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With an eye to rehearsals and the preproduction of the 2021 premieres, plus the preparation of the Invocación tours to start in October, the director of the Ballet Nacional de España, Rubén Olmo, goes over his first season as head of the company, cut short by Covid-19.

Your first season as director of the BNE ended in August 2020. It has been shorter than usual because theatres have been closed since March. Which plans were you unable to carry out?
We were unable to take the learning project further both in and out of our headquarters and we could not advance in the preparation and rehearsals of the productions for the new season.

In order to adapt to the unusual situation we are experiencing, we set up “BNE en Movimiento Perpetuo”, which consists of streaming  choreographic workshops given by three artists who are involved in different art forms, Belén López, Manuel Reyes and Marcos Morau. We have invited them to work with the company with the aim of showing to everyone what the creative process is like and how the Ballet Nacional de España works.

What is your balance of this first year?

Despite the difficult moments we’ve been through, this has been a very good year for the Ballet Nacional de España. We have continued performing Electra, at the Teatro Real de Madrid and on different tours in other cities. As 11 new dancers joined the cast, we invited its choreographer, Antonio Ruz, to work with the company in order not to lose the essence of the work. We also carried on performing Eterna Iberia, the last work Antonio Najarro choreographed for the company.

We’ve also premiered a new escuela bolera show, Invocación bolera, based on the different styles of the escuela bolera masters, and a very peculiar Jauleña, which I performed and that includes different styles, from escuela bolera to stylised dance and flamenco.

We have also revived a work by Mario Maya, one of the greatest masters and choreographers of contemporary Andalusian flamenco who had a style of his own. The Ballet Nacional de España did not have any of his works in its repertoire. I’m very proud to have been able to revive De lo flamenco for audiences of today. To prepare this production, premiered on 7 March at the Festival de Jerez, we invited Manolo Marín, Manuel Betanzos, Rafaela Carrasco and Isabel Bayón to work with the company.

I would also like to highlight the learning programme designed by Belén Moreno and taught by Maribel Gallardo at different schools in Jerez de la Frontera, that has also enabled school groups, dance students, and professionals to come to the company’s rehearsals. This programme has been a phenomenal success and has been recognised by the Junta de Andalucía, that gave it the Premio Flamenco en el Aula 2020.

Another initiative we have started this season is the BNE History video collection. In line with the aim of the Ballet Nacional de España to preserve and spread the rich Spanish choreographic heritage, we have shared in our social networks more than 30 fragments or full choreographies from the company’s 40 years of life. This season we will keep exploring our audiovisual archives to find recordings that we believe to be worth showing to new audiences because of their artistic and historical value.

Will the learning project of visits to schools and schoolchildren coming to rehearsals continue this year?
Right now it’s very difficult to take the learning project to all the schools we wanted or for them to come to our premises. That’s why we are preparing several videos so that teachers can continue the project at school, if they wish, after we give them tutorials, so that children can learn about Spanish dance.

Is the Ballet Nacional de España presenting any new shows this season?
We’re premiering two shows this season. The first one, in April at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville. On the occasion of the Centennary of Antonio Ruiz Soler we’re preparing a programme devoted to Antonio, el bailarín, the most versatile choreographer and director that has ever existed. And in June, at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid, we’re having the world premiere of La Bella Otero.

Which national or international tours of the Ballet Nacional de España are scheduled at present?
We expect to tour different cities in Spain, like Terrassa, Albacete, or Pamplona, with the show Invocación, which we premiered last March at the Festival de Jerez. Although all the international tours we were agreeing are currently stopped, we will take part in the Festival Dance Open in St. Petersburg (Russia).

Even though the health situation is currently uncertain, do you think theatres can still schedule dance shows as usual and is it safe for the audience to attend?
Like in all other sectors, theatres have had to adapt to the times we’re going through, which have nothing to do the normal life we were used to. We know this is going to last for a long time, but we must go on, adapt, and experience this situation as naturally as possible. I’m an optimist and I believe we’ll soon have a vaccine that would take us out of this bad dream.

Are you going to increase online initiatives or are you afraid that encouraging them will drive people away from theatres and dance shows would end up as content for trains, aeroplanes, or buses?
I’d like online initiatives to be part of the Ballet Nacional de España, because I believe it’s necessary. For instance, in the learning project, it will help us reach more schools, and also those who do not have the chance of coming to Madrid to see us. I’d also like to continue with the “BNE en Movimiento Perpetuo” initiative, to bring dancers and audiences close to the choreographers who work with the company.

Obviously, our job is to dance live for the public, but I don’t dismiss the option of recording a live performance so that it can be enjoyed on planes. It’s not the first time that’s been done and it’s not here because of the pandemic. Opera and dance shows have been doing it for a long time. The Ballet Nacional de España should also have a show that can be enjoyed everywhere.