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Lifting Spanish ballet

Angel Corella's ballet company prepares for its New York debut.

With government support for the arts fast disappearing in the United States, it is ironic, if not disillusioning, that even in difficult economic times — and Spain has been harder hit than the United States — that government support in some European countries can still be found for artistic endeavors. “We are a popular region with tourists,” said Maria Jose Salgueiro, who heads up the culture and tourism department in the Castilla y Leon Autonomic Government, “and we felt we could become even more popular with a great ballet company located here. We support our big talents, and Angel’s company is one of them. He has already proven that he is a great director with the quality of his productions. Spanish dancers now have a destination in their own country.”

It didn’t take long for word of Corella’s project to spread — 1,500 dancers, about half of them Spanish, turned up for the first audition. “What I like most about the company,” said Ashley Ellis, who previously danced with American Ballet Theater, “is how close people are here. The atmosphere feels like family. We also do a nice mix of traditional like `Swan Lake’ and contemporary like Wheeldon.” For Adiarys Almedia, who danced with the Cincinnati Ballet, just sharing the stage with Corella is enough. “It’s an amazing experience,” she said, “Angel’s energy infects you.”

Many major players in the dance world have come out to support him. Though concerned her production of “La Bayadere” would be too technically, physically, artistically and theatrically demanding for a young troupe, Natalia Markaova agreed to stage it for the company’s first season.

“Despite my initial concerns,” she said, “I feel that it was a great start. Everyone thought it was such a historical event in Spain. The company performed successfully and rose to the occasion. Angel brought dancers together, dancers of different education, schools and experience and unified them. I’ve known him from the beginning of his career. No one has his kind of fire.”