English National Ballet’s Mexican star Isaac Hernández and his life as a new dad

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Isaac Hernández appears remarkably perky given that he is coping with the demands of getting back on stage coupled with the far more exhausting needs of a new baby. Sitting in one of the spacious reception areas of the English National Ballet’s new home in Canning Town, the dancer — a lead principal with the company — looks far younger than his 31 years, with a deliciously unruly mop of curls and dark, expressive eyes.

He proudly shows off photos of little Mateo, who has clearly inherited his parents’ good looks —his mother is the company’s artistic director and supremely elegant Spanish ballerina, Tamara Rojo.

His arrival has clearly changed Hernández. “Mateo came along and gave me a sense of purpose,” he says.

“I wondered what it was going to do for me on the stage. What I found was that there was a lot more clarity in my head about what dance meant and what Mateo meant for me as well. I was able to let go of a lot of noise that was in my head before. It went away and I was able to enjoy my time dancing. But then right after the performance would finish, I would think of Mateo and run back to him. I realized that even though dance is my identity and has a very important place in my life, it is no longer the only source of happiness that I have.”

Fatherhood has come as a shock, albeit a pleasant one. “The first week was a little bit overwhelming because it is a 24-hour job,” he says. “The first few days we stayed in the hospital, we had the help of the nurses, but then the first day you arrive home you really feel alone. Obviously, there are some days when you really just need to rest, and the third time he wakes up [at night], you really struggle with that, then he smiles at you…and that’s it. It has the power to really change you.”

If dealing with one baby is hard, Hernández can only look back with awe at how his parents coped. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, he was number seven in a family of 11 children, which he says was “Old Testament” in its size. They were very active in the Jewish community in the city. “We grew up with the idea that we would eventually move to Israel to live on a kibbutz. My father was obsessed with that idea, my mother didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it, so we were going in that direction. We were getting Hebrew lessons and we took part in our community’s Israel 50th anniversary celebrations.”

With other members of the local community preparing to make aliyah, a move to Israel looked on the cards. It was only when the subject of compulsory military service came up that the mood changed. “My mum got really scared and we decided to wait a little bit. They continued to put it off and that’s how we didn’t end up going on a kibbutz. If you talk to my dad nowadays, he still regrets not having done that, but in a way, he made his own kibbutz at home!”

Hernández inherited the determination to be a dancer from his father Hector, who wanted to dance against the wishes of his own father, who was an architect. It was only when he died that Hector, aged 15, plucked up the courage to leave home and train to be a dancer. “He was taking three or four classes a day, trying to make up time, and that is how ballet got into our family.”

With such a large family, money was tight and the children were home-schooled. It was a challenge keeping them occupied. “My father said he was sitting on his bed and asking God what to do with us, and he thought, well, let’s teach them ballet. He asked us, ‘Do you want to do ballet?’ Up to that point, we had no idea our parents had been ballet dancers. We had not even mentioned the word ballet. So they set up a barre in the backyard and started training us there. That changed not only my life but the rest of my family’s life.”

Displaying a formidable talent from a young age, along with his brother Esteban, now also a professional dancer, Hernández started traveling abroad to take part in competitions. At 13, he left to train in Philadelphia at the Rock School for Dance Education.

“I felt it was just another trip, I didn’t realize I would never go back to living at home ever again. It was quite nice to spend my teenage years there because the directors of the school were very good people, they understood that it must have been hard for me and they became my surrogate parents.” His older sister joined him to keep an eye on the teenager. “I was lucky to have her there because she was not trying to be my mother, she was just trying to keep me company. I still had the feeling of freedom, of being away from parents.”

Source: El Universal

Mexico Daily Post