When Erica Cornejo saw American Ballet Theatre perform in Buenos Aires years ago, she was awestruck. Then a youth dancer with Ballet Argentino, Cornejo knew she was ready for more.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I wish I could be a part of that,’ ” Cornejo recalled. “It was one of the only companies from the United States that I had seen, and for the first time.”
Now 38, Cornejo is preparing for her final performances as a principal dancer with Boston Ballet, a position she has held for 11 years. She will leave in order to focus on her own Boston-based dance studio, Integrarte. But first, she’ll reprise her role in “The Sleeping Beauty” as Carabosse, the wicked fairy who casts a spell on Princess Aurora. The production runs April 28-May 27 at the Boston Opera House.
Q. How would you describe your career with Boston Ballet?
A. Every year is amazing. For me, everywhere I’ve been dancing, not just Boston Ballet, I’ve always been blessed to get to know incredible choreographers, dancers, ballet masters, colleagues. I’ve been able to perform every single role I could dream of. People have been really supportive. In Boston Ballet, I felt like I found my place.
Q. Which of those roles stands out to you?
A. I just love dancing as all those characters [in] those ballets that have a lot of drama. When I got to do “Romeo and Juliet,” that was one of my favorite ones. I’d been dreaming for so long — when I got to do it, I was in heaven. I got to experience that.
Q. Why did you decide to leave Boston Ballet?
A. It’s not that I’m retiring — I’ll keep dancing — but I’ve always been a person who likes to prepare for their future. And, of course, I won’t be able to dance forever. I wanted to prepare myself and have something for once I decide to stop dancing. I opened a place for the arts with my husband [former Boston Ballet principal dancer Carlos Molina].
Q. Tell me about Integrarte, the dance studio in Jamaica Plain that you two founded a couple years ago.
A. Our dream was, after dancing, to be able to teach and coach dancers. But we always had the idea of having a place where we could promote art in general — not just ballet, which is our field, but to combine other styles of dancing and maybe yoga. Being in a company means that you have to [put in] 40-something hours a week and commit pretty much the whole day. That’s why I was thinking this is the time to start making the transition. [Boston Ballet artistic director] Mikko [Nissinen] has been superb with me all these years, but I wanted to start this project with my school and my life. Plus, my husband and I have a 3-year-old kid, which takes a lot of energy.
Q. You describe your classes as “open.” What does that mean?
A. We call them “open classes” because they’re open to the public. People have the chance to go to the class that will suit them the best, but they’re open for anybody. We have students that are 70, 50, 13 years old.
Q. What does it mean to you to be able to share your art with the community?
A. It’s an amazing feeling. We’re still fresh on the feeling of how you feel going onstage and performing. We get to share that feeling with the students, and I think they’re super happy because they can feel the passion and energy coming with us. I think it’s up to us to fight for that and to know that the arts are important for life. For us, it’s a blessing that we’re able to share that and to enrich people’s lives through that.
The Sleeping Beauty
Presented by Boston Ballet. At Boston Opera House, April 28-May 27. 617-695-6955, www.bostonballet.org