Three Questions with Isaac Hernandez
Principal Dancer Isaac Hernandez joined SF Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2008 and was promoted to Soloist in 2011. He continued his career in Europe, joining the ranks of Dutch National Ballet, and most recently, English National Ballet. He returned to SF Ballet in 2022 as a Principal Dancer.
What are your first impressions returning to the company after more than a decade away?
It’s exciting because when I was here years ago, I was 18, and experiencing a lot of my first opportunities on stage as a professional dancer. I got to dance with Tina [LeBlanc], for example. My usual partner was Dores [André]. I got to create a few ballets with Yuri Possokhov, and it was the first time I worked with Christopher Wheeldon, with Wayne MacGregor. I remember when I left, I wrote a little card for Helgi [Tomasson], saying “Hi, I would love to be able to return after getting some more experience.” It feels a bit surreal to be back. And especially with Dores; we did so many things together in the corps de ballet and now we get to dance Romeo & Juliet together.
What are some of the favorite things you’ve danced this season?
Returning to Romeo & Juliet in rehearsal has been special. I used to do Benvolio in this version, and I used to do acrobats with Dores all the time [laughs]. So I know the production well. I’ve always loved the setting of it, and I like the fights. I have really good memories of Marty [Pistone] setting the fights. And I love the costumes, I love the sets. So having the chance to do Romeo now, it feels great. Also, I was with Dutch National when they co-produced Cinderella with San Francisco, and then I danced it at English National Ballet, and we brought it to Royal Albert Hall in the round—so I’m also intimately familiar with that ballet too. I’m having a good time, and think I’m having a very good first season back.
What are some things you love about the role of Romeo, either this production of others you’ve danced?
By far the hardest Romeo I’ve danced is Nureyev’s version, where Romeo is on the stage almost the whole of the three hours. It’s incredibly difficult technically, a very exhausting experience where you start the show afraid that you might not be able to finish it, but the storytelling is great. Generally, I’ve found that no matter the production it is quite a unique experience to be able to live through a whole life in the span of one evening. You start as a naive young guy who takes life very lightly, and then by the consequences of your choices, you end up with this tragic ending. And as an audience member as well, Romeo & Juliet is easy to connect to because at the core of it is that human condition and that also the innocence of teenage love, a kind of blind faith in love. I feel like if you capture that correctly, it can be a very moving and very beautiful experience.