Juan Gabriel: The Man Behind the Music
Learn about the iconic Mexican singer-songwriter and how his work became one of Ballet Arizona’s most beloved ballets
Juan Gabriel returns to Symphony Hall, October 26 -29, 2023. This world premiere first came to the stage in 2022, after the pandemic put its premiere on hold. With brilliant costumes, vibrant choreography, and the unforgettable music of Juan Gabriel, if you missed this ballet’s premiere, we invite you to experience it for the first time.
“Emotional,” “inspirational,” and “phenomenal” are just a few of the words audiences used to describe Ballet Arizona’s production of Juan Gabriel. From soulful ballads to songs that will inspire you to get up and dance along, this ballet isn’t your typical affair, but an experience that all call enjoy.
As we prepare for the return of this unforgettable ballet, we want to focus in on the man behind the incredible music: Learn more about the iconic Mexican singer-songwriter, his origins, and his legacy below.
Learn About Juan Gabriel
As the youngest of 10 siblings and being a part of a family struggling to make their living as farmers- he had a challenging childhood. As an infant, Gabriel Aguilera Rodríguez (father), was interned in a psychiatric hospital and his family could no longer maintain their farm. Faced with a multitude of hardships, Victoria Valadez Rojas (mother), moved the family to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, where she placed a 4-year-old Juan Gabriel at the El Tribunal boarding school, an orphanage, while the rest of the family tried to find work and survive. At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was desperate to leave the confines of the boarding school and escaped. He went on to live with Contreras for a year but left once again, hoping to return to his mother and family.
Over the course of his career, Juan Gabriel wrote over 1,500 songs, released 30 studio albums, and sold over 100 million albums worldwide. He received numerous awards and accolades including the Lo Nuestro Excellence Award in 1991, the Latin Songwriter of the Year Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 1995, 1996, and 1998, and was a six-time Grammy nominee. In 1996, he was inducted into the Billboard Latin Music Hall of Fame and in 2009 was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
One of the most notable moments in Juan Gabriel’s life was in 1990 when he made history as the first non-classical act to perform at Mexico City’s illustrious Palacio de Bellas Artes. The performance was a defining cultural moment in Mexico and ultimately spoke to the legacy that Juan Gabriel left behind, a celebration of Mexico and all that it represents. This sentiment was said perfectly in Juan Gabriel’s 1999 interview with The Los Angeles Times, “Mexican music must be defended with vigilance…my thoughts, my feeling, my spirit, they are all in Spanish.”
His unexpected passing in 2016 left people mourning across the world. When remembering Juan Gabriel, Mexico’s Former President, Enrique Pena Nieto said, “A voice and talent that represented Mexico. His music is a legacy for the world.” As one of Mexico’s most successful artists and one of the most influential Latino artists of all time, Juan Gabriel remains an icon, whose music and artistic genius continues to be celebrated and beloved by people all over the world.
The Inspiration: How Juan Gabriel (The Ballet) Came to Be
Ballet Arizona Artistic Director Ib Andersen had no idea who Juan Gabriel was, nor of the impact of his music, before 2016.
He first learned about the Mexican singer-songwriter from his obituary in The New York Times. Curious about Juan Gabriel’s work, he went to YouTube to listen to his music and learn more. Inspiration struck.
“In Juan Gabriel’s music, there’s no discrimination of high or low or where you come from — he hits some core human emotion,” Ib told La Voz/The Arizona Republic. “He’s on a very high level. His songwriting by him is exceptional.
“When you live with him in your head as I have, it’s amazing how (his songs) get into your being. Not that many artists are like that. I’ll find myself all of a sudden singing a few phrases from a song and I don’t where it came from. It bites your brain and that’s a hallmark of something exceptional.”
From there, he worked to take his music to a place where pop music wasn’t traditionally found: The ballet stage.
“For whatever reason, I thought ballet would work… and I go with my instincts. I’ve lived with myself for a long time, so I know to trust my instincts,” he told La Voz/The Arizona Republic.
Though it was originally set to premiere in February 2020 for Ballet Arizona’s 35th season, the pandemic put it on pause, pushing the show to May 2022.
From the costumes to the projections to the iconic music of Juan Gabriel himself, Ballet Arizona’s Juan Gabriel sparkled on stage and audiences fell in love with this unconventional ballet.
“A breathtaking production!” “The best ballet I’ve ever experienced.” “One of my favorite performances ever!”
See why audiences loved this ballet so much that we just had to bring it back: Join us October 26-29, 2023 for Juan Gabriel at Symphony Hall!