Cristhiam Betanco lives in Nicaragua. He studies ballet for 8 years now and he trains and dances on pointe.
He started ballet in Ballet Estudio Aldoca, Leon, and five years later decided to move to Managua to attend ballet at Escuela Nacional de Ballet. Every time he needs a new pair of pointe shoes, Cristhiam gets re-fitted online by BestPointe, by a fitter located in Greece, and gets his custom-made pointe shoes made in Russia. Yes, ballet has no borders, but we were always curious to know more about the everyday ballet life in Nicaragua so we asked Cristhiam a few questions…
How did you decide to start ballet for the first time?
I first took a ballet class to improve my technique in contemporary dance. This was in 2010. It was a few years later I decided to study ballet.
How was your first lesson – can you remember it?
I remember it was all new to me, very basic techniques and lots of new complex terms in a different language (French) and I found it boring to start with.
Do you do it for your fun only or can it become a career?
At first, it was a hobby and to improve my technique in other areas of dance. Later on, I began to see the challenges involved in a career in dance. It was only after graduating from university with a degree in social work that I began to consider dance as a career.
Are there a lot of male dancers/ballet students in your country?
Not many, but even though ballet is relatively new to Nicaragua in comparison with other Central American countries there are quite a lot of male dancers. In the Escuela Nacional de Ballet (National School of Ballet) between 15 and 20% of the students are men.
Can you describe how is the situation with ballet – both amateur and professional in your country? Are there many schools and professional institutions? What would you like to change?
The Escuela Nacional de Ballet was first formed in 1988 and ran for 10 years. After a break, the school restarted in 2008 and ballet has developed enormously over the last 10 years. There have been huge advances in technical and professional areas and ballet is now more widely known and accepted as an art form. As the school is part of the government department for culture and receives government funding courses are very reasonably priced. There are other private studios and schools of dance in Managua (the capital) and other departments but the only accredited school where you can study ballet is the Escuela Nacional in Managua. That is why after doing ballet in León for five years I decided to come to Managua to study ballet formally.
How many years are you on pointe?
I got my first pointe shoes a couple of ago but have only been learning on pointes seriously for a year. As a male dancer there are not so many opportunities, but I want to learn so I can better understand the challenges for female dancers and be a better partner.
What do you do with your old pointe shoes?
I have just got my second pair and I still use my first pair from time to time, but I think I will frame them!
What was the story of your personal biggest challenge/achievement on pointe?
I haven’t had the chance to dance on pointe in a presentation yet but would love to do something – classical or neo-classical or maybe something satirical.
What would you like to say to someone who is challenged to enter a ballet class for the first time?
Ballet is not easy, it is painful but it is wonderful. If you are passionate about it, work hard at it and fight for what you want it is definitely worth it. As one of my first dance teachers said ‘’no pain, no gain”!
[video] Compañía Ballet de Nicaragua celebrates its 20th Anniversary with the presentation of "Carmina Burana":