Ballet dancing is an art form that has always encaptivated people for the longest time, even though they might know little about it. People often shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars to watch ballerinas glide across the stage gracefully. Ballet dancing is also very popular, earning references in songs and having books and movies based on it. As mentioned previously, most people don’t understand the basic fundamentals of the art form. That’s where Yolanda Correa, Cuba’s top ballerina, comes into the mix.
Born in Holguin, Cuba, Yolanda has an interesting story worth sharing. She comes from a very poor family that struggled to make ends meet. However, she was always a gifted child. She thrived in physical competitions and sports and was chosen to perform gymnastics. Then, one day, a young teacher saw her demonstrate her talents and concluded that Yolanda had what it took to be a gifted ballerina. The teacher approached her parents with an interesting proposition, stating that she would thrive in ballet. Moreover, it would allow her to go to an art school – a tempting offer, considering her family could barely put food on the table, let alone send their child to an excellent school.
Thus, at age 15, Yolanda Correa left her home with a heavy heart because it meant leaving her family behind. She moved to Havana, where studied at the National Ballet School, learning from experienced ballet masters who taught her everything she needed to know about Cuban Ballet Technique. She participated in several competitions and won gold medals, thriving as a ballerina. Eventually, she graduated from school at 18 and began working as a professional ballet dancer with the Cuban National Ballet. Her skill and talent meant that she was one of the best performers. As a result, she assumed great responsibility for the company’s big ballet performances. Her work eventually propelled her to reach the highest rank in the profession – a Prima Ballerina.
However, she left the Cuban National Ballet to pursue a career abroad. She worked with various companies, including the Ballet of Victor Ullate in Madrid, the Norwegian National Ballet, and the Staats Ballet in Berlin. In addition, she has worked as a guest artist for productions in Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, Italy, Spain, France, the USA, and Japan. Her expertise lies in both classical and modern ballet. Moreover, she has also ventured into other art forms like music, singing, and acting.
But ascending to the apex of the ballet world wasn’t easy. Talking about her struggles, Yolanda Correa revealed, “Although ballet training was free, we still struggled. Ballet shoes, for instance, are very expensive. We didn’t have the money to buy multiple pairs. So, we had to save and repair them constantly. The ballet world is also extremely competitive. We knew only the good ones would make it. Hence, we had to work twice as hard and log in extra hours to ensure we succeeded.”
As someone coming from a poor family, Yolanda also knows the struggle of not getting the right nutrition. “We had very poor nutrition. My family struggled to put food on the table. Then, I was living alone in Havana. I didn’t always have the best nutrition. It was also a struggle to be far away from my family,” the ballerina shared.
Nevertheless, Yolanda is proud of how far she has come. She has grand ambitions for the future. “I want to coach students and young dancers, passing what I’ve learned from the great masters. I also would like to direct for a ballet company or a school and start my own ballet school to teach Cuban technique, which is recognized all over the world,” Yolanda Correa said on a parting note.