Meet Isaac and Esteban Hernández: the 1st siblings to reach top rank of SF Ballet

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Saturday, October 15, 2022
Isaac and Esteban Hernández: brothers making a difference in ballet
We spoke with Isaac and Esteban Hernández. The siblings are sharing how their small beginnings have helped them lead the next generation of dancers.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we are bringing you the story of two Latino dancers who are making a difference in the ballet industry.

ABC7 news reporter Luz Pena sat down to speak to Isaac and Esteban Hernández. The siblings from Mexico are sharing how their small beginnings have helped them stay rooted and help the next generation of dancers.

They have danced for some of the most prestigious ballet companies in the world, but to truly know their story we went back to the basics.

Luz Pena: "Take me back to Mexico where everything started?"

Esteban Hernández: "We come from a very big family. We are two out of 11. Originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco Mexico."

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The Hernández brothers started dancing at an early age in the backyard of their house in Mexico.

"Sort of the place where we hang our laundry. My dad built a barre and we would lay down thin pieces of wood to use as ballet floor," Esteban said.

Their parents, who were both dancers, taught them the intangibles: passion and discipline.

"Sometimes it would rain, and I remember he would try to put a tent, or it was too hot outside. Sometimes he would move the class to the living room," Isaac said.

Their dad was their first dance teacher. Hector Hernández brought home 14 years of experience as a ballet dancer in the U.S. The siblings were home-schooled by their mom, Laura.

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"At that time, we didn't have the access to videos than now we have. So, all we knew about ballet was through my dad's stories. He would try to describe a step. So, you would go and try it. It would work and he would say 'come, come,'" Isaac said.

Now, they are breaking ground in the ballet industry as professionals and Latinos.

Luz Pena: "As Latinos, how significant is it to dance on a stage like the SF ballet, in London and in so many places in Europe?"

Esteban Hernández: "They've been sort of a dreams come true...We are living proof that it is possible that you can change your life through pursuing something that you love."

The Hernández brothers are the pride of Mexico. Among their many accolades, Isaac received the Medal of Fine Arts from the president of Mexico in 2018. Esteban was named one of the top 100 most influential people in Mexico. Now, they are the first siblings to become principal dancers for the SF Ballet.

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"There is no social barriers in the art form. It's talent that counts," said Isaac.

As male Latino dancers, they are not only paving the way in the arts but also breaking stigmas.

Luz Pena: "How did you tackle el machismo? The macho mentality as male dancers?"

Esteban Hernández: "I think it was something that we were sort of prepared for. I remember when I asked my dad to teach me to dance. He told me very clearly sort of like what the prospect of it would be. I came to him when I was seven. I said, 'I want to be a professional ballet dancer.' He was like, 'Are you sure?' He said, 'You're going to have to deal with things like machismo -- you're going to have to maybe sacrifice some of the things that kids your age would do.'"

Isaac Hernández: "I remember when I would encounter some of these situations. I would teach some of the kids to how do pirouettes. They had no idea that a ballet dancer could do that and would do that. I understood that a lot of these situations would happen because people have no access to it."

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Now, they're bringing that access to their home country. For the past 10 years, the brothers have been producing "Despertares" the largest ballet show in Latin-American.

"Which translates to awakenings. And through that, that started as a sort of like a performance opportunity to bring dance and art and make it accessible to people," Esteban said.

"We have managed to bring some of the best schools to Mexico and audition talent in Mexico for the first time. And then we are seeing how they are picking talent from all across the country. They are changing their lives immediately," Isaac said.

Their work is inspiring change within the Latino community.

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"That's I think the best thing of it all that has happened to our lives. Obviously, it feels good to dance in the best stages around the world. You feel accomplished, you feel lucky to be doing something that makes you happy, that you're passionate about, that you get to spend six, seven hours a day working on in building your body or creating something that doesn't exist that is completely intangible that is really good for yourself. But then when you see the potential in this art form to change people's lives, and then you see the change in people's lives and you understand that there is so much more that we can be doing for our communities. That is a very powerful thing," Isaac said.

From their backyard in Mexico to ballet stages around the world. Isaac and Esteban Hernández are close to making another personal dream a reality.

Luz Pena: "How does it feel that finally you'll get to dance together in the US?"

Isaac Hernández: "It's going to be good."

Esteban Hernández: "I think it's another one of those things that I think we always wanted to do. I think growing up that was sort of something that at least was always in the back in my head. It hasn't happened yet, but now we are here."

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