Relatively unknown in the U.S., Ana Laguna is a legend in Europe — as a dancer, choreographer, and muse of pioneering choreographer Mats Ek, also her husband. At age 61, she’ll dance the role of the Nurse in the Royal Swedish Ballet’s “Juliet and Romeo” on Friday, June 10 and Saturday, June 11 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Laguna last performed in the US in 2009, in her fifties, on tour with Mikhail Baryshnikov. This pair of older-than-average dancers performed two duets by Ek. Critics were blown away by her power and grace.
Laguna danced with the Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm for 19 years, under the direction of Ek and Birgit Cullberg, with a one-year interlude with Nederlands Dans Theater in 1980-81. She originated roles in important works by Ek as well as by Jirí Kylián, Ohad Naharin and William Forsythe, and performed Strindberg’s “Miss Julie” with Rudolph Nureyev.
We chatted recently by email with Laguna.
You have danced in Mats Ek’s ballets for many years. What qualities in this ballet do you appreciate?
Mats has the capacity to create deep human relations, in very different life situations. That is the basis for all his ballets and theatrical works. You can see a lot of moments in “Juliet and Romeo” which are special treasures.
Why “Juliet and Romeo” and not the traditional title?
Why not? In the 15th century before Shakespeare wrote his “Romeo and Juliet,” there were dramas called “The Tragedy of Juliet.” In this version, I think and hope the audience will understand why.
How involved were you with the creation of the ballet in 2013, particularly with the character of the Nurse?
Mats is always quite clear where he wants to take his ballets. In this piece he wanted to work with different generations. My being 60 (when the ballet was choreographed) made him work in a different way than with the young Juliet and Romeo, or even with the mother. The age difference may have made my contribution to the part different than what he thought.
The Nurse has been described as “the only sympathetic adult in the household.” Does this statement resonate with you?
The Nurse is a crucial person for Juliet; she gives her warmth and love, before she meets Romeo. I don’t feel she is especially sympathetic, but she definitely has a different relationship with the outside world [than Juliet]. She knows how to use the different possibilities in each situation to experience life.
How does your memory of performing the role Juliet early in your career inform your approach to the role of the Nurse, if at all?
Yes, I danced Juliet in my early years and that gives me a new relationship with the drama.
What are the challenges/benefits of being an older dancer, particularly in this work?
Being 61 years old and dancing is an achievement, which has to be combined with experience. Dancing now is a huge challenge, but for this role it works very well. Nevertheless one has to work with the limitations that the body puts on you. Only by accepting those limitations can you still develop.
Gillian Anne Renault has written about dance for the Los Angeles Daily News, Herald Examiner and artsATL in Atlanta .
Juliet and Romeo | Royal Swedish Ballet | Segerstrom Center for the Arts | June 10 – 12