Company dancer Victor Zarallo (left) has gone through a few new beginnings in his time. Before joining Sydney Dance Company earlier this year, Victor was a Soloist with the Scottish Ballet. Prior to his decade-long ballet career, he was a professional ballroom dancer, awarded Spanish National Champion at the age of 14.
We caught up with Victor while on break from tour to chat about his ballet background, the challenges of finding his own way of moving, and the rewards of being a Company dancer.
Tell me about your dance background. How did you come to where you are now?
I started my dance career as a ballroom dancer when I was nine years old in Barcelona. When I was 15 I went to the world championships in ballroom dance. The male dancers there had really good posture compared to me. My teacher said they do ballet everyday, that’s why they have an extra quality to their movements.
I started dancing ballet three times a week and my teacher saw a lot of potential in me, so I decided to take it more seriously. I auditioned for the John Cranko School in Stuttgart, Germany, and got a position for my year. Later, I went to the Royal Ballet School in London, and after graduating, I got my first job as a ballet dancer at the Scottish Ballet. I danced for ten years with the Scottish Ballet, with two promotions to First Artist and Soloist. After that, I decided to change my career and come to Sydney Dance Company for a little adventure.
Why did you transition to contemporary dance after a career in ballet?
In the Scottish Ballet, they had their own repertoire which repeated itself through the years. Being a Soloist dancer, I was doing all the main roles, and it got quite repetitive for me. Every year, I would dance in a ballet I already did three years ago, so I felt like I wasn’t growing very much as a dancer and I was becoming a bit stuck. I feel with contemporary dance, you can really be yourself, which I’ve never really experienced. I decided to go into contemporary dance, and I knew that Sydney Dance Company was a company that would suit me very well.
Was the transition from ballet to contemporary dance challenging for you?
The transition wasn’t difficult, because being a classical dancer, you have good fundamentals of technique. Once you have good, grounded ballet technique – and I think that’s the most difficult thing to have as a dancer – every other aspect of dance becomes easier for you.
The most challenging aspect is for me, I’m very used to being directed in the studio and someone telling me what they want from me, or how I should move. I think it’s very challenging here because while there is a lot of direction towards the movement or how you have to move to look good with the company, you also have to find your own expression and way of moving.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being a Company dancer?
I feel like the most rewarding part is going on stage every night. Sydney Dance Company gives you a lot of room to experiment and to make the movement a bit more interesting for yourself. They give me a lot of responsibility and trust to make the choreography suit myself. So everyday, I’m trying to find new movements that suit me and will suit the company, so I can bring something different to the company.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself as a dancer since joining Sydney Dance Company?
I wouldn’t be able to say only one thing, but I think the most important thing is I wake up every morning and I’m looking forward to going to work. Everyday when I finish work, I’m looking forward to the next day. Sydney Dance Company has brought me a will and a motivation of waking up and coming to work with a smile.
What are some special moments you’ve cherished since joining the Company?
I will always remember the premiere of ab [intra]. It was a very important step in my career. After dancing in a company for ten years, and moving to another company, it wasn’t easy, since you’re very used to dancing in one style or one group of dancers. So the most special moment has been the ab [intra] premiere in Sydney which was incredible.
See Victor perform in ab [intra], touring Canberra from 30 August – 1 September.