Q&A: Karina Gonzalez on Jorma Elo and Her New Houston Family

Published in the June/July 2011 issue.

Gonzalez in class at Houston Ballet. Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

Houston Ballet’s “Raising the Barre” program, which runs through June 5, offers three ballets that are either new to the company (Christopher Wheeldon’s Rush, Christopher Bruce’s Grinning in Your Face) or new to the world (a premiere by Jorma Elo). Soloist Karina Gonzalez, who until last season was a principal with Tulsa Ballet, spoke to Pointe about her own debuts—in Elo’s work, and at Stanton Welch’s HB.

 

Pointe: Have you danced any Jorma Elo ballets before?
Karina Gonzalez: No, this is my first Elo piece ever. Actually, this is the first piece that’s been choreographed on me in Houston, and it’s also Jorma’s first piece for Houston Ballet. It’s a sort of “coming out” for both of us.
PT: Do you find his style challenging?
KG: Definitely! To move the way he moves, you have to be sharp and soft at the same time in different parts of your body.
PT:  Tell us about the new piece.
KG: It’s for six couples. I don’t think there’s a real story; Jorma just comes into the studio with a feeling or a mood in mind. During rehearsals for my pas de deux, he told me to move like I’m underwater. He told me to imagine waves in my arms.
PT: This is your first season in Houston. What drew you to HB?
KG: My time with TB was wonderful, but I was ready to push myself further in a bigger company, and to experience more cities and people and teachers. In Tulsa I had the opportunity to dance Stanton’s work, and I felt like we clicked—like I was his kind of dancer.
PT: You’re part of a new crop of dancers at HB that includes Melissa Hough and Danielle Rowe.
KG: Isn’t that amazing? That was part of why I came here, too: I wanted to dance next to all these beautiful women and learn from them.