Karina González has not only carved a name out for herself among the dance world as Houston Ballet’s First Hispanic Principal Ballerina, but she has shown the grace and beauty of Venezolanos through her charismatic personality and giving nature. Not only does she light up the stage with her performances that showcase the training and dedication she has cultivated over the years, but she also gives back to the country that began her storybook journey into dancing.
Growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, González shares with HipLatina that it was at the tender age of seven that her journey into the dance world began. “I was a very energetic little girl. My mom took care of a little girl that did gymnastics, and I would repeat everything that she did. I think that’s how I started my love with exercise,” said González. But it was fate you might say, introduced her to ballet.
“My mom was looking for extra activities for my older sister. We were looking for a folk-dance school and my mom didn’t know the address to this place and was asking for directions in the street and they sent us to a ballet school instead,” González says. “At that moment, they were doing auditions. My sister and I did the audition. It was the perfect time to be there. I did the audition and I got in. I think life had that planned for me there and that’s how I fell in love with ballet.”
From there on, González shared her mom loved the idea of her doing ballet and supported her from day one as she began her training. “I just can’t picture myself doing anything else. I joined that school at seven years old and graduated at 16. At 16 I got on contract with the Ballet Nacional de Caracas and I was there for almost two years before the Director from the Tulsa Ballet came to do auditions in Caracas, and that’s how I got a contract to come here to the states,” González says. A fairytale not many would imagine for a young Latina but who has shown that with determination and hard work you can accomplish anything you set your mind too.
As González embarked on her professional career in ballet in the United States, it didn’t take long before she grew from being a member of the corps de ballet to reaching the rank of principal with the Tulsa Ballet in 2007. It was during her time with the Tulsa Ballet that she had the opportunity to work with Stanton Welch, artistic director of the Houston Ballet. “I fell in love with work and felt like I wanted to keep reaching and learning new ideas and be inspired by other people,” shared González about her journey into the Houston Ballet. “I auditioned and sent my video and photos to the Houston Ballet and he invited me to do an audition in Houston, Texas. I came and was offered a soloist contract. I remember saying yes right way even after the director told me to go home and think about it.”
This Latina trailblazer has had the opportunity to dance by some of the world’s most renowned choreographers such as Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, Dracula, Romeo and Juliet, and The Sleeping Beauty. Andre Prokovsy’s The Great Gatsby; John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrews (Kate); Ai-Gul Gaisina’s staging of Giselle; George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, Serenade, and Emeralds, are just some of the few outstanding roles shared on her biography. González joined the Houston Ballet as a soloist in 2010 and was promoted to principal dancer in 2013.
In her 10th season, González who is married and has a baby girl is showing no signs of slowing down in her dancing career. Some of her favorite shows to perform include Sylvia, The Merry Widow, Coppélia, Romeo & Juliet, and of course, the widely popular Houston Ballet: The Nutcracker in which she has been featured as a Sugar Plum Fairy and the role of Clara.
“I can’t really say there is one specific. I think every debut is very special,” shared González. You might ask, how does she do it all and still manage to take your breath away with her versatile roles on stage? Her newest role that of motherhood has only enhanced her world adding another chapter to an already beautiful fairytale story. “I leave the baby with my mom, which is a blessing, I come to the ballet to rehearse for about six hours, go home at 7:30 p.m. and try to spend as much time with the baby before putting her to bed,” González shares on what a typical day unfolds like. Not only is she tackling these various life roles but she is also taking college courses to get her dance degree. “I feel like I try to do so much which I feel like it’s a good thing because I know ballet is not forever so I’m trying to get to that next step in my life before I retire,” she adds.
González has built an impressive and decorated career for herself in the world of ballet and has garnered awards such as a silver medal winner of the New York International Ballet Competition in 2007, as well as being a guest artist at the Gala International Colombia (2006) and at the New York International Ballet Competition’s Gala (2009), as shared on her biography. She speaks highly of the many mentors she’s made throughout her career. She credits many role models she watched and learned from and applied to her technique.
“My director for Tulsa, when they promoted me to principal, I remember he said now I am an example for the new generation so everything you do they will follow you. I keep that in my mind every day,” González says. “I remember being one of the young dancers dreaming of being a principal dancer and now that I am a principal dancer, I know younger dancers are looking up to me so I feel like I remember that phrase every day of my career now.”
One of the obstacles González mentions she faced along the way was leaving her family back in Venezuela to embark on her dancing career. With her family still back in Venezuela, she has made it a point to give back to her country. A country which over the last few years has found itself in the worst economic turmoil in its history. Many Venezuelans today find it difficult to even get basic necessities such as food sent to them from loved ones. González, along with her mother, recently started a non-profit organization called, Fundación KG TUS MANOS Y MIS MANOS. The idea started last year when she collected toys to send to the kids from her community Campo Rico. Around 350 toys were delivered to the children there.
This compassionate and caring attitude is just a part of what makes this talented, all-around charming Latina someone the community can be proud of for all she has accomplished, not only in her career as a dancer but as a humanitarian giving back to her country. “I’m so honored that as a Latina, I can have that position and represent my heritage that way. I also feel that right now, with social media, there are so many Latina principal dancers in different companies that we can be exposed to a greater audience,” she says. González adds that one of her dreams is to open up a ballet school one day to teach the new generation of dancers. Her advice to aspiring ballet dancers, “Trust yourself, be confident in yourself, and don’t compare yourself to anyone.”
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