Lucia Lacarra tells Jo Kerrigan how she was inspired to be a ballerina by a little wind-up jewellery box.
FOR its 21st anniversary this month, Cork City Ballet has certainly gone all the way, managing to secure for its Ballet Spectacular world-renowned prima ballerina Lucia Lacarra and her partner, Marlon Dino.
Spanish-born Lacarra, who was dancing leading roles by the age of 15, is now star of the Bavarian State Ballet. Her Albanian-born partner, Marlon Dino, a tall and perfect foil to his tiny ballerina, is principal dancer with the Bavarian State Ballet. He and Lucia are partners both on the stage and off, which gives their performances a unique quality.
Are ballerinas born, not made? Apparently so, in Lacarra’s case. “I always wanted to be a dancer, since I have any memory of wanting to be anything,” she explains. “When I was three I would say, ‘I am going to be a ballerina,’ and I meant it with my heart and soul.”
Coming, as she did, from a very small town in northern Spain, where there was no such thing as a ballet school, those she told of her dream were naturally sceptical. “They laughed at me and effectively said, ‘You’ll be lucky!’.”
So, if she did not have the example of other little girls running off to dance classes, where did her dream come from?
“I don’t know where I got it, and my mother didn’t know either. We didn’t even have ballet on TV in Spain then, but I must have seen something.”
She pauses and thinks for a moment. “My mother had a jewellery box with a ballerina on the lid that turned around – you know the kind? I remember I would spend hours watching that.”
Her father died when she was three and her mother had a struggle to make ends meet. “I had to wait until I was nearly 10 when I could finally go to ballet school. The first day, though, that I grasped the barre and they showed me first position, I felt I was already a ballerina.
“My mother saw the passion in me and even though it was difficult to find the way to proceed, we moved to a bigger town and then to Madrid where I could study in earnest.” She laughs. “It is the way I work. I drag people around me to help with my passion.!”
The years of hard work, of pushing the body to its limits and beyond, were all part of the process for Lacarra, who took them in her stride as her teachers began to recognise the formidable talent that lay within this elfin body.
“I am not so passionate about the technique, rather more about being allowed to dance with my heart, when I am allowed to express myself. That is what fills me up, that is my reason for dancing. I love to transport myself into the character, feel the emotions, and show those to the audience. I would get bored with just movement and steps. I love challenging things that make you completely different as a character, against your own personality.
“Always I want to do something new, learn more. In a huge drama like Romeo and Juliet, I go to kill myself for love, I put my heart and soul into it, I suffer. That is the reason I keep dancing.”
In Cork she and Marlon Dino will dance the Adagio from Act II of Swan Lake, and it may be an unforgettable performance. If you are sceptical, don’t take this writer’s word for it. Check it out on YouTube. Alan Foley, founder and artistic director of Cork City Ballet, has no doubts about its majesty.
“I have never seen any human being emulate a swan as she does. It’s one of the longest adagios in ballet, but she makes every moment breathtaking.”
Lacarra says she finds the character of the White Swan quite passionate.
“Most times when you see this ballet you are watching technique, but me, I feel the character of Odette is so deeply interesting. She falls in love with a man but she’s trapped in the body of a bird and that is really a challenge to convey.”
In some ways, Lacarra reminds one of the iconic Sylvie Guillem at the height of her career. She smiles. “Sylvie Guillem was my idol when I was little.”
Half the exquisite experience of that Swan Lake Adagio is the perfect partnering of Marlon Dino, conveying in every glance, every move, his utter adoration. Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev might have been an item, but the combination of Lacarra and Dino is something way above that.
“You work many hours a day with a partner to make it correct, but when you have the luck to find this perfect partner, then you can move upwards,” agrees Lacarra.
“We have this trust. We are so contrasting but we comprehend each other so perfectly. Many times I discover that I close my eyes and I totally let go. I know that he will be there when I move, when I leap, when I fall backward. We feel the music in the same way, which is essential.”
She cites A Midsummer Night’s Dream as an example. “There is this waking up pas de deux where he is supposed to think I am asleep. Most dancers will pretend, but I really close my eyes. I know that I am safe, that Marlon will be there for me.”
“She is absolutely my favourite ballerina,” says Foley without hesitation. “In my opinion, when God was giving out ballet bodies, she was at the top of queue and He just let it roll with her. It is so unbelievably exciting that one of the world’s most incredible ballerinas is going to be dancing on the Opera House stage.”
* Ballet Spectacular Gala, Cork Opera House, Nov 21- 23.021-4270022, www.corkoperahouse.ie.
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