Hayna Gutierrez announces her retirement from Alberta Ballet

When Hayna Gutierrez began thinking about retiring, she was worried about leaving behind all of the wonderful friends and fans she has made in the nine years she’s been with Alberta Ballet. But she knows that no matter what she does next, the relationships she’s built in the Alberta Ballet community will always be a part of her life.

Hayna Gutierrez in the Alberta Ballet production of Don_Quixote from the 2014-15 season. Photo by Paul McGrath.

Hayna Gutierrez in the Alberta Ballet production of Don_Quixote from the 2014-15 season. Photo by Paul McGrath.

“It’s going to be very hard but I’m not going anywhere. I’m a part of this company and I want to continue to support the art. I’m leaving but I want this company to continue to succeed because it’s my family,” she said.

Hayna is married to Alberta Ballet dancer Garrett Groat and together they have a three-year-old son, Mateo. Over the years, she’s grown close with all of the dancers, and has watched many develop into exceptional performers. Knowing that the younger dancers are ready to take on more principal roles helped Hayna make her decision to retire.

“The new generation of dancers is impressive. Their improvement and commitment is impressive. I see now that those dancers are ready,” she said.  

She’s enjoyed mentoring the younger dancers and will continue to do so whenever she can. Her first piece of advice would be to never miss a ballet class. “That’s the key to your career. If you take a good ballet class every day, you continue to improve and grow. That’s the way you maintain your body and strength and technique. It’s academic.”

Hayna’s last performances with Alberta Ballet will be in Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle and The Drum in Calgary May 1-4 and Edmonton May 9-11.

Hayna was born in Havana, Cuba and began dancing at the age of three. She worked hard in her youth and by the time she was 16, she was dancing alongside her mother as a professional dancer in the Cuban National Ballet company. Nine years ago she joined Alberta Ballet following two years of freelancing in the U.S. She had remembered meeting Alberta Ballet’s Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maitre in Cuba in 2006 when he was developing a ballet there for a festival in Havana. He had seen her dance with the Cuban National Ballet and had complimented her on her performance afterwards. When it came time for her to look for a job, she remembered his kind words and sought out Alberta Ballet.

“He’s such a good person and he has so much to give. He’s opened so many doors for me,” Hayna said. “The company did everything for me and I felt so welcome. This was the place for me. I knew it. I’ve always given everything I had because they’ve given it back to me.”

Jean says he’s going to miss having Hayna in the studio every day.

“During my 35-year career making dances, there have been very few dancers with the intelligence, the artistry, the determination, the discipline and the passion she possesses. For any choreographer or Artistic Director, a dancer with Hayna’s brilliance is a blessing for she is not only a dancer of great talent, she is a muse,” Jean said. “I would like to thank her for the hundreds of extraordinary performances she has given us and for making ballet an even more powerful art form in this province.”

Out of all of the productions Hayna has been involved in, Jean’s Balletlujah! stands out as one of her favorites, she said.

“The time I took with Jean to create Balletlujah! was very intense, first to be able to understand who k.d.lang is, and what kind of personality I wanted to bring into my character. My favorite part of the process was listening to her music and that is what motivated me to create her character. What she wanted to say in those moments, and that connection with her words to the movement was very important to me,” she said.  

“It was something completely different from my classical repertoire. Dancing a full-length ballet in flat shoes hurts a lot, more than pointe, for me. It was a very tough ballet. And when I did it for the second time, I was pregnant. I saw the character in a different way. I was at another level in my life.”

The connections she’s made with audiences in Alberta are clear from her fans’ reactions. Messages of support have been coming in to Alberta Ballet since she announced her retirement.

“To me, she is the epitome of a classical dancer with a unique mix of power and grace; from the roles of Giselle to Princess Aurora she has a pure line of elegance, beautiful turns and physical and facial expressiveness that make every emotion transparent,” said Dance Circle member Pam FitzGerald. “’Brava’ dearest Hayna for an exemplary career … We thank you for dancing straight into our hearts.”

Dance Circle members Natasha and Michael Simaeys said they are grateful Hayna chose Alberta Ballet as her home for the last nine years.

“Hayna Gutierrez is one of those dancers who offers boundless emotion and energy to the audience. The experience of watching ballet will always be an ephemeral one, but Hayna possesses the ability to leave a vivid and lasting impression on one’s mind,” said Michael Simaeys.

“Hayna Gutierrez is an extraordinary dancer! She expresses so much dedication, strength, and passion on stage and in the studio. Her personality shines through and this is what really captured our admiration for her remarkable dancing, and her unique translation of ballet. We wish her all the best for her future,” added Natasha Simaeys.

But what’s next for Hayna? She plans to continue dancing as a guest principal artist and may start teaching to pass on her love of dance to the next generation.

“That’s what I want to give - passion. I don’t only want to teach technique. It’s very hard to teach that, but I would love to try to give them the passion that I still have inside, because you never stop dancing. You think you stop dancing, but it’s impossible. We can’t live without music and movement.”

Messages for Hayna can be sent to communications@albertaballet.com or posted on Alberta Ballet’s Facebook or Instagram pages.

Kim Jackson