Ballet AZ Blog

Behind-The-Scenes of Juan Gabriel with Ib Andersen


Let’s talk about Juan Gabriel!

Juan Gabriel, the man, was incredibly special. He was an artist in every sense of the word, however that alone is not enough to make someone into who he became to people… an icon. Today, that word is used so often, it has almost lost its meaning but there is no doubt Juan Gabriel was and remains an icon in the truest sense.

For me, the journey of creating this ballet started in 2016 after reading his obituary in The New York Times. I was fascinated by this person, who had hundreds of thousands of people mourning their loss, and in such a personal way. For an artist to have that kind of access into people’s hearts is rare and I have been reminded of that with every step in this process.

The world premiere of Juan Gabriel in 2022 was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The way the audience engaged, singing and dancing along to music, I have never experienced that with ballet. Ever. It was like a rock concert! The energy coming from the audience was extraordinary and radiated throughout the theatre.

As a dancer, especially, you are so sensitive to how an audience is interacting with you on stage. It can make or break a performance. With Juan Gabriel, the audience and dancers were bouncing off each other in a way that I cannot put it into words – you have to come and experience it yourself!

What is it like revisiting this ballet?

It is better than I though. For ballet, everything is better the second time. There is a clarity that was not, and honestly could not, be there the first time. When you are creating a ballet from nothing, you are just seeing all your ideas thrown together at once. Everything is new – the choreography, the costumes, the lighting – you do not know if your idea will translate well on stage. Yes, you spend months rehearsing, but transitioning from the studio to the stage is an experience all on its own.

This time around, I have the entire picture in my mind. For the dancers, even though some are new, many of them have performed this before, so they are already starting from a different point of view. We can go further and I can push them more in these rehearsals. It has a different feeling but in the best way because we are beyond that surface level.

Some of the choreography has changed here and there, I will probably do more – you never know! Some dancers, who were in prominent roles are currently out, which has naturally changed things. Situations like this are exciting because I get to try something new and give dancers new opportunities.

As artistic director, it is my job to promote and cultivate new talent and it is the part of my job that I have always loved most. Using talent that is really green and turning it into something extraordinary is one of the things I do best. It is such a fascinating process – sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, but… wow, when it works, it is something special.

Ballet Arizona dancers in Ib Andersen’s Juan Gabriel. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.

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