A week ago, Hayna Gutierrez announced her retirement from Alberta Ballet. Since joining the company in 2010, Ms. Gutierrez has earned a following in her community and abroad as a principal dancer in the classical repertoire, Balanchine ballets, and of course works by Alberta Ballet’s Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maître. Over the past decade, Hayna has become a mother and a Canadian citizen, and now adds this upcoming chapter to a list of dynamic transitions in her life. In the midst of preparations for her final performances with Alberta Ballet, Hayna chats with us about her heritage, her time with the company, and thoughts about what’s to come.
Audiences will be able to celebrate her final Alberta Ballet bow in Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle and The Drum. The company will be performing this 10th anniversary performance in Calgary from May 1-4 and Edmonton May 9-11.
Interview with Hayna Gutierrez
Your roots – both personal and professional – are so defined by Cuban tradition and training. What were some of the most challenging aspects to making your move to Canada to join Alberta Ballet?
I grew up and was educated in Cuba, where there is a lot of heat all year round. The Cuban Ballet School where I was trained taught me more than one technique. They taught me not to lose my Latin flavor, my culture and that way that with passion Cubans show when they dance. When I left Cuba I was already a Principal Dancer with the National Ballet of Cuba. I went professionally prepared but with fears, I went to the unknown. I was trying to expand my horizons professionally and personally. The challenge was to be able to adapt to new styles; to work with other choreographers and know a new world that would allow me to be more versatile, without losing my roots. Also learning a new language was a challenge.
Is returning to your home country in your future plans?
When I left Cuba, I did not think about returning. It was only the uncertain beginning and I could not think of what I had left behind. However, now I go to Cuba almost every year. I have very little family there – when I go it is only to see friends and that small portion of the family. Now I have formed a family here in Canada. However, if there’s one thing I’d like to do again in Cuba, it’s dancing in the beautiful Alicia Alonso theater.
You share a special and long-standing relationship with Jean. What will you file away as some of your most impressive memories working with him?
Jean has a warm and sincere affection for the Cubans. My relationship with him from the beginning has been respectful and we have also had moments in which we share a lot of laughter and the occasional crying (from my side). Jean has always listened to me and has always valued me, one of the most important things for me as a dancer. Working with him during these nine years has been interesting; he taught me a different way to move and take my body to another extreme. One of the moments that I will always remember is when we worked together to create the character of She in BalletLujah!
“During my 35-year career making dances, there have been very few dancers with the
intelligence, the artistry, the determination, the discipline and the passion she possesses. For
any choreographer or Artistic Director, a dancer with Hayna’s brilliance is a blessing for she is
not only a dancer of great talent, she is a muse.”
– Jean Grand-Maître, Artistic Director of Alberta Ballet
Hayna Gutierrez in Giselle © Maximillian Tortoriello
What have been some of your favorite roles to dance? Are there any out there still on your bucket list?
It’s hard to decide because I have more than one role as a favorite. However Giselle has been that role that I have been able to enjoy to the fullest in different moments of my career. The first time I played it was with the National Ballet of Cuba and I was 21-years-old and then I have danced it multiple times and it always feels different and that makes it special. However, I think that if I had the chance to have danced Manon’s role in the piece Manon Lescaut, it would have been my favorite. The music, the history, the costumes, each and every one of the scenes of this full-length ballet, I love it.
It sounds like you are not necessarily retiring from the stage, but rather from company life. Is it possible to share with us some of the adventures you have planned ahead of you?
My plan is to continue dancing, I still feel strong and with the same passion for dance. I also want to teach the youngest ones. I would like to transmit all the knowledge that my teachers once offered me and that undoubtedly were the essence of my development as a dancer. I love teaching as much as dancing. On the other hand, having the opportunity to choose my schedule, I will be able to enjoy more of my three-year-old son, who I miss all day, at all times.
In conversation about your retirement from Alberta Ballet, there is a common thread in your reflections about the next generation of dancers. Why is this so important to you?
When in the National Ballet of Cuba they began to give me roles as Principal dancer, I was still a soloist in the company. I remember my first full-length (Don Quixote). There were many outstanding Principal Dancers in the company, and I remember very much the support of each of them, their respect for me and the unconditional help they gave me. My experience was little but the desire to become one of them was not lacking. My dream was big and I knew that with my passion, discipline, dedication, and patience I could do it. That’s what I’ve seen in the new generations in the Alberta Ballet. Now my time has come to support them and enjoy them.