Q&A with Alejandra Perez-Gomez
May 19, 2021
Alejandra Perez-Gomez. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
What have you been doing in your spare time since the pandemic hit?
To be honest, I think I’ve had less spare time since the pandemic hit. With my husband mostly working from home (he teaches high school) and both of my kids (aged 11 and 4) at home as well, many of my days have been spent keeping my youngest child out of my husband’s Zoom meetings, helping my older child with his schoolwork, making a steady stream of snacks and mediating sibling squabbles. There have also been many, many wonderful and rewarding moments, but I haven’t had time to take up an instrument or learn out how to make a soufflé.
What would you have done as a career if you hadn't pursued ballet?
Well, my love of music is what drew me to ballet as a young child, so it’s very possible that I would have gravitated to a music-related field. However, I’m also an avid reader, and I’ve been interested in psychology and philosophy since my late teens, so it’s likely that I would have ended up with a career that followed from those interests – perhaps related to teaching, research or writing.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage?
Yes, I’ve had a few, but the one that really stands out happened my first year in the company. I had a lightning speed “quick change” to do, which required me to take off a dress and slip into a unitard with a sheer mesh back in about two minutes. Unfortunately, in the scramble of the dimly lit wardrobe booth, I put the unitard on backwards – with the see-through side at the front. I didn’t notice that I was essentially “topless” until a couple of counts before going on stage, so it was too late to run back and fix it…but the show went on!
What is your work philosophy?
To wholeheartedly do my best with what I have. In practice, this means that I try to fully explore and enjoy the roles I’m given, and to really push myself while accepting my physical and psychological limitations.
Alejandra Perez-Gomez in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
How do you handle criticism?
It really depends on the context and delivery of the criticism. If the feedback is well-intentioned, serves a constructive purpose and pertains to something that I can actually change, then I’d say I handle it well. However, I can also imagine plenty of situations where I’d feel defensive or hurt when criticized.
What is your definition of a successful ballet dancer?
Well, I should start by saying that I view the term “success” with considerable suspicion. I really tend to shy away from framing things in terms of success and failure, mostly because I think that too much focus on chasing an ever-moving goalpost of success – one that’s often determined through social comparisons and other people’s standards – can be an easy recipe for chronic dissatisfaction and misdirected energy. That said, I think the most fundamental task of a dancer is to completely give themselves over to the performance at hand and (hopefully) move the audience in the process. So, broadly speaking, I think that a dancer has succeeded when they have created an artistic moment that has touched the audience.
What’s the best thing about being a dancer?
The greatest gift this career has given me is the constant opportunity to reconnect with the primal, child-like joy inherent in story-telling, acting and dancing to beautiful music. I feel very privileged that my daily life has included so many opportunities for exhilaration and magic.
What’s the worst?
The most difficult thing is coming to terms with the fact that hard work doesn’t always translate into better outcomes (i.e., improved dancing and more interesting roles). Luck, natural talent and the variable artistic whims at the front of the room play a huge role in dictating the course of one’s career, and this lack of control can be extremely stressful and frustrating.
Alejandra Perez-Gomez and her children.
What music are you listening to right now?
My family and I have regular living room dance parties, and the musical selection for those is often a mixture of Motown, Doo-wop, New Wave and the Hamilton soundtrack. I also listen to a lot of jazz, classical music and artists that would fall into the rock/pop/alternative categories.
What are three random things most people don't know about you?
I’m an avid knitter, I speak Spanish and French, and I’m pursuing a degree in psychology (online through Queen’s University).
What was the last thing you changed your mind about?
For a long time, I felt certain that I only wanted to have one child – possibly because I grew up as an only child myself and quite enjoyed it. However, as our forties approached, my husband and I decided to take the plunge and have another kid, and I’m so glad we did – Amelia is a true ray of sunshine with a huge personality. Also, the joy I feel watching my kids play together and look out for one another is like nothing else.
What cheers you up on an off day?
The sound of my kids laughing.
Do you have any bad habits that you're working on breaking?
I’m trying to become more aware of how often I reflexively pick up my phone for no good reason other than a “quick fix” of stimulation – which is too often – so that I can be more deliberate about my phone use and less distracted in general, especially when I’m around my kids.
What is your favourite onstage memory?
I really don’t think I can pick one. However, I love thinking back to the (many) times that something funny or unexpected happened on stage – like a wardrobe or prop malfunction – and the problem was dealt with swiftly and creatively. Those are the moments that become hilarious and legendary stories, and that heighten the camaraderie that exists between dancers.
Svetlana Lunkina and Alejandra Perez-Gomez in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic.
What is your favourite ballet and why?
There are many, many ballets that I adore so it’s very hard to narrow it down to only one. However, in the “full-length” category, I’d have to say that Romeo and Juliet wins – I never tire of it, mostly because the music is just breathtaking.
What's the biggest risk you've taken, either personally or in your career?
Well, I married a guy after knowing him for only eight months – I’d say that’s a pretty risky thing to do! I certainly wouldn’t advise my kids to do this, but considering that the guy in question is their father and we’re still happily married 18 years later, it’s definitely the best impulsive decision I’ve ever made.
What are you reading right now?
Aside from the textbook readings related to my psychology degree, I usually have a couple of books on the go. Currently, I’m about half way through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest – I’ve been a fan of his essays for a while, but I hadn’t read any of his fiction and this book has been on my to-read list for years. I also have a copy of the poet David Whyte’s Consolations by my bed; it’s a beautiful collection of short, poetic meditations on the meaning of everyday words, and I’ll often grab it and read a section at random.
Tell us about an awe-inspiring thing you've seen or experienced.
One experience that really stands out happened on tour with the company in Victoria about 15 years ago. I went with a group of dancers on a whale-watching boat ride at sunset and we happened to catch a mother whale and her calf playfully (and repeatedly) leaping out of the water. Watching those gigantic creatures propel themselves out of the ocean in the dusk light – just metres from our boat – was truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring.
If you could invite three people to dinner, dead or alive, who would they be?
The list of interesting, famous people that that I’d love to meet is very long. However, since this question gives me the ability to raise the dead, I’d have to say that my very first choice would be to have dinner with my mom, who passed away in 2006. Since we’d have so much catching up to do, I wouldn’t invite anyone else to the dinner – except my kids of course, since she never had the opportunity to meet them.
What’s the number one item on your bucket list?
Despite my love of music, I’ve never learned to play an instrument; we already have a piano in the house (my husband and son play), so I’d like to take some beginner lessons in the not-too-distant future.
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