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Carlos Pons Guerra: dancer

Carlos Pons Guerra. Photo: Josh Hawkins

The dance world is becoming increasingly aware of the talent of Carlos Pons Guerra. Daring, audacious and sublimely, riotously funny he has found a style and dancers to match. His company, DeNada Dance Theatre, is appearing In Young Man! at the International Dance Festival Birmingham – with a big leg of ham on stage.

A leg of ham?

Yes, it’s something to characterise Spanish macho. It’s always in my work, like a character in the narrative.

When did you start dancing?

At 15. You know Zenaida Yanowsky of the Royal Ballet? Her parents have a school on Gran Canaria, where I grew up, and I trained with them – in secret. At three I was taken along to watch my sister having flamenco lessons but I was never allowed to take part. It was not considered something for boys to do. I would grab my sister’s castanets and fans and I would clack away in my bedroom.

So where did your training continue?

At the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. I knew that I wanted to dance but my parents would never allow it. I told them I would go to Leeds to take a degree in English. I researched universities on the internet. A link for the Northern kept coming up on the screen – honestly. I sent a video of me dancing some ballet and then I passed the audition. I also got into Leeds university to do English so I could tell my parents I was doing English. I enrolled at the Northern but two weeks later my parent found out and I had to leave – but eventually, after a year, I came back and after I graduated I became an associate artist. Then, through Dance UK’s mentoring scheme, Javier de Frutos became my mentor – and he still is.

How do your parents feel now?

It took a while for them to come to terms with it. They have seen me dance. It has taken a long while for them to tell their friends. When I was training at the Northern and people asked what I was doing, they would say, ‘English… with a bit of drama’. In fact when I was injured the physio, on Gran Canaria asked what I had been doing to get hurt and my dad said, ‘Oh, a little bit of drama’.

How did your company come into being?

I had always been creative. I was never very good at doing exactly what people told me to. I was better at telling them. I auditioned when I left the Northern but just wasn’t getting the jobs. In an audition for Shobana Jeyasingh a French guy broke my thumb, because he didn’t know the counts. I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ When I finished at the Northern I made a piece for Reformation at the Place. The press really like that piece. I became an associate artist at the Northern and then the funding and mentoring started.

DeNada Dance Theatre’s Young Man! is at the Village Green on May 24 during the International Dance Festival Birmingham

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