and saw that humiliating treatment applied to others. In the Eastern Countries most of the conservatories are state, the teachers are dance officials. They say, ‘you’re worth it, you’re not’ or ‘you’re fat’. People go in and out of the conservatory but they are immovable. This here is intolerable, in dance and any other discipline.
The students of the Conservatori Profesional Dansa of the Institut del Teatre, before a performance in the atrium of the protest center. They show posters with phrases from teachers critical of their body and their ability.
If there are teachers in conservatories with these tics, students should report it. But beware, a teacher must always have the presumption of innocence. Things have to be shown. It is very brave to speak but you have to say who, give names and surnames. Otherwise, those who are taking care of their students and doing a magnificent pedagogical work are included.
Have you ever said to a student: ‘You are not worth it’?
Never in life because you cannot predict a future. With experience, you come to imagine the progression of a dancer due to his physical condition and his spirit of work. But the body changes and the mentality, too.
What do I answer when someone asks me to become a professional? Well, you have to continue working as before, increase the hours little by little and the more comfortable you feel, the more time we will dedicate. Wanting to enter a conservatory from scratch, without having danced before, is impossible, you have to prepare before in authorized schools that also offer professional training.
As long as the technical concepts have not been reached. I am against doing it because of physical problems or anything that the teacher believes that prevents the student from advancing because that will cause him to enter a negative self-esteem loop. The adolescent body is not finished when you are 15 and 16 years old, nor is the mind. You can do irreparable damage.
What is the secret to teaching dance?
The most important thing is to have a good time in class because if they like it, they will learn the technique. They must be looking forward to coming to ballet. They must be happy dancing. That is why it hurts me that someone thinks that dance is what their article on IT shows. Dance is the best thing in life. It gives you back everything you give it. A study is a sacred space, a place to be happy.
Does crushing the illusion of dancing and pounding students help them face the professional world?
I disagree. Many people are pursuing their careers and have not gone through the Institut del Teatre. At the moment I have three students who have left it at IT. And also to another who has enrolled to prepare their entrance to 6th grade and finish their studies there. In my school I don’t want anyone who makes my students feel bad and lowers their self-esteem.
But if you run a place where these things happen, you look the other way and everyone gets paid the same … To me, if a teacher can’t put up with a group of 12 or 15 people, I worry.