When Daniel Camargo stepped down as first soloist at the Dutch National Ballet in July 2019, he was leaping into the unknown. Embarking on a career as a freelance dancer after seven years performing for some of Europe’s most prestigious companies, Camargo would find himself far from home in 2021, ready to make his name known in Hong Kong.
In March, Camargo accepted an invitation from the Hong Kong Ballet’s artistic director Septime Webre to dance the lead roles in Emeralds and Diamonds within the company’s rendition of Jewels in May, followed by the part of Romeo in its unique take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in June. A first for Camargo, choreographer George Balanchine’s 1967 gemstone-inspired triptych is regarded as one of the most daunting and technical productions to perform, due to the different styles that dancers must master. Although Camargo had already performed the classic tragedy multiple times throughout his career, dancing Romeo + Juliet—Webre’s innovative re-envisioning set amid triad gang tension in 1960s Hong Kong—was a refreshing new challenge for the 29-year-old.
Camargo, who trained at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart under the Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s Pyotr Pestov, started his career as a soloist with the Stuttgart Ballet in 2012. The multi-award-winning performer was promoted to principal dancer just one year later, then became principal dancer at the Dutch National Ballet from 2016 until his departure two years ago.
After a period of uncertainty and time spent away from performing, this is a momentous year for the dancer: following his summer in Hong Kong, he will appear in the animation-live action hybrid film adaptation of the classic ballet Coppelia in the lead role of Franz, alongside Michaela DePrince’s Swanhilda, or “Swan”. Camargo will also star in the Amazon Studios production Birds of Paradise, a ballet drama that follows two dancers at an elite Parisian academy, directed by Sarah Adina Smith. Both films are slated for release in 2021.
In the meantime, poised to perform both of the Hong Kong Ballet’s productions as live audiences were permitted again, Camargo met Tatler to discuss his return to the stage as a freelancer and the work that goes into creating characters through dance.
How has Covid-19 affected your career?
After I stepped down as principal dancer at the Dutch National Ballet in July 2019, I became a freelancer. When Covid hit, all the theatres in Europe closed or shut down. I knew that I was going to have a very long time without performing, so I just took the time off because I couldn’t do anything about it. After receiving Septime’s invitation in February, I arrived in Hong Kong in March and was in quarantine for three weeks. The Hong Kong Ballet put me up in a really nice place where there was a studio so I could train and get back in shape.
How do you find working with the Hong Kong Ballet different to the companies you have collaborated with before?
I have been with a lot of ballet companies in Asia: Japan, Singapore, Korea, Taipei and China but never Hong Kong. [The Hong Kong Ballet] is a very young company. The dancers are young and there is a really good energy. They are always ready to go on to the stage and they really want to learn.
Is dancing in Asia different to your experiences elsewhere?
In Asia, people really appreciate and respect the art form of ballet. This is something that Brazil can learn from. The ballet community there is very small. People don’t know what it takes to become an artist, whereas in Asia I feel that people do.