lunes, 28 de mayo de 2012

Angel Corella, "I've mortgaged to the teeth"

Ángel Corella in Perelada'Festival last summer
(Photo: José Luis F. Liz)

Broken promises, corrupt mediators and the tiring administrative song "please come back tomorrow", have led Angel Corella to ask for an ERE to be able to afford his dancers wages. We had a long interview with him.


Lola Ramírez

Angel, how are you feeling?
With a lot of stress and hard work

I read this morning in El Pais that the Barcelona Ballet was practically bankrupt.
I think they've exaggerated a bit. We had to take the company to an ERE because the promised aid never came. In principle, the Barcelona City Council told us they couldn’t give us money but that they will find a place for us to rehearse. As this was getting too long, we made a big investment in the studio we opened in the Hortigosa street in the city center. For its part, the County said they would give the company the amount needed, but that was getting shortened, they drag their feed, they did not answer our calls or e-mails and, finally, we learned that one of the intermediaries had been arrested because of corruption. There came a time when we were truly desperate. We talked to them and we told them that if they didn’t give that grant we would have to cancel the American tour and that this would lead to a major international scandal. To not have to face such a situation, they promised to speed up the first delivery of money. We trusted it would be like this and, well, I have mortgaged to the teeth, I have invested over half a million euros in the company. Finally we went on tour without having received this income and thinking that while we were there, we were going to receive the money that would allow us to pay the salaries to the dancers and to pay all that had been spent so far.

And you are still waiting
 Well. They said the issue had not entered into the plenary yet and that it’s foreseen for the 31st of June session. We were also told that the amount would be much smaller and that they were not sure yet if it was going to enter or not and if it was, they could not guarantee neither if it was going to be approved. Then I had to talk to the company and present an ERE to continue with the activity. We have many contracts, both in Spain and abroad, but if we lack the financial support we will not be able to deal with them.

How have the dancers reacted?
This has caught us all, but, well, there have been two months since we could not pay the dancers and, somehow, they imagined that something like this could happen. The truth is that I have sold my soul to the devil, I have personally been in a suit and tie to submit letters to the County Council, the Generalitat and the City Council, so that they put a stamp on and I could urgently present them. We are waiting for the council to answer us and to make the first deposit so that we can pay the two months debt and then we will have to change a bit the context of the company. Till now we have tried to do all things in a large scale for both the public and the institutions to see that it was possible without an astronomical amount but, of course, having a little support. With no support, we will redirect the company and make it a smaller company where the money generated, comes most from the school and the company’s activity.

Is the plan of the International School of Dance still going on?
Yes and even a couple of days ago we announced the opening of a school here in Barcelona too. In addition of the International School of Dance in Figueras, which still stands as the mayor of the city is moving a lot as he has taken this project as it was his own, there will be a school for all ages here in Barcelona.

Castilla and Leon still owe part of a grant isn’t it?
No. In theory, Castilla y Leon has given everything they signed. What happens is that we were promised the same amount as last year and they lowered it. Then we were told there will be a round of € 150,000 that they would pay in a different way, through “Siglo” Foundation. And although this was not in the contract, they assured us we were going to receive this, we have many mails to prove it. They accomplished what was signed, but they did not the same with what we had been promised verbally.

You know words are gone with the wind. Well, and how are you?
Very sad and very disappointed. And above all, with some disbelief that both, the government and the public institutions, can wash hands off, this way. I understand that we are in a strong crisis situation with cuts everywhere, but what I do not understand is this situation of continual promises that are never materialized. I’m just retiring this year from the American Ballet Theatre to devote all my time to the company, and to stop being an ABT dance star to be in the unemployment in Spain is very sad and incomprehensible. Anywhere in the world they treat their artists in a very special way, even in America I was offered many times to be a director of many companies without having to do anything and the truth is it's very sad that in your own country you are treated this way.

Are you planning about a change of scene?
Not now, I’m keeping on with my company and I'm fighting for my dancers who have reacted in a very positive way and are all rehearsing as if nothing had happened at all. The truth is that artistic expectations are very good regarding performances, it is in the economic issue where we have to rethink the financing of the company.

What  is happening to you is also happening to half of Spain. Some will say, hey, but if some people do not even have what to eat ...
Of course, but what is unacceptable is that you get false promises and you are there waiting for them to be fulfilled and, moreover, the dancers also eat. Many people have a misconception about the world of dance. They think that dancers do not eat and do not work but we simply do something we like. Health and Education cuts is terrible, but so is cutting in Arts, we must also understand that dancers are professionals who lose their jobs. In addition, we are not talking about a cut, we're talking about classical dance to disappear.

Do you have hope that this is sorted out?
I hope so, by now they have not told us no. On the contrary, they said yes, this is why we went to the ERE, because we have never received a negative but the opposite. Both Trias and Mas told us they wanted this project here in Catalonia by all means. So we're waiting for the answer on the 31st… will see what happens.

So ... Lots of luck!
Thank you very much. We need it because the creative part we develop it by all means. In the United States shows had a huge success and we have a return engagement for several countries.

This also means a boost for the company.
Sure, but if you can not cover the wages which is the most immediate ... And that is what is at risk and what we have asked the Catalan government for, to at least receive a minimum amount to cover the salaries of the dancers and the rest it is us who will deal with, but if we do not get this subsidy then we have to go to the ERE because there is a moment where there is no more money left and you can’t cover all the expenses. People are not aware of the large amount of money a Company needs.
At the end, the dancers will be contracted every time there is a performance, right?
Sure, that's the ERE. The dancers are paid by the government unemployment and then you hire them when you do a show.

What say the dancers?
All, for now, will stay with us and understand the situation, they know it's only for six months, it is not an indefinite situation. The ERE has a duration of six months and then they would all again join the company at the same rhythm.

Well, Angel, from Ballet y mas we wish you all the luck in the world.
Thank you very much.

English translation by Carolina Masjuan

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