Enrique Anaya Takes on New York's Ballet
New York Fashion Week just ended and crispy fall weather begins to settle in. Enrique Anaya sets up our appointment in Central Park, but being a newcomer in the area I go by the Columbus statue and text him from there, so we can find each other. The interview with Enrique Anaya has been almost a year in the making. Cindy Bradley, the ballet visionary that discovered him and ballet dancer Misty Copeland, calls Enrique her male Misty. She insisted I had to see him during a San Pedro City Ballet Nutcracker rehearsal last year. At that time, he was 17, and had been dancing only one year. His poise, focus and foot placement told a different story, one so unique that it makes even the toughest ballerinas shiver with fascination in his presence.
Although by now Enrique has been living in New York for only a few months, for him it already feels like home. Soon after graduating from the Humanities and Arts Academy of Los Angeles, against all odds, he made the tough decision to move in New York under a New York Dance Project scholarship. The move wasn’t only his first professional pirouette, but also his first time flying on a plane and living on his own. “I have to get used to be away from everyone,” says Anaya. Now everyone for him might be a call or instant message away with the help of the internet of course, but ballet has taken the place of family and friends. His focus is unparalleled to his craft, one which comes with great promises but still is in its raw beginning stage. “Back then I had no idea how important one class was,” says Enrique.
Within the first week arriving in New York he went to the ballet and watched Misty in Swan Lake. Since then Misty has been tenderly guiding him in the sometimes-peculiar world of ballet. He explains how unbelievable it has been to just talk to a prima ballerina, someone which perhaps he also hopes to one day join on stage. “She is my guardian angel and has been such a good mentor to me. She is so understanding. We both kind of went through the same pathway to be able to come so far. I still have so much to go through, of course, but she understands,” says Anaya.
At the core of cultivating his talent is Cindy, the director of San Pedro City Ballet, an inspiring figure in the ballet world. She is better known as the visionary that took under her wing and launched the career of Misty Copeland. Enrique, is her newest protégé. He is her male Misty, with hopes that exceeds most expectations. Cindy first met Enrique at a dance teacher’s recommendation that he visit her school. His poise and all which comprises ballet was present in a 16-year-old teenager that had never even went to the ballet in his life. At this point, Enrique had to make up for almost two decades of training, as most dancers start as early as five years old. Cindy admired his focus and Enrique needed her guidance, or at least was interested to learn more about this new world he had never considered. His ballet turned from zero degrees, to technical 180 degrees turn outs which he soon discovered as an innate talent. Ballet embraced his body emotionally and physically.
Today Enrique is part of the New York Dance Project in one of the biggest cities in the world. He sits in class with other male dancers that follow a similar path or are at a level which he is still trying to reach. He tells me about placement, specifically the turn out, and the amount of work it takes to keep. It is an aspect which other dancers take years to develop. He has been working on it for only two years. Another change that has impressed him has been muscle development. By looking at his physique, Enrique already has the grace of a dancer and muscle of an athlete. To the regular human eye that is. To the ballet eye, grace is a lifetime work and so is developing and maintaining muscle, or especially a successful career. Class endurance has also come as a wave of change for Enrique, one very different from the warm breeze of the Pacific Ocean he had grown up next to. He takes class six days a week, it is a brutal schedule to which his heart, health and diet have tried to adapt.
At heart, Enrique is an artist. He dreams with an open heart as he shares his story. He misses his family and friends. Tears come through his eyes when I mention Cindy Bradley back home in San Pedro. I am too, a messenger journalist also from San Pedro, and he appreciates it, especially before starting his first professional ballet semester at the New York Dance Project. “She is very important to me. She is my backbone and an amazing supporter. Coming here I realized even more how important to me she is,” Enrique says about Cindy.
While Cindy can’t be there every step of the way anymore, he has found new mentors. One of them is Davis Robertson, the school’s and dance company’s founding director that has given him his first opportunity to train professionally. For Enrique, the path is to find how to fit in as part of a company, and also how to diverge to find his own style. Practice makes better is never an understatement in ballet. The art form thrives on perfection, but at least in Enrique’s case, it also thrives on unique characters and talent that one doesn’t come across every day. “You may not have the archiest feet, but it’s what you have to work with. The question is, how do you make yourself better?” says Enrique.
After only a semester in New York, this winter Enrique was invited to perform in the role of the Prince for Florida Ballet’s Nutcracker.
Writer: Marisa Bojiuc
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Photo credit: George Simian
Photo credit: George Simian