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Some dancers love ballet right from the very first plié. As a 4 year old at a little school in Buenos Ares, Argentina, Erica Cornejo was one of them. When she was nine she was accepted into the school of the Ballet del Theatre Colon; she became an apprentice to the company five years later and a full company member soon thereafter.
After seven years with Ballet del Theatre Colon she joined Julio Bocca's company, and toured the world dancing everything from Balanchine to classical excerpts to tangos. Her great influences during the Bocca years were ballet mistress Lidia Segni, along with Raoul Candal and Vasily Tupin, teachers and principal dancers who emphasized Russian technique.
In 1998, Erica came to New York to dance at the Metropolitan Opera House at a special celebration of Argentina. President Clinton was even in the audience. The following week she auditioned for A.B.T., won a contract with the Studio Company and only four months later joined the senior company.
The first spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House was grueling, as it is for all corps members because they are expected to dance in almost every piece. For Erica, there was the added challenge of adjusting to working in such a big company. By the following spring, she had been singled out and chosen for soloist roles in La Bayadere, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and Paul Taylor's Airs.
Success built upon success; over subsequent seasons she was cast in works by Neuemier, Graham, Tippet, and Tharp. She danced the spitfire role of the Gypsy in Don Quixote, an expressive leading part in Taylor's Depression-era piece, Black Tuesday, a principal role in Mark Morris' Asiatically evocative Gong, the premiere of Kirk Peterson's Amazed in Burning Dreams and the Autumn variation in Cinderella. And on Opening Night of the 2001 City Center Season, her coquettish, sparkling allegro brought down the house in Eliot Feld's Variations on America, danced with Angel Corella. Later that season she displayed her versatility as an actress in Agnes de Mille's Rodeo.
Erica loves the challenge of A.B.T.'s diverse repertoire; she relishes change and learning different styles. She found Graham the biggest challenge in that regard, "it's uncomfortable," she says, but enjoyed adapting to the Taylor style. Rodeo was a different — but fun — challenge, with lots of mime and detail to remember. She is clearly at ease being a soubrette, she's a natural allegro dancer who can handle repeated entrechat six in what is essentially a man's variation in the Pas de Trois of Swan Lake, but she loves the lyrical roles too. When asked what she would like to dance she says, "everything".
The challenges of achieving success at A.B.T. and learning English and living far from home have been made easier by having her brother and frequent partner, Herman, also in the company. And she appreciates the quality of life that American dancers have compared to their counterparts in Argentina where there are shortages of shoes and make-up, few good theatres, no nice dressing rooms. She does miss her native food and when she is at home likes to cook vegetarian dishes or bake, especially dessert.
Erica discovered Gaynor Minden at A.B.T. and switched to them because she likes the comfort and stability both en pointe and working flat. She also appreciates not having to break them in or soften them before dancing. To aspiring dancers she advises, "follow your heart."