Meet the Artists: Melissa Fernandez and Christopher Bloom
September 15, 2017
Lincoln Center's 2017 fall season on PBS begins with Ballet Hispánico—the U.S.'s premier Latino dance company—dancing two of its iconic works, CARMEN.maquia and Club Havana in a special Lincoln Center at the Movies presentation.
Two of the company's dancers, Melissa Fernandez and Christopher Bloom, answered a few of our questions in advance of the screening.
Top three influences, artistic or otherwise?
Melissa Fernandez: 1) My mom, because she taught me how to be a strong and resilient woman. Also, her tenacity to get things done and the unconditional love she has for her children is utterly inspiring. 2) My life partner Lyvan Estaban Verdecia Marrero. We met while dancing together at Ballet Hispánico and have been together for two years. In such a short time he has become a deep influence because he is so intricately tied to my personal and professional life. He teaches me to truly enjoy the moment onstage and to never be afraid of the unknown. 3) Finally, my spiritual influence and best friend from college is Hannah Wright Neeleman. When we met while studying dance together at Juilliard we immediately bonded over our connection with the principles of Christianity and found peace and joy in one another. We were totally opposites in some ways and in others we perfectly complemented each other. Aside from being a phenomenally gifted dancer whom I still look up to in these current times, she is a brilliant wife and mother to 4 incredible children.
Christopher Bloom: Artistic: Hofesh Schecter, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, Ethan Hawke.
Top three pieces of advice for aspiring artists?
MF: Have confidence and faith in your worth, talent, and skill. Be patient. Never cry in front of your superiors (director, teacher, etc.).
CB: Know your value and don't compromise your worth. In all things, ask yourself why as well as what to do. Don't necessarily work harder, work smarter.
Artist you'd most like to collaborate with?
MF: I'd love to collaborate with my Juilliard college classmates again, who are all over the world right now in incredible companies and projects.
CB: It would be awesome to get into the studio with Azure Barton, Hofesh Schecter, Akram Khan, Alexander Ekman, and Sidi Larbi Cherkoui.
First time you realized you wanted to be a dancer?
MF: My very first recital at the age of 5. I went onstage performing as a little doll and immediately I knew I wanted to feel that rush of elation and adrenaline all my life.
CB: The first time I knew I want to do this professionally was late at night when I was 15 and I was watching Ethan Steifel and Sascha Radetsky in Center Stage. It's corny but true. My interest in performing as a classical dancer quickly waned but my need to explore movement only intensified.
What you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
MF: Not everything is personal and that "even the girls with not so good feet can make it, so stop hating your body and believing those self-imposed limitations."
CB: That I should listen to my body and figure out how I dance from the very beginning. As a younger dancer, I thought that my teachers were giving me a formula for success similar to a recipe, as in, "Use these ingredients and follow these steps and you will be a successful dancer." It wasn't until much later that I realized that they were offering me information that I needed to evaluate, experiment with, decide what works for me, and leave the rest behind.
MF: Crosstrain (cardio, yoga, pilates, swimming, and weight training). In class, listen to your body because it knows better than you. If a muscle or joint hurts more than normal, STOP or modify combinations.
CB: Identify what you're not good at and work on that. But don't hate yourself for having things that you're not good at.
You hope someone comes away from one of your shows feeling…?
MF: I want the public to come away feeling entranced by what they witnessed, whether it was something festive, joyous, sensual, or dark I want them to have been completely immersed in that sensation for a long moment and go home reflecting on that emotion.
CB: Anything. An emotional response is all I'm after.
Next goal or challenge you're setting for yourself?
MF: Honing my choreographing skills in order to become a successful creator alongside my partner as well as independently. However, ultimately my goal is to be an inspiring educator/instructor who can share her knowledge and experiences with the next generation of flourishing artists.
CB: My first goal is mental health, because I've lived with bouts of depression since my teens. In the past couple of years, after encouragement from my fiancé, I've gotten into therapy and have gotten a handle on myself.
A big artistic goal going forward is depth in my performances. Experience, i.e., time on this earth, is irreplaceable onstage. I'm still young by the standards of the world but by dance standards I've become one of the more experienced dancers in many situations. I'm learning how to use my experience to create the kind of emotional complexity and depth I have seen in the dancers I most admire.