A: I don’t know anything about you Albert except that you are from Spain, you are a beautiful dancer and have really long arms. I’ve seen you dance quite a few times with Arts Umbrella but have never sat down to chat with you about anything personal. There are a million things I would love to know but why don’t we start with something basic? How did you get here? Of all the places in the world that you could have gone, what made you want to come to Canada?
AG: Coming to Canada was never part of my plan, it just happened. When I was 16 I won a dance competition and had the opportunity to go to New York to train. I decided to leave home and take the chance.
In New York I was apprenticing for Peridance. First I was in the school, and then joined the company as an apprentice. The school was a cool place. I took hip-hop and contemporary dance. Coming from Europe it felt like a very American experience. Because of the scholarship that I had I was able to take as many classes as I wanted. I was able to take class in the morning, do company rehearsals all day, and then in the evening I would take jazz or hip-hop or boys class. It was a really cool two years.
I broke my foot in the first year and so I went back to Spain for six months to recover. When I came back to NY to continue my apprenticeship I started to feel like it wasn’t the best place for me to restart. I was craving the structure of a classroom and I was only 17 years old and didn’t feel like I could call myself a professional dancer.
Being at Peridance was a great experience but I wanted to learn and train more. I auditioned for Juilliard and made the waiting list. Alexandra Wells messaged me and said we should meet for coffee. She told me about Arts Umbrella and some other schools. From there I contacted Arty and sent her some videos of me.
Arty asked me to come to the Arts Umbrella program and I knew it was time for a change, so I went. Though it was hard moving again to a new city, I was excited to take advantage of being part of a school and having that be my only focus.
C: If you could boil it down, what was your favourite thing about living in NY?
AG: That everyone was so welcoming; people were so friendly. It was also my first time having roommates. I was very lucky to have five spanish roommates who were also dancing all over the city.
A: I don’t think that many people would say that they found New York city to be very welcoming when moving there for the first time. It’s a tough city to survive in. So ruthless and fast paced. Usually you only hear the stories of how the city broke someone down. Or maybe I’m just thinking of every TV show about an artist moving to New York for the first time.
AG: I didn’t know any English and had to survive by myself, so I had to ask for help all the time. Generally people were willing to help me. I didn’t know anything so I had to be open. I talked with my hands a lot (smiles). I met a lot of South American and Mexican friends I could speak Spanish with, it was a little community. It was all our first time being on our own, away from home.
There’s so much that you don’t know when you’re 16 and living away from home. Not just cooking and cleaning for yourself, or getting a bank account. You don’t know what it’s like to really be on your own until your’e doing it. There is a six hour time difference between New York and Spain so it was nearly impossible for me to talk to my family and ask for advice. Having older people around me that I could look up to and ask for help made me feel like I was being cared for and a part of the city. But it still wasn’t my city.
C: So you have lived in three different parts of the world so far. I think that that is incredible for someone our age. Where would you say of all the places you’ve moved that you’ve been the happiest?
AG: Barcelona. The last two years I was there were really good years. At 15 and 16 I was hanging around with my friends and started to open up and build my identity and make true friendships. That was really hard to leave. Then my first year in NY, I had a lot of first experiences there.
C: In NY you said the people were the thing that made you happy while you were there. What are some traits that you admire in others?
AG: Empathy. People that are able to put themselves in others’ skin.
As a dancer you have to grow up when you’re really young, even if you stay in your home town, there is a lot you have to learn and deal with. It’s really nice to have people who you are able to share things with and who can listen and help.
A: Do you like people?
AG: Yes. I need people. I’m not a lonely person, but I need conversation; to talk and to listen. If not I go crazy. It was hard at the beginning in Vancouver. It was my third time moving from a place, I felt like I was just going there to work, to dance, to get better, and then leave. That was my plan. There are not a lot of Spanish speakers in Vancouver and my English at that time was not good. I didn’t feel strong enough to make the effort to open up to people. I didn’t want it. I already had it, but in another place, so I felt like I didn’t need it here. Of course I needed it in the end. I realized that it doesn’t matter how long I’m going to stay here, I need to let people in. I need that support and exchange. So yes I need people. I think everybody needs people.
C: Is there something that you take with you everywhere?
AG: No I lose everything. I just listen to the same music. Music from home.
C: How would you describe your sense of humor?
AG: …It’s hard for me to laugh. I don’t really know how I would describe my sense of humor. . When people fall, that makes me laugh. When people aren’t prepared for something and it happens to them. Random stuff.
A: Do you find people funny?
AG: No. (laughs)
~C+A Consulting Artists
Video by Peter Smida.