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By Nelson Wyatt
Photograph by Paul Chiasson
The Canadian Press
July 22, 2013

Cesar Corrales rehearses in Montreal 2013

[Montreal, Canada] – When Cesar Corrales takes the stage at St-Sauveur’s prestigious arts festival, he’ll be performing with some of the best dancers in the world. It’s another big step for the 16-year-old dancer, who has already wowed international audiences. Yet Corrales can’t help cracking a big, incredulous smile when asked about his success.

“It’s amazing,” the prodigy says. “I’m honoured.”

The Mexican-born Corrales, who trained with the National Ballet School, won the 2013 Prix de Lausanne, which provides a scholarship to study with the world’s top ballet companies. He was a finalist at the 2013 Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s biggest ballet scholarship competition.

His performance in “Billy Elliot The Musical” before a Chicago audience that included Oprah Winfrey, Rev. Jesse Jackson and composer Elton John had him singled out by the Chicago Tribune as “a simply magnificent dancer.” Audiences leapt to their feet to give him enthusiastic ovations at a show in Toronto.

Anik Bissonnette, artistic director of the Festival des arts de St-Sauveur, says it is natural to include Corrales among the stars at her event, which includes talent from the American Ballet Theater, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet as well as Quebec contemporary dance icon Louise Lecavalier. “He represents the future,” said Bissonnette, who has known the young dancer and his parents since he was little.

Corrales will be part of the event’s International Ballet Showcase on July 27 and 28. The festival runs from July 25 to Aug. 3.

Afterward, he will spend some time in Europe where his mother will be working with the Norwegian National Ballet. He has also been approached about appearing in a new version of “The Nutcracker” later this year in Los Angeles.

The success is the result of years of hard work. “Every hour of the day, you need to remind yourself you’re a ballet dancer,” Corrales said in a recent interview. “You can’t go out for parties at night, you can’t be doing what normal people do because it’s just not normal. Ballet dancers are not normal. You get up early in the morning and you have to work even when you’re really tired. It’s discipline that you really need to follow.”

Corrales is encouraging his talented 10-year-old brother in his dancing but warns it’s not a life for everyone. “If you want to be a ballet dancer, you need to know what you’re going into,” he said. “It’s a very difficult thing. Not everybody can do it. You need to have the right proportions, you need to be mentally strong.”

Corrales is also a sports fan and used to play soccer. He was also a gymnast and won top prizes at Quebec and Canadian competitions. But dance entered his life when he was an infant and took an early hold as he followed his parents, who are originally from Cuba, as they worked around the globe.

“We were a couple of dancers travelling around the world so we didn’t have a grandma, we didn’t have someone to take care of the children,” says Taina Morales, his mother. “We had no choice and we had to bring Cesar to the studio, to the theatre, like someone bringing their child to the office.”

Some of Corrales’ earliest memories are of seeing his parents train and perform. The family also watched videos of ballet performances at home.

“Cesar was observing,” his mother says.

Even before he had completely learned to walk, he started doing little dances. “He’d listen to music and he’d start to perform,” Morales said. “He’d try to do turns, try to jump. We’d say, ‘That’s cute. He’s imitating us’.”

She noticed her young son was listening more attentively to the music and getting more serious as he got older, inventing characters and performing little roles. “He was doing very advanced steps for his age,” Morales said. “I wasn’t sure he was going to be a ballet dancer but I knew we had an artist at home.”

Corrales says a lot of his dancing at that young age was instinctive. “It’s just like watching TV for me,” he said. “I just put on the radio and just started dancing.”

His parents soon realized he was dancing classical ballet.

“There was a moment when I was concerned because he was jumping too high for his age and I had to say this is finished,” Morales recalled. “I started to play hip-hop at home. Then he started to dance hip-hop. If we played salsa, he started to dance salsa.”

Corrales joined Canada’s National Ballet School when he was 12. That’s when he knew what he wanted to do with his life. Since then, he’s had a lot of lessons from his parents and his mother now serves as his teacher.

“She’s tough,” Corrales says during a recent break. “She’s very disciplined.”

His mom, who retired from dance in 2004 to teach with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and the Ecole superieure de ballet du Quebec, is also careful to draw a line between the two sides of their lives, he adds. “When we’re in the studio, she’s my ballet teacher. She coaches me, she disciplines me. But outside, she’s my mom and she helps me through everything.”

Morales describes her son as a “good student” and says he’s inspiring to work with. She knows the demands of their profession and both parents encourage him to take good care of his body because dance is hard on it. “When we are young, we do many things because we are strong,” Morales says when asked her advice. “Everything is new. The back is new, the ligaments are new. And then we abuse.

“Listen to your body, never compromise yourself physically,” she advises Corrales and all her students. “You need to know when to say no.”

Discipline and training are important because she says there is less chance of injury when the dancer is strong.

Corrales is also heeding some other advice from his parents — keep your options open. He knows that down the road his body may not be so co-operative so he’s also looking at singing and acting. The young performer has already had a small part in one movie, “Shall We Dance” in 2004. He says he had a lot of fun with star Jennifer Lopez and got to dance with her.

“I also want to have doors open to different things like acting,” he said.

“Ballet’s just very hard, the body’s just so difficult. One day you can be hurting, the other day not. It’s like my instrument. One day you could get injured so we need to knock on wood.”

© 2013 Shaw Media Inc.

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