Magazine article Insight on the News

ABT's Young Dancers Leap into Ballet's Limelight

Magazine article Insight on the News

ABT's Young Dancers Leap into Ballet's Limelight

Article excerpt

George Balanchine's famous dictum, `Ballet is woman,' has haunted the art for years, but men are refuting those words by soaring onto center stage in theaters around the world.

When Kevin McKenzie became the American Ballet Theatre's, or ABT's, artistic director five years ago, he made a point of going after the finest male dancers he could find. "Then an interesting dynamic happened " he recalls. "Once the level did go up all the other male dancers suddenly wanted in."

The ABT now has a roster of strong male ballet dancers, including Angel Corella, 22. Corella came to the company from Spain as a teenager -- a whiz kid who flew through the air and spun like a top. His joy in dancing is palpable, making him one of the most appealing performers in the company's history.

When the company appears at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this spring, Corella will dance the opening-night performances of such full-length ballets as Corsaire, Coppelia, Merry Widow and Othello, as well as the company's premiere of Ben Stevenson's new Snow Maiden, in which he will be the partner for Bolshoi ballerina Nina Ananashvili. "He's right out front, but he's still burgeoning," says McKenzie. "At this point in his career he needs to broaden his repertoire -- there's a huge part of the rep he has yet to do. He hasn't done Swan Lake; he's doing his first Giselle this year."

Even Corella wonders at his meteoric rise. "I never thought I was going to be even close to where I am," he says. "I work really hard, but so do others. I say thanks to God every day for what I have." But Corella's joy in dancing is tempered by the realities of stardom. "When you start out, you're a kid, you enjoy dancing; maybe you are tired, but your body does not hurt. I'm still young, but when you dance a lot you start to hurt, you get tendinitis in your legs."

Although Corella has not danced in Spain for more than three years, he is still lauded in his native country. He'll represent Spain at an international expo in Portugal this summer, dancing with a young ballerina -- his sister. "She's a really good dancer," he says. "Maybe she'll join ABT -- we'll see."

Corella's colleague Ethan Stiefel, 25, also is highly visible in New York, where he was acclaimed for his classical purity as a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet before joining the ABT last spring. …

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