• Camilo Ramos and Yanela Piñera
    Camilo Ramos and Yanela Piñera

Denise Richardson talks to the Queensland Ballet’s stunning principal dancers, Yanela Piñera and Camilo Ramos, about their emotional journey from Cuba.

Queensland Ballet (QB) principal artists Yanela Piñera and Camilo Ramos first came to Brisbane in 2010, as members of the National Ballet of Cuba, performing in its sensational production of Don Quixote. They knew a little about Australia, but
nothing of Brisbane. Finding themselves now firmly established in the city, seven years later, is still a source of wonderment to them both.

“We had a great time here,” enthuses Piñera. “We went to the zoo, walked around the city, saw the Valentino exhibition. One of the things that impressed us most was the (Southbank) artificial beach in the middle of the city. Brisbane was one of the best places we had been to with the company. And then seven years later we are living here! So funny!”

I caught up with both dancers (who are partners off-stage) for coffee, across the road from QB’s West End headquarters before morning class, and asked them first about the catalyst for this huge relocation to the other side of the world – artistic director Li Cunxin’s invitation in 2014 to join the company. Li had been visiting the National Ballet of Cuba in Havana and was so impressed he offered them both contracts – Piñera as principal artist and Ramos as soloist. Although they had a month to consider the offer, they didn’t hesitate.

“It was time for a change,” insists Piñera, “this career is so short. When you work with different people you learn a lot. Even when doing different versions of the classics, like Swan Lake, Coppélia or The Sleeping Beauty.”

“We had been wanting to try something new,” adds Ramos, “although not necessarily to leave the company or the country.” However, it was too good an opportunity to miss, with a chance to embrace a completely different style and new repertoire. Although they arrived at QB able to turn, to jump and do tricks – after all, as Ramos reminds me, “the ballet school (in Cuba) is one of the best in the world – here the style is more refined.” . . . 

This is an extract from Denise Richardson's interview with Yanela Piñera and Camilo Ramos. Read the full story in the published in the April/May '18 issue of Dance Australia... out now! Buy the new issue at your favourite magazine retailer or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app or subscribe here.

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