Critical Dance

The following is an article from our special section, San Francisco Ballet in London.


"I'm open to anything and take every opportunity. I don't have dreams; I just work and see what comes."


An Interview with Lucia Lacarra
San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer
August 12, 2001

By Stuart Sweeney

San Francisco Ballet has many fine dancers. An illustration of this is that they fielded four top quality casts for Swan Lake when they were last in London. Several of their ballerinas were the talk of the town two years ago, but none more so than the Spanish born Lucia Lacarra. Her suppleness, grace and expressive qualities marked her out as something special. Stuart Sweeney met her at the Royal Opera House after class as she prepared for the Company's second visit.

Stuart Sweeney: How is it to be back in London?
Lucia Lacarra: It's great to be here. For me it's like being home the history, soul and theatre tradition are European things that I miss in America. The whole Company is really excited. We don't do much touring and this is a big one as we go on to Santender and Barcelona after London.

How do you like the new Royal Opera House?
It's an amazing building and it's great to work here. If your dressing rooms are poor or too small it makes everything more difficult. But with these conditions, it's a big help for the dancers.

You trained with Victor Ullate in Madrid, who has an extraordinary record of success. How does he do it?
I was in a great generation with Tamara Rojo, Angel Corella and others. Victor taught every day then and he is a great teacher who gave us all a wonderful base, which is so important if a dancer is to develop. I went to the School when I was 14, but I was already dancing in his Company, Ballet Communidad de Madrid, when I was 15. He invited me to attend some rehearsals and I sat there watching and learning; I have a strong memory. Then, he was unhappy with one girl and took her out, and said to some others, “Do you know the part?” and they all said, “No.” Then he asked me and I said, “Yes.” “OK, then you dance it,” he said. He knew I didn't know the part, but I looked around and saw what the others were doing and made it work. I always say, “Yes,” and seize opportunities. I'd rather try something and fail rather than have the regret of not trying.

Did you stay there long?
For three years, but then I wanted to do a wider repertory as we performed Victor Ullate's own pieces and other modern abstract ballet and I wanted the chance to do more dramatic work. If I'm not happy, I can't work at my best, so I knew it was time for a move. I went to Ballet National de Marseilles with Roland Petit and in the first month, I danced his Notre Dame de Paris. It's very dramatic and the experience was good for my confidence. I learned what was in me and I loved it. This work and others like Carmen are something special for me as they are about feelings. Even in an abstract work, like Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements, I try to get some feeling into it. If it's just steps, I get bored.

So what's special about San Francisco Ballet?
You could say I've done things the wrong way around. I started with a company doing neo-classical, abstract work and then Roland Petit, which is all about interpretation. My life in Marseilles was great, but I thought it was time that I did the hard stuff and San Francisco offered such a varied rep.

It was difficult when I came as a Principal in 1997. You work for yourself here and you have to be responsible for your own progress. It's intense with non-stop work, but I've learned so much. We get few rehearsals and you often have to book studios to prepare on your own. Also, it is a more competitive atmosphere than I was used to. For instance, with a new programme, the first night cast may still not be chosen a week before the opening. With so many fine dancers, our time on stage is never as much as I would like. You spend so much effort working on pieces, that it would be good to perform them more. But the atmosphere in the Company is good.

Tell me about the works that you dance this week.
First, there is Symphony in Three Movements. It's a very jazzy piece with the corps in white leotards and the leads in black or pink. The music by Stravinsky is difficult and you're counting all the time. In the first movement, I get a variation and then in the second, there is a pas de deux, which is really fun. The third movement is the most tiring, I'm on throughout and there's no time even to breathe. Overall it's like Rubies, but even more jazzy. It's an exhausting 20 minutes.

You're also dancing in Balanchine's Bugaku, which is a controversial work.
I really don't see why. It's so interesting and stylish with a great ambience. Yes, there is a sexual aspect, but it's not vulgar or in bad taste. I love the Japanese style, which I think Balanchine successfully captured in spirit.

My third work this week is Prism by Helgi [Tomasson]. It's in three movements and in the second, I get this long, slow pas de deux, which is great. Then in the third movement, we all come on for a coda. It's a lovely ballet for the dancing, the feelings and the music.

What other works are special for you?
The Cage by Jerome Robbins was such a shock for me. It's so different and was way ahead of its time. At first it looked difficult, but when I got into it, I found that it really suited me. Nevertheless, it was only when I performed it on stage that people told me what a success it was. I danced it with David Palmer [former SFB principal, now co-Artistic Director of Maximum Dance] who is a great partner and we worked very well together. I love to do bad stuff! I don't want to get typecast in goody roles. Sometimes David told me that I was scaring him in the role.

How about other choreographers you'd like the chance to perform?
I'd like to do Forsythe, because what he is doing is a very interesting new direction for ballet. However, in general I'm not so interested in very contemporary work, where you have to change your style completely. Maybe later, but not now. The main thing is that I need to like what I'm doing and to put my soul in there. I don't like to go against myself.

Do you have a favourite partner?
That's easy! It's my fiancé Cyril Pierre. He taught me how to dance with a partner. He's a tall guy and really strong. I first met him in Marseilles and he would say to me, “Let me do it.” We have amazing communication and I trust him so completely that I can let go one hundred percent. If the tempo is too fast in a section and I have to lose a step, he can read my mind ahead of it. When you love someone, it makes a big difference and so I dance better with him. He is in demand though because of his strength and his partnering skills.

Some dancers love to travel the world as guest dancers or with Gala performances. Is that attractive to you?
My ideal is to have the solid base of a company and then be able to do some Galas as well. It's not always easy to fit them in and now is no exception. We'll see. I love hard work, and will fly and perform on the same day if necessary. But simply guesting wouldn't suit me. If I had a two-month period without a booking I'd go mad.

What do you do outside of dance?
I enjoy life as far away from dance as possible. Cyril and I have a rule that we don't mix dance and our life outside. I enjoy a good book, walking, driving somewhere. I like to do tapestry, but there's no time for sport or anything like that.

How about the future?
I'm open to anything and take every opportunity. I don't have dreams; I just work and see what comes. When I stop performing I definitely want to stay in dance. I'm not a choreographer and I'm not sure about teaching. I'd like to do something on the artistic side, coaching ballets and that sort of thing.

Then it was time for rehearsal.

Lucia performs in Symphony in Three Movements on Monday, 13th August; Bugaku on Wednesday, 15th August and Prism on Thursday 16th August.


Please visit our special section, San Francisco Ballet in London, for previews, reviews and more interviews related to San Francisco's Summer 2001 tour to London.

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Edited by Azlan Ezaddin.

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