I have three older brothers. When I came along mum she wanted that I did feminine things: there was too much football in the house. I was always dressed in pink and, and then when I was three, she took me to a dancing school. It was though a lightbulb came on in my head. It's difficult to explain. There's a book called The Soul's Code, and according to James Hillman every one of us is born with a calling, a vacation, a destiny. A daimon. Mine was dance.
Marianela Núñez is in Milan to dance in Onegin which opens tonight at La Scala. Onegin is played by Roberto Bolle.
I'm a fan of Roberto: he's a gentleman. Humble, even though he's applauded like a rockstar: he works seriously and goes below the surface. I am thankful to be able to do what I love with colleagues of such depth! My dreams have come true.
Many interviews with dancers feature the word “sacrifice”. Núñez was born a worker. A quality that permitted her to leave Argentine for The Royal Ballet when she was just 15-years-old.
They say it's a life of sacrifices but in reality, I like discipline. You want something? Then you must work for it! From when I was eight until I was 14 I went to dance lessons in Buenos Aires during the morning, at school in San Martín in the afternoon, and then from 7 o'clock until 10 o'clock in the evening I returned to the capital for more classes. I would come home to school work and dinner. Four hours in the car every day but I didn't suffer. Occasionally, my parents would try to intervene and tell me to stay in my bedroom and relax. But I would go crazy, and say, “No, I'm going!”
I wanted to leave Buenos Aires when I was 12. People would say, “With your talent you deserve a career in Europe.” The first person to help me was Maximiliano Guerra. Certainly at 15 I was young and I missed my parents – we are as attached to our families as much as the Italians are – but I matured quickly, and I became even more committed to dance. Give me pointe shoes and I'm happy, at peace, at one with myself.
Tatiana in John Cranko's ballet is a role Núñez dances with The Royal Ballet.
I'm mad about Tatiana. I saw Onegin so many times I already knew the choreography by heart before I even started rehearsing it. Tatiana is young, passionate, sensitive and intense, yet after having been rejected by Onegin she blooms as a woman, and reveals herself as a woman of character.
These ballets have so much to teach us. We live in a world that is fast and hyper-technological, where often there is no space left for magic. Like Giselle for example. These are stories that happen to everyone: who hasn't had their heart broken at least once? Yet often we don't analyse these sentiments in depth. People protect themselves as much as possible, they close in on themselves, they don't participate in life. They stay in front of a computer screen losing contact with their heart. They are afraid to open up to passion.
I am very passionate about my work and I'm passionate when I'm in love. I am open and I give myself completely, on stage and off. I don't hold anything back. Certainly, with dance you need many years to study technique to acquire complete control of your body but then, on stage, it's time to let yourself go.
After a long relationship with fellow Principal Dancer at The Royal Ballet, Thiago Soares, she is now in a relationship with Alejandro Parente, also from Argentina and a Principal at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
I took two or three tango lessons in Paris with Alejandro, but unfortunately it is very difficult for a classical dancer: it requires improvisation, where we are used to choreography, and above all, from the woman, it means trusting in your partner even though you don't know what step he will do next. But sooner or later I will do a show about the tango! I adore the music, and I'm fascinated by the relationship — sensual yet elegant at the same time — that is established between partners.
Dating (and marrying) a colleague?
It's impossible to generalise whether having a relationship with a colleague makes life easier or more difficult; every relationship is different. It depends on the people. With my boyfriend, we've talked about this. Our conclusion? We must live the moment.
Now, I feel very happy and fulfilled. Besides we are always in evolution: I'm not the person I was yesterday and I'm not the person I will be tomorrow. In 10 years' time – who knows?
So, when not dancing, what does Marianela Núñez do for pleasure?
I'm a workaholic, so every morning I do my class. But I love going to the cinema, I watch Netflix, I read… at the moment I'm reading a biography of Margot Fonteyn: fantastic!
When I can I return to Argentina where I can recharge my batteries surrounded by the love of my family. I'm on tour in wonderful places 12 months every year, so who needs exotic holidays?
Marianela Núñez was talking to Maria Laura Giovagnini for Io Donna
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.