Is Enrique Anaya the Next Diamond of Cindy Bradley's Ballet Academy?
Many stars have graced our hometown of San Pedro. From the days of the legendary Warner Grand theater to NASA astronaut Anna Fisher and ballerina Misty Copeland arises another star in the making, 19-year-old ballet dancer Enrique Anaya. Discovered by ballet visionary Cindy Bradley five years ago, she calls him the male Misty.
It seems that Misty has become an ever-present figure in our lives today, whether through the social media, locally in San Pedro, worldwide and especially within the depths of the ballet industry. Inspired by her story, we search for the next star, especially when in the presence of one. Monica Gelber, Anaya’s dance teacher at the Humanities and Arts Academy of Los Angeles insisted Bradley had to meet the young man. A meeting was arranged and when Anaya walked through the doors of the San Pedro City Ballet, he would take his first pre-professional ballet class that day. Bradley remembers how he worked as hard as everyone else. It took her one class to realize the unique talent that Enrique embodied.
“At the end of the class, Cindy pulls me over to the next room and it was like, ‘I can make you a dancer.’ She came on to me so aggressively, that I got so scared,” Anaya remembers and smiles at the memory of first meeting Bradley. “She now has me thinking about my career and I didn’t know I wanted to do ballet. I took a whole summer off after that. She only saw me once when I was 15 and it was to take that class.”
The industry, and not necessarily the art of ballet, is structured in ways that missing one year from an early age or even a class can overthrow an entire career. Anaya found ballet at the age of 15 and it was only after one year that he joined Bradley at the SPCB to train professionally. Most ballet dancers begin a decade sooner. While it might be too soon to call him a prodigy, Anaya’s innate ballet presence is marvelous, in person and on-stage, coupled with the grace and natural flexibility that already had him ahead of the game. “I knew I wanted to train him the minute he walked in and started dancing, taking barre. It was his ability to try and look like the others,” says Bradley. “That day I told him he had to give up everything to become a dancer. I can make him a professional dancer in three years. He looked at me with wide eyes and really stunned that he had to give up everything and had to come everyday starting then. I don’t think he knew he wanted to dance at that time. He left and I didn’t see him for a year. We lost a year.”
That is a year which Anaya is still trying to make up, even though since he has starred in two of SPCB’s Nutcracker performances and other dance productions across the United States. Today however, he has even more reason to celebrate. Recently he was accepted into eight different ballet programs for a five-week summer intensive that gives him the opportunity to train with and later audition for a ballet company. The Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theater, BalletMet, Joffrey Ballet and Miami City Ballet were among the companies. The “long and grueling” audition journey – as he remembers it - included traveling across the state and dancing seven days a week for the month of January. Amidst the pressure of breaking through and then making one of the toughest decisions in his life, beginning July Anaya chose to train with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Washington. In large part it was because of their Balanchine method and repertoire. The Balanchine method is an American aesthetic and modern style of ballet. Its quick movements and long lines also gracefully match the Latin free spirit in him. His dream role to portray one day is Basilio in Don Quixote. “I can be very flamboyant at times,” says Anaya. The flares of the nostrils and rising eyebrows, he explains, “I love it! I feel like such a man when I get into that character. It’s a fun ballet to watch, to do. It’s not something super dreadful.”
This past December he returned from New York City after spending the 2017-2018 seasons with the New York Dance Project under a scholarship and performing with Ballet Next. At the time Anaya received the scholarship, he had only two years of training at the SPCB. That has been a feat on its own. It was also his first time flying in a plane and being on his own. While in New York, Copeland would occasionally mentor him. However, New York wasn’t quite the launch pad he had hoped for. The pain of a dance injury – a stress fracture in his left tibia - held him back.
“I thought to myself, I don’t know how I am going to do this, and I should just quit. There was this little glimpse of hope that I had left in me that I cherish so much today. I stuck with it and now it’s like, we’re going places with this. This is the beginning of it, right here. Me coming back from New York and starting with Cindy. This is the beginning. Scratch the rest of the years off.”
Along with Anaya, twelve other SPCB dancers have been placed in summer intensive programs as well. Among them are two dancers which Bradley has been keeping an eagle’s eye on since last year’s Nutcracker for their wonderful performance. Helena Ghekiere, the lead role of Clara in the SPCB 2018 Nutcracker, will be going to The Joffrey Ballet, Chicago and Nicolette Tombu, which Bradley calls “a creature from another world,” will train with the American Ballet Theater in New York. The SPCB will also host a summer intensive joined by international guest artists from Ohio to Australia.
At the beginning of his journey Anaya couldn’t make class every day. Today he has the luxury to fully focus on ballet. His daily schedule consists of six to seven days a week, and up to eight hours a day of barre, stretching, center work and performance in the school’s various shows. Sometimes he spends hours privately with Bradley as she adjusts every single muscle and limb in his body. His challenge then is to emulate it in class and in performance. Anaya is under a constant magnifying glass with many eyes upon him, from the young ballerinas that he also takes class with, to ballet professionals and even journalists that drop by once in a while.
He is like a knight and shining armor walking across the halls of the school, having gained the admiration of the other ballet dancers. They sense the rough and long path which will eventually lead, as Cindy mentions, “towards an inspiring story of triumph.” His ability to smile all the time, even after taking a fall, equally creates a ripple effect through the studio halls. Once Anaya is up, he carries himself with a certain fearless presence and a loving focus for the art of ballet. Throughout the years he has also built a formidable muscle mass, transforming him from a 15-year-old teenager to a professional ballet dancer.
In a ballet world that constantly reaches to create a certain effortless illusion through movement and pointe, the ups and downs also feel heavier than anywhere else. Anaya finds common ground on this less taken path. In his heart especially, he has made the studio his home. “There is nothing that I admire most then when I am here by myself,” says Anaya. And when he is not by himself, he has the Bradley “eyes” that discovered the 21st century ballerina and her guiding comfort. “I love working with Cindy. That is my favorite thing in the world. I feel that I grow so much by being around her. I don’t think the world understands how lucky they are if she decides to give you attention. They are blessed,” says Anaya. “I feel so lucky.”
Note: Before Enrique departs to train with the Pacific Northwest Ballet he will perform in a special San Pedro City Ballet production Ballet Goes Broadway on June 1st. After the Pacific Northwest Ballet summer intensive, he will continue to train at the BalletMet.
Photography Credits by DIAMONDS MIRROR & Photographer KASHEA KLOSS – The images were photographed on film during Enrique Anaya’s training and performance in New York with the New York Dance Project in 2018.