Philadelphia Ballet’s artistic director, Angel Corella, celebrates his 10th year at the helm with his latest artistic venture, Carmen.
Widely considered one of the finest dancers of his generation, Philadelphia Ballet’s (philadelphiaballet.org) beloved artistic director Angel Corella has performed for the esteemed American Ballet, pirouetted for the queen and jetéd for U.S. presidents. But his latest artistic venture Carmen, debuting this month in celebration of his 10th year at the helm of the Ballet—also celebrating its 60th anniversary—is nothing short of beautifully mesmerizing.
The 2023/24 season is a hugely momentous one. What does it mean to you?
I’m very aware of the incredible opportunity and huge responsibility associated with carrying on a legacy as esteemed as Philadelphia Ballet’s. And to lead in a way that ensures it remains a world-class company for the next 60 years is exciting, but it can keep you up at night, too. As for my 10-year anniversary, I still can’t believe it when I say it out loud! I’m like, “How did that happen?” It really does feel like yesterday when I joined Philadelphia Ballet. It’s been an intense and fun 10 years here.
What’s been your proudest achievement during your tenure?
Without question, our dancers. I’m incredibly proud of the caliber of artists we’ve been able to develop and attract over the years. To watch the passion, dedication and skill they bring to each performance is amazing. There are of course many other sides of my job, like bringing new and exciting repertoire to the company and creating an artistic team that really respects one another and works well together. But overall, the dancers are my proudest achievement.
You’ve got one decade under your belt. What do you hope to achieve in the next?
The ballet world—well really, the entire world— is very much in this evolving state. I want to create and bring in repertoire that’s eclectic, exciting and really reflective of the diverse experiences of people today. It’s about creating a connection between the audience to the city and arts scene here. I want to create a necessity to see the ballet.
You choreographed the world premiere of Carmen. What’s the choreography like and how does it differ from others’ interpretations?
I’ve got home-field advantage being a Spaniard, right? But seriously, I think because I grew up in Spain, I’m able to bring real cultural knowledge and a deep appreciation to the performance. Whether it’s through my training in flamenco hands and certain flamenco rhythms—even my understanding of the visceral, emotional reactions that makes Carmen such a powerful and tragic love story. I’m excited for my version. I think it’ll be gutsier than what’s been done before.
What makes the Philadelphia Ballet different than all others?
There’s a certain spontaneity with Philadelphia Ballet performances that I don’t think you’ll experience any place else. Every show, each performance, there’s always something unexpected. Also, in a city that loves its sports teams, people should come and see the athleticism and skills of our dancers—they’d be blown away.
Why do you think Philly’s unlike any other city when it comes to art and culture?
Out of all the cities I’ve lived in—which have been a lot—Philadelphia’s one of the most creative cities in the world. I think in large part due to its unique blend of rich history and a world-class arts and culture scene that’s inspiring a next generation of creative people here. While Philly may get a bad rap for being “tough,” it’s an incredibly supportive environment for artists. Artists feel comfortable taking risks here, more than I think they would in other cities that may have more external pressures and demands.
Photography by: ALEXANDER IZILIAEV