Interview with Sarah Kora Dayanova, Sujet at Paris Opera Ballet

by Admin30. August 2012 12:23

You know how we love stories of determination, hard work and passion.  Well we hope you will enjoy Sarah Kora Dayanova’s story as much as we did.  Sarah won no less than 3 prizes at the Prix de Lausanne and is currently a Sujet at Paris Opera Ballet. In this touching and inspiring interview, she reflects on her journey and how she got where she is today.


Sarah Kora Dayanova - La Bayadre, Nikita (R.Noureev) 


Hi Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We’d love to know more about your passion for ballet. Where does it come from?

SKD: When I was little, I was constantly twirling around whether I was in the street or at home. I spent hours trying wacky hairstyles and dressing up.

With my mother being a painter, I’ve always grown up with arts.  She made me take body expression classes from the age of 2.  I liked it and decided to continue down this path.  That’s how I came to dance, because of the artistic nature of my family and also because of my best friend who was starting classical ballet at the Conservatoire de Musique de Genève when I was 5 years old.


So tell us, what is it in particular that you love about ballet?

SKD: I would say it’s the constant search of the perfectly controlled movement, a daily search to shape your body to the image you want to portray.

There is also the notion of heritage, knowing where we’re coming from and moving forward with this classical past. It remains something I take pride in, a challenge and a mission.  It’s also about the feelings we can transmit, the lightness and elegance of a dance movement worked to appear natural and graceful.  Above all, I love the strength that is given to the interpretation of a role, the personal impact of the laid bare emotions we want to share with the public, our partner and ourselves.

I constantly question and challenge myself to go the extra mile. I’m always pushing myself to keep my dancing in constant evolution.  I express myself through this art and I feel free on stage.


You started studying dance at the age of 5 at the Conservatoire de Music of Geneve with Gilbert Mayer. What do you remember of this part of your training?

SKD: My first memory of the Conservatoire is from my induction year. I spent this first year mostly behind a door as I lacked discipline and was often distracted, which annoyed my classmates. I was very upset about it but I took the opportunity to let my naughty child improvisations run wild behind this firmly closed door! 

My journey hasn’t been easy.  I was younger than the other girls in my class and was criticized for it.  Luckily Gilbert Mayer, who was coming now and then to the school, quickly asked me if I’d be interested in private lessons. That’s when it started to get more serious for me.


It must have been wonderful to get private lessons with Mr Mayer. What is the best piece of advice he gave you?

SKD: The day before the Concours International de Danse de Genève in 1997, Gilbert Mayer told me "Kora, you have everything to win". This phrase demonstrated the trust he had in me.  I won the Gold Medal that day and the Prix spécial Jeune Espoir Pierre Sandoz.


Sarah Kora Dayanova 

You were taking piano and drama classes on the side weren’t you? Did you already know by then that you wanted to be in this industry?

SKD:  Theatre and music were already a part of my family environment and I think they were a good complement to my dancing. I actually really enjoyed doing theatre.  It felt like a real way to express myself but dance was always what I wanted to do.

When I was 8 years old, I went on a trip to Paris and as we were passing in front of the Palais Garnier, I stopped and said “Mommy, one day I will be a dancer of the Opera, that’s what I want!”  And here I am...


In 1998 you joined the Ecole de Danse de l’Opera. Tell us more about this part of your training?

SKD: The Ecole de danse de l'Opéra de Paris was a crucial yet ambiguous step in my progression t
hat I desired so much .  

I had been noticed by the founder of the Prix de Lausanne, Elvire Braunschweig, when I was 13 years old in Geneve. She was surprised that I hadn’t been sent to the l'Ecole de danse de l'Opéra by the Conservatoire. She called Claude Bessy that evening to get me a private audition. Two days later, I was at the barre an this legendary school for an audition in the 3rd division.

I was eventually accepted as a paying student but as the audition dates were over, I couldn’t join a regular course of studies.

It was two years or intense work with a different rhythm, a completely different style of dance and a lot of strict behavior.

It didn’t work out and I eventually resigned due to some pressures but nothing could stop me as I still had only one idea in my head - to dance with the Ballet de l’Opera.


Sarah Kora Dayanova  


You mentioned briefly the Prix de Lausanne. You did brilliantly well there in this competition, as well as in many others. What have you learned from competing?

SKD: The competitions helped me set myself goals. I was on my own, without supervision, so I had to set myself objectives throughout the year.  

Noëlla Pontois took me under her wing; she took a risk with me and gave me private lessons every day to prepare me. Later on, I met Dominique Khalfouni and Monique Loudières with whom I’ve spent intense moments working.  I am extremely grateful to have learned from these exceptional and amazingly generous ballerinas and all round perfect performers.

I have to say I don’t see contests as competitions but more as an opportunity to dance on stage and show my work. It was thrilling for me to show what I could do and push myself to my limits.  My most dangerous competitor in a contest is myself!


Although you do not see competitions as such, do you have any tips on how to stay calm or manage this kind of situation?

SKD: I think the most important thing is to fix yourself a goal and give yourself the means to achieve it... it’s by falling that you learn how to walk.  Failure is part of competitions and learning how to manage it can be twice as beneficial.


Thank you. Failure is indeed part of the process and a good learning experience. Of all the competitions and prizes you’ve won, which one was the most important to you and why?

SKD: Without any doubt, I’d say the Prix de Lausanne.  I remember looking at it curious and dumbfounded.  I never imagined I would one day participate to the Concours and let alone win 3 prizes there in 2001.

This contest is an excellent stepping stone for young dancers.  We were supervised on an artistic level but also on a medical and nutritional level - two sides of our profession that shouldn’t be neglected.

I’ve also kept great souvenirs of the Concours and am still in touch with some of the winners.


Before integrating the Corps de Ballet de l’Opera, you were Quadrille there for two seasons. Tell us about it.

SKD: Despite having a temporary contract, it felt somehow that I was still a part of the Opera. However, these two years felt like they were never going to end. I was the substitute of the substitutes... I was chomping at the bit but I made the most out of it by working hard with determination, sometimes late and on my own in the studio. I wanted a permanent contract.

Sarah Kora Dayanova  

You must have been ecstatic then when you eventually joined the Corps de Ballet!

SKD: Yes it was a dream come true and the culmination of many years of hard work. It also meant that I was going to be able to go through the internal promotion system to hopefully be promoted and climb the ladder of the corps de ballet de l'Opéra.

I loved that we have the unique opportunity to work with prestigious ballet masters such as Laurent Hilaire (associé à la Direction de la Danse) and Clotilde Vayer and have access to a varied classical Répertoire, numerous incredibly beautiful productions by Rudolf Noureev - also the contemporary creations of current choreographers because of the active presence of our director Brigitte Lefèvre.


What’s a typical day like for you at the Ballet?

SKD: It is possible to progress within a particular niche. All of the teachers that follow me, like Laurent Novis, are specialists. I’ve got the incredible opportunity to prepare for my competitions with Danseur Etoile Nicolas Le Riche whom I’ve admired for years and whom I would love to dance with one day. This would be the highest honour for me!

During the afternoon, we’ve got two or three set of rehearsals lasting from 1.30 to 2.30pm. When we have a show in the evening, we get to finish at 4 o’clock to allow us to get ready.  


What kinds of productions do you like dancing the most?

SKD: Rudolf Noureev’s rich productions. He used to say “every step must be sprayed with your blood".  I consider that being a dancer at the Opéra de Paris you’ve got to maintain and respect this Reportoire by dancing it like in 2012 and by keeping it alive.

R. Noureev’s productions require a lot of work for the corps de ballet. It’s as much research and work as for a soloist role; this gives our corps de ballet a unique strength. Remaining in the group whilst getting closer to yourself is something that we are learning to do and a commitment to the dual polarity and especially in these productions.

I’ve felt strong emotions while dancing W. Forsythe’s ballets that some people have called ‘Billy The Speed’. I’ve been selected to dance a demi soloist role in ‘Artifact Suite’ by Anne Teresa de Keersmeaker and most recently in ‘Rain’. I felt taken by this rebellious dance enriched by a European expressiveness and a minimalist American rigor. 

I love the ballets by Serge Lifar, Ballet master and choreographer for 26 years at the Opera de Paris and a ‘prodigal father’. Being able to let people discover Suite en Blanc and its’ academic purity, aesthetical reform and this style lesson is always a real pleasure and a pride.


So far, what has been your favourite role to dance and why?

SKD: I’ve loved dancing the role of Gamzatti in ‘La Bayadère’ by R. Noureev - the first title role I danced in March/April last year at the Opéra Bastille.

I got injured 6 days before the premiere of the production while rehearsing on stage. 3 days before the show, I still couldn’t put my foot on the floor.  I did everything I could to get back to dance.  I had been waiting for this moment for so long that there was no way I was going to let it go. My “Solor” Stéphane Bullion, who is also Danseur Etoile and whom I get along very well with, supported me and I eventually managed to dance on stage.

I also danced soloist roles in 2007 in ‘la Reine des Dryades’ and as the 1ere Demoiselle d'honneur in ‘Don Quichotte’ by R. Noureev. Such great memories!


Sarah Kora Dayanova - La Bayadre, Nikita (R.Noureev) 

I suppose there are still several other roles you haven’t danced yet and would love to interpret. Can you name a few?

SKD: Oh yes! I want to dance to interpret a role and let myself being consumed by it.  It’s impossible for me to name them all but I would say Juliette (‘Roméo et Juliette’), Nikiya (‘La Bayadère’), Giselle, Kitri (‘Don Quichotte’), Cendrillon, Marguerite (John Neumeier’s ‘Dame aux Camélias’), Raymonda, Manon (‘l'Histoire de Manon’), Garance (‘Les enfants du Paradis’ as choreographed by José Martinez), l'Ombre (‘les Mirages Serge Lifar’)... a range of artistic interpretations sometimes dramatic or nuanced.

What about next season? Are you looking forward to dancing any ballets or roles in particular?

SKD: We don’t know yet which productions we will be in but I’m really hoping to dance in ‘Don Quichotte’ and of course I would love to discover the character Kitri. It requires a technical virtuosity I’m at ease with and also a lively interpretation.  

I would also love to dance in the ballet ‘les Enfants du Paradis’ by José Martinez, with whom we will be touring with in Japan.  I’ve already danced the role of a ballerina in this production but I would love to dance Garance.


We’ll keep our fingers crossed for you! Do you have a last piece of advice for our readers?

SKD: For dance to become your profession you need passion, mental and physical strengths as well as a lot of determination.  You’ve got to devote yourself to dance and your career entirely otherwise it’s not worth it.

You can learn the job but the inspiration always has to be received. Nothing can be taken for granted.  It’s a fragile art you have to perfect without spoiling it.


A huge thank you to Sarah for this interview.

Interview with Jurgita Dronina, Principal Dancer with Dutch National Ballet

by Admin22. August 2012 14:33

Jurgita Dronina was born in Russia in 1986. She moved to Lithuania with her parents at the age of 4 and started training in ballet 6 years later. She studied at the M.K.Ciurlionis art school in Vilnius first and later on at the Munich Ballet Academy under the directorship Konstanze Vernon. After working with the Royal Swedish Ballet and guesting regularly across Europe, she is now a Principal Dancer with Dutch (Het) National Ballet.

Jurgita tells us more about what she loves about ballet and what life is like as a Principal Dancer.

Jurgita Dronina in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Angela Sterling

Hi Jurgita, thanks a lot for taking the time to answer our questions. So, tell us about your passion for dance. Where is it coming from?

JD: Honestly, I have no idea! No one in my family is connected to ballet or dance.   I’ve always been a very active kid and after trying ballroom dancing for quite some time, my coached suggested my mum to take me to a ballet school. I passed the exams and got in. The passion was built little by little, with each year of training...


What is it in particular that you love about ballet?

JD: I just love being on stage. It is so addictive! To be able to experience so many different roles, to become "one" with each of them, to be able to create something of my own with each role and share something so deep and personal with the audience. On stage I feel "emotionally naked”, honest, true and where no one can interfere. Another reason why I love ballet is because I get to meet so many artists and travel. It is a very exciting profession where not one day is the same. Also I like the physical part of it, we are putting such demands on our bodies - like top athletes. Every day I work in ballet classes, I do rehearsals, performances, I go to the gym, I do pilates, yoga, swimming...etc. There are so many things we do on top of "ballet" to keep fit, strong and in the best shape possible.


You’re originally from Russia but you started your training at M.K.Ciurlionis art school in Vilnius, Lithuania. Why did you choose to train in Lithuania as opposed to Russia?

JD: I was born in Russia, but my family moved to Vilnius when I was 4. So since I was raised and schooled there, I didn't think I had any other options to choose from. That was the best choice I had for a ballet school.

Rupert Penenfather and Jurgita Dronina in Romeo and Juliet. Photo: Stanislav Belyaevsky

Can you tell us more about the training you received at M.K.Ciurlionis art school? What was it like?

JD: It was very busy! I had to have a very disciplined routine as I was going to a“regular” high school while doing my ballet studies on the side. So I would have to do a ballet class in the morning, go to a math or history class afterwards, then go to let’s say a pas de deux class and then to a literature class and then to character dance, ballet history, art history, piano lessons...and in the evenings prepare for competitions or performances with the company... I lived in the M.K.Ciurlionis art school "boarding school" 6 days a week and that’s what made it possible for me to survive such a routine; there was just no time for me to go home. As I remember it, we usually would start classes at 8 or 9 in the morning and would get back to our rooms at around 8 in the evening.


Wow, it sounds very hard! Was it any different at the Munich Ballet Academy? How did this part of your training differ from your time at M.K. Ciurlionis art school?

JD: Well, first of all I was done with high school before I left for Munich, but I still had to study one more year of ballet in Vilnius, so I decided to go to Munich to study at the same time. I just wanted to make the most of my last year in ballet school and get more experience somewhere else. And it worked! I had managed to travel between Munich and Villnius for exams and Graduation concerts.

What I loved about the Munich ballet academy is that it gave me a great transition from school to the ballet theater. It was a different training from the one in Vilnius. I have learned a lot from Konstanze Vernon about pointe work and a different, more refined dancing quality. We had a very strong pas de deux work, which helped me tremendously afterwards and I loved the feeling of being coached in rehearsals as an artist and not as a school student.


It sounds like a great opportunity and as you said a good transition from student to artist. Looking back at your training, who made a difference to you? Who were your favourite teachers and what is the best piece of advice they gave you?

JD: I really appreciate all the ballet teachers and coaches that I have worked with. Each of them had taught me something different and valuable. I was lucky to work with so many guest teachers during my years with Royal Swedish ballet and able to get coached by them on almost all the repertoire I have danced there. The best piece of advice I got was to "just go for it" and "quality, quality, quality- not quantity".

Rupert Penenfather and Jurgita Dronina in Romeo and Juliet. Photo: Stanislav Belyaevsky

Great advice! Let’s talk about all the competitions you’ve participated in (and won) in the past. Which prize do you value the most?

JD: The opportunity I value the most was studying at Munich Ballet Academy. The scholarship that I got after winning gold in France and the experience to dance on the old Bolshoi stage, during the closing gala of the competition in 2005, where I got silver. It was an unforgettable experience and we were the last ones to dance on that stage before the theater was closed for renovation!


A fantastic experience! What have you learned from doing all these competitions?

JD: That it is not all about the pirouettes... ballet is a form of art. And artistry is the most important.


Competing can sometimes be nerve- racking. Do you have any tips on how to keep calm and dance to the best of your ability?

JG: Do not forget that every entrance on stage is a performance. Even during competition it wasn't about competing for me; It was about making a performance.


You moved to Stockholm in 2005 to join the Royal Swedish Ballet. What persuaded you to join the company? 

JG: The former director Madeleine Onne invited me to join the company after seeing me in a competition. I liked the company's repertoire and I just followed my 6th sense :)

Jurgita Dronina, Interview by Capezio

Jurgita Dronina and Jan Zerer in Minos. Photo by Tamas Nagy

Were you right to follow your 6th sense in the end? What do you remember of your time there?

JG: The best memories I have are about great coaching experiences. Throughout my years there I met a number of guest teachers who helped me grow faster as a dancer. And the company's artistic values and influence are a big part of me today.


What motivated you to seek a new opportunity in 2010 then?

JD: For a while I was looking for a special partnership. I was getting tired of changing partners for each performance and build from scratch every time. Then I danced with Cedric Ygnace in a gala performance and we both felt that it was a very special partnership. It led to a guest performance of "Don Quichote" with Dutch National Ballet. A few months later I joined the company to continue dancing with Cedric.


How wonderful! You mentioned guest performances. You’ve done that several times, haven’t you? What do you like about it?

JD: Every guest experience is unique. It is exciting to meet new partners, new coaches, dance with different companies, on different productions, be on a different theatre stage and experience a different audience and different traditions every time.  These are very inspiring experiences. I’ve always felt refreshed and somehow newly motivated after all my guest performances.


Tell us about your move to Het Nationale Ballet?

JD: It was a bit scary in the beginning since one never knows if the decision to change companies was correct and if all will go well. But I like to just follow whatever comes my way and take risks. I felt it was very easy to integrate the Dutch National Ballet. The company is very diverse and people are just so nice and supportive. I felt part of the "family" right away. But, of course, the main reason to move was to continue my partnership with Cedric. Having my partner within the company helped a lot.

Jurgita Dronina and Cédric Ygnace. Photo: Angela Sterling

Can you tell us more about what it is in particular that you like about Het Nationale Ballet?

JD: Very creative, passionate, positive and fun people to be work with. We do so many programs a year that time seems to just fly and I feel always busy with something new and exciting. The repertoire is extremely diverse and I love our HUGE  stage!


And as a principal dancer you’re a lot on this “huge stage”! What is a typical day like for you?

JD: Warm-up before class.10-11.15 Ballet class. 11.30-13.00 Rehearsal for the "running program". 13.00-13.45 lunch break, where I usually work on my upcoming guestings. Then from 13.45 or 14.00 - 18.00 (with a short break in between) most of the time follows rehearsals for the "upcoming" program or creations with the choreographer till the end of the day. If there is a performance that evening we finish around 16h. Depending on a ballet I will be guesting with - I might still work from 16-17 on upcoming "full length" ballet. Then getting ready for the evening performance that starts at 20h. But the schedule is always changing and we know it only few days in advance, so it’s never set and never the same.


Exciting!  So tell us, of all the roles you’ve danced this season, which one was your favourite?

JD: The best experience I have had during the season 2011/2012 was working with David Dawson. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to work with him for a while. I knew it would make me grow further and experience something completely new. I love the feeling of the kick adrenaline to take risks and go to the extremes of every movement, sometimes not knowing where it will take me. It was a very inspiring process.


What about your most challenging role?

JD: I think it would be "Swan Lake". I was blessed to have an opportunity to work with Natalia Makarova on Odette/Odile and understand what this ballet is all about. To be coached on every little arm movement and neck position. The thought behind each step. The knowledge I got from Natasha is absolutely priceless. If not Natasha, probably I would have never thought I could dance swan queen and now I have danced 4 different productions and it is one of my absolutely favorite ballets.

Jurgita Dronina, interview by Capezio

Jurgita Dronina. Photo: C.Thorborg

What are your plans for next season? Are there any roles in particular that you are looking forward to dancing?

JD: During the season 2012/2013 I am looking forward dancing "Paquita" that I haven't danced yet and Chritopher Weeldon's new creation of "Cinderella".


Thank you Jurgita for your time and good luck with the new season!


Useful resources:

 Jurgita’s website

Jurgita’s twitter handle


Interview with Celine Gittens, Soloist at Birmingham Royal Ballet

by Admin6. August 2012 15:55

Today, we’re speaking with Celine Gittens, dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Celine was born in Trinidad but grew up in Vancouver, Canada. She got into dance thanks to her mother, a RAD teacher, with whom she started training. She then joined the Goh Ballet Academy for a 4 year course before accepting a position at the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2006. Her “great dramatic stage presence” (London Dance) and “exceptional poise” (The Telegraph) makes her stand out from the crowd.  She’s one of the key dancers to watch out for in years to come and we’re sure we will see a lot more of her on stage.


Celine shares her story with us along with what we can expect from her and the Birmingham Royal Ballet for the beginning of the 2012/2013 season.

Celine Gittens. Interview by Capezio

Celine Gittens. Photo taken on Twitter

 So Celine, tell us, what is it that you love about Ballet?

CG: I love performing and the positive energy that is created onstage. Ballet is a unique way of communicating with an audience and I love giving the audience that moment of wonder and awe.

Parents can sometimes be a bit reticent when their children choose to become dancers but your mother seemed keen to put you in pointe shoes! You actually trained with her at the beginning, didnt you? What was it like?

CG: Training with my mum was and still is great. She had no choice but to put me in ballet because at the age of two I would be dancing around in the studio, joining in the junior and senior classes. The studio was my playground! I always had an interest in music and dance and this was nurtured by my mum.

It must have been fantastic to have her support and be able to benefit from her experience as an ex- professional dancer. What is the best piece of advice she gave you?

CG: The best piece of advice my mum gave me was to 'trust your technique' and to 'enjoy every performance'.

You eventually joined the Goh Ballet Academy. Can you tell us about the training you received there?
CG: I joined the Goh Ballet Academy when I was fourteen. It was four years of intense professional training. We did many performances and I was coached by many guest teachers from the Balanchine trust to the Royal Danish Ballet.

It sounds like a great base for a professional career. Youre now dancing with the Birmingham Royal Ballet (since 2006). I suppose youve noticed some differences in the dance scene between the UK and Canada?

CG: There is a higher density of ballet companies in the United Kingdom and Europe than in Canada, which makes it easier to see a large variety of dance live.

Why did you decide to join BRB in particular?

CG: The repertoire of BRB is very varied and we have high numbers of performances per year. We also tour locally and internationally. It is always great to perform in different theatres and in front of so many audiences.

It might be a tough question but if you had to choose a few key highlights of your time with BRB, what would  they be?  

CG: There have been many highlights for me at BRB so far. It was a really great experience to perform the role of 'Fortuna' in David Bintley's 'Carmina Burana' last year. Also more recently being coached by Dame Beryl Grey for 'Black Queen' in 'Checkmate' and by Marion Tait for 'White Swan pas de deux' have been spectacular experiences. There have been countless roles since I joined BRB in 2006 that I enjoyed performing and were highlights of my career, and I am looking forward to many more exciting roles.

Celine Gittens. Interview by Capezio

Celine Gittens and Tyrone Singleton in David Bintleys' 'Faster'. Photo: Bill Cooper

Speaking of exciting roles, you’ve got a very busy September coming up, first with “Swan Lake” and then with “Opposites Attract”. Does that mean your summer will be spent rehearsing?

CG: Most of the ballets in line for the Autumn 2012 season have been performed in our Summer season,  so when we return from our summer holidays we will resume rehearsals for 'Swan Lake' and 'Grosse Fuge', which we haven't performed recently.

Sounds great! Let’s start with Swan Lake. You must be ecstatic to dance in such a beautiful and iconic ballet.

CG: Since I've been with BRB, the company has toured 'Swan Lake' three times. It is surely every young ballerina's dream to perform in 'Swan Lake' and I love when this ballet comes around. I especially love Sir Peter Wright's version. In previous performances I have danced 'Waltz', 'Big Swans', 'Mazurka' and 'Spanish'. In June 2012 I performed the 'White Swan pas de deux' for our Southwestern midscale tour.

I suppose you’ve been looking at previous interpretations of your characters. Did anyone in particular inspire you?

CG: Many dancers have inspired me. I always watch performances and try to learn and gain knowledge from different dancers. I must say, although I am inspired by other dancers, I always try to make the role my own with my interpretation.

Yes, it is essential to add your own touch to a role. How do you do that?

CG: Every dancer has different ways of looking at how a role should be danced, so I like to draw ideas from other dancers yet insert my interpretations to make it my own.

Can you tell us more about what goes on before the interpretation stage? How do you prepare for a role?

CG: Preparation for roles usually includes doing background research regarding the meaning of the character. This is done to thoroughly understand which emotions should be portrayed at each specific point in the ballet.

Celine Gittens with Robert Parker. Slaughter on 10th Avenue. Photo: Drew Tommons

We’d love to talk about Opposites Attract now. Can you tell us what it’s about?

CG: 'Opposites Attract' is the title of our Autumn 2012 triple bill that will be performed at the Birmingham Hippodrome and Sadler's Wells Theatre. 'Lyric Pieces' a newly commissioned work by Jessica Lang will be performed first, followed by David Bintley's 'Take Five', and Hans van Manen's 'Grosse Fuge'.

Could you give us more details aboutLyric Pieces?

CG: Jessica Lang came to choreograph 'Lyric Pieces' in March 2012. The ballet is set to music by Edvard Grieg which cleverly incorporates expandable and collapsible set designs which the dancers move around the stage.

It sounds impressive. How was it to work with Jessica Lang?

CG: I was casted to learn the pas de deux section in 'Lyric Pieces' but since performances for this work were going North four our midscale tour and I was performing in the South, I haven't performed this yet. However, I did have a few opportunities to work with Jessica on the pas de deux in the studio and it was great. I loved how excited and enthusiastic she would become when an experiment with a movement worked. She was very encouraging and showed care and interest to each cast that she worked with.

It promises to be a beautiful collaboration. Can you tell our readers about what they can expect to see?

CG: You can expect to see a beautiful collaboration of music, set design, and dancers.

Who would you say this piece will appeal to?

CG: This piece will appeal to everyone. The triple bill is a perfect mix of classical, jazz, and contemporary dance so it should be a treat for all to watch.

You will most certainly see us during the tour then. We cannot wait to see the show; it sounds like a very unique production. One last question: what are your goals  for the remainder of the year?

I am looking forward to the 2012 - 2013 season as we have some great ballets that are waiting to be danced. It is especially exciting when new ballets are to be choreographed, and I can't wait to do David Bintley's new 'Aladdin'!

Thank you Celine for your time!

 Celine Gittens. Interview by Capezio

Celine Gittens and Tom Rogers in The Manhattan Project. Photo: Bill Cooper

Useful resources:

Goh Ballet Academy

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Celine's twitter handle

Interview with Alison McWhinney, Artist with the English National Ballet

by Admin5. July 2012 09:03


We’re very excited about today’s interview. Australian born Alison Mcwhinney is an Artist with the English National Ballet and currently dancing in one of the most talked about show of the season: "Against Time", in collaboration with World Dance Champions Flawless.

In this interview, she tells us more about being an Artist with the ENB, what the show is all about and how she prepared for it.

Alison Mcwhinney at the English National Ballet's summer party.

So Alison, tell us, why dance?

AM: For as long as I can remember I have had such a strong desire to dance and be on stage, so it has never really felt like a choice for me!

You're originally from Australia, how did you end up in London?

AM: I trained in Australia until I was 16. From there I auditioned for several European ballet schools to continue my training and ended up at English National Ballet School.


Now that youve been in England for a while, have you noticed differences in the dance scene between the two countries?

AM: Australia is obviously very isolated being so far from the rest of the world, so it’s no surprise that its dance scene is a bit more limited in terms of international choreographers and designers etc. I can see a lot more influence here from the European choreographers.


You're currently an Artist at the English National Ballet. How did you land this position?

AM: I was at English National Ballet school for one year before the director, which was Matz Skoog back then, offered me a contract to join the company. I was of course very happy to accept!!!

Its such a great opportunity! What is your favourite part of being an Artist?

AM: Being on stage. Being in the spotlight! I feel at home on the stage!

What have you learned so far in your new position?

AM: I have learned so many things since joining the company... it would be impossible to tell you everything. But one of the biggest things for me is that even though we do countless shows in different cities, you have to always remember that it’s a completely different audience every time and you want them to see the best!

Speaking of shows and different audiences, you're currently dancing in Against Time, fruit of the unexpected collaboration between the ENB and Flawless. Who and when was the collaboration announced to the ENB dancers?

AM: I honestly can’t remember when this collaboration was announced to us. But I’m fairly certain it was Swoosh - the leader of flawless - who thought about bringing our two companies together and who got the ball rolling. Since then it has been a collaboration between him and Jenna Lee - soloist and choreographer - to make the show happen!

Its completely new type of collaboration. What was the general reaction at the ENB?

AM: A lot of people, myself included, were a bit skeptical about the fusion of the two styles. But I think most people were very surprised and thrilled by the finished product!

May I ask if you had heard of Flawless before and what you thought of them as dancers?

AM: I hadn’t heard of them before working with them... But once I found out I was cast in Against Time I had a look at some of their work on you tube and was amazed like everyone else! They never cease to amaze me every show!

What is your role in the show?

AM: I play one of the four main school kids. My character is a bit of a bookworm, very shy, totally in love with one of the other school kids but very hesitant about it. He is played by Leroy Dias Dos Santos( Fx) and we have a love duet in the first act. It has to be said that his partnering skills are so good for a non ballet dancer!! I’m very lucky to have such a great and committed partner!

Alison Mcwhinney and Leroy Dias dos Santos in 'Against Time'. Photo: © Dave Morgan

Is it hard to perform with someone from another dance background?

AM: It was hard in the beginning but it just took a bit of practice for both of us and now it’s so easy!

What is the soundtrack like? This must be quite an eclectic mix to allow both styles to co-exist.

AM: The soundtrack is a mix of both pop songs and a little ballet music. There are also a lot of sound effects. Somehow it works, we had an incredible DJ who mixed the tracks and also altered them to work just perfectly for us! We have had a lot of the audience members asking if there is going to a soundtrack available, so it must sound pretty good!

Sounds like it! What kind of audience would you say the show can appeal to?

AM: I think this show can appeal to everyone. We see so many different age groups coming in! There is something for everyone!

Alison Mcwhinney and Leroy Dias dos Santos in 'Against Time'. Photo: © Laurent Liotardo

The ENB x Flawless tour will end in July, a few days off will be well deserved. What do you like to do on a day off?

AM: On my days off I really enjoy having nothing to do! I love to enjoy my breakfast and morning coffee without having to rush off anywhere! Recently because we have been touring so much I really look forward to coming home and seeing my boyfriend and spending the day with him.

One last question, what are your plans for the rest of the summer?

AM: Once this finishes we will be performing Swan Lake at the Coliseum in Covent Garden during the Olympics so we will be madly rehearsing for that till then. After that we have our summer holiday and my boyfriend and I will be heading back to Australia to relax in the sun.


A well deserved holiday! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions Alison. Best of luck with the tour!

Useful resources:

English National Ballet

Against Time

Alison's twitter handle


Interview with Malgorzata Dzierzon, Dancer at Rambert and Member of New Movement Collective

by Admin2. July 2012 12:48


Malgorzata Dzierzon

photo: Eric Richmond, choreography: Aletta Collins "Awakenings", Rambert Dance Company

To open our Summer of Dance Campaign, we have chosen to meet with the talented Rambert Dancer Malgorzata 'Gosia' Dzierzon. Malgorzata was born in Poland and trained in Classical Ballet at the Bytom National Ballet School. Upon graduation, she joined Malaika Kusumi Ballet Theatre in Frankfurt before moving on to dance with the Royal Danish Ballet, Peter Schaufuss Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Gothenburg ballet and eventually in 2006 Rambert. There she created many roles such as the main duet in Scribbilings by Doug Varone, Carnival of the Animals by Sue Davis, Tread Softly by Henri Oguike and Awakenings by Aletta Collins. She has also made guest appearances with Wayne McGregor/Random Dance Company at the Brighton Festival and alongside the Ballet Boyz in Christopher Wheeldon’s Mesmerics.

 Malgorzata is also a member of “New Movement Collective”, a group of new generation choreographers with a long collaborative working history, both as dancers and dance-makers with Europe's leading ballet and contemporary companies.

Today we’re talking to her about her approach to choreographing, life at Rambert and New Movement Collective’s latest project, Casting Traces that she is producing, co- choreographing and dancing in.



Hi Malgorzata, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ve noticed you seem to be more and more into the choreographic side of dance, as opposed to delivering other people’s choreographies. What is it that moves you in choreographing ?


MD: I think it is the same force which brought me over from classical to contemporary dance- greater freedom of movement and interpretation; the quest to find your own vocabulary and form of expression. The choreographers I have worked with often challenged their dancers in their creative process and I discovered that I like that.


I had also suffered from a hip injury for the last season and underwent surgery in February. This prevented me from dancing for several months but my head went into a bit of over-time! As soon as I was off my crutches I had to let it all out and this spring I have created pieces for CAT students in Manchester, re-created an existing piece for Edinburgh Choreographic Project, worked with a couple of incredibly talented dancers from Compania Nacional de Danza and helped to mount a new collaboration with Architectural Association at Matadero in Madrid.


Wow you’ve been very productive! Tell us more about how you approach the creation of a new choreography.


 MD: I like to work on movement phrases on my own; I am a bit shy in the early stages of creation. Once I feel I had "found" the core elements of the piece the next stage is real fun- I love working with groups of people, getting them into patterns, like flocks of birds or kettle of fish. I find myself on the verge between creatively re-designing the space with movement and being mathematically precise- a bit like an architect, I would imagine.


Now this must be a tough question but of all your creations so far, which one is your favourite?


MD: I loved the process every time but "For P." had the longest journey. It was premièred as a "work in progress" in Santander, Spain, then shown in its full length at Linbury Studio and will soon be re-created in its "chamber" version by the dancers of Edinburgh Choreographic Project. In both versions I had worked with pre-existing music by Polish composers Szymon Brzoska and Mikolaj Gorecki. I find there is certain nostalgia in Polish music, passed on through generations of composers, which really suited the movement language of this work. While I enjoy collaboration, on this occasion having the music earlier had allowed me to merge the choreography and composition with greater sensitivity. 


I also had a lot of fun working with composer Mark Bowden on "Lines written a few miles below"- much more theatrical creation about the life on London underground, premièred at The Place last October.


 You joined Rambert Dance Company in 2006. Any reason why you chose Rambert in particular?


MD: I had always heard of Rambert's high artistic standard. I had visited London many times and thought it had a lot to offer to curious types like myself. The tipping point was when my boyfriend was offered a job with Rambert- I would visit on my free weekend from Sweden, watch performances, take classes and get to know the dancers. Gradually it became like a second home and when a female contract became available I moved to England. 


That’s fantastic and especially since choreography is at the heart of Rambert. It’s a perfect fit! What has been the highlight of your time there so far?


MD: I really enjoyed all the creations, in particular Garry Stewart's Infinity and Doug Varone's Scribblings. Working with Christopher Bruce on the role of older daughter in Hush has also been a highlight; Christopher has a real gift for getting the best out of his dancers. 


It felt really special  being noticed in the Critics' Circle 2008 and 2009 Awards- I had not been with Rambert for very long at the time, so it was re-assuring that people liked what I had to offer to the company.


 You are also currently involved with the group New Movement Collective. Tell us more about NMC and how it all started.


MD: New Movement Collective is a group of "like-minded" choreographers, with particular interest in blending boundaries between dance and architecture. This is a direct quote from our website but I can't think of a better way to summarise it.


It started as a group of friends searching for platforms to showcase our choreographic work and hoping to extend the life of many beautiful friendships, often formed while working and touring together with a company.


Many of us are Rambert dancers- Patricia, Robin and me, but we also have Anthony Missen and Kevin Turner from Company Chameleon, Joe Walkling from New Adventures, Alex Whitley now with Random and our free lance ex-Ramberians- Gemma Nixon, Jonathan Goddard, Renaud Wiser and Clara Barbera.


While searching for performance opportunities one of our members got talking with a relative who was then enrolled in a course at Architectural Association Interprofessional Studio. The aim of the course is to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration and in 2009 New Movement found itself dancing in a derelict building in the heart of Covent Garden. Such "raw" spaces have their challenges but also a lot of atmosphere and creative potential- we were hooked.


 This sounds very exciting. Tell us more about the reasons that motivated you to get involved in the collective.


MD: An opportunity to work creatively with friends and incredible dancers. Also a chance to develop professionally beyond dancing and choreographing-we do not have any regular financial or administrative support and relay on our own skills to run the company.


 I am studying towards a degree in Leadership and Management, so it was a good opportunity to learn how to start up a business and test an alternative way of running a company- as a Collective all decisions are taken democratically through majority of votes.


What is your role more precisely within the group?


MD: Dancing and choreographing is a "given" in the Collective. Depending on a project we have different "leaders", but I generally tend to coordinate activities between us and collaborators and do most of the administration- write applications, reports, formulate policies and do some basic accounting. For our next project Casting Traces I would best describe my role as a "Producer".


This must be very time consuming. How do you manage your time between NMC and Rambert?


MD: Ha! I think since starting up the company I have became a rather anti-social person and fallen into a "work-sleep- food- a bit of CSI- work-sleep-food" loop. Some of the work for NMC can be done "virtually", on my iPad when I'm on tour; lunch break and evening rehearsals have become a norm.


Tell us more about Casting Traces, the new project you’re working on at the moment with NMC?


MD: Casting Traces is our first fully independent production and it brings together dance, architecture, film and newly commissioned music. It unfolds within a giant paper labyrinth built in a 650 sq meter ex-dairy warehouse in Battersea. This 45 minutes promenade performance features 8 of our dancers/choreographers and a solo violinist.

Dancer: Gemma Nixon; Photo: Renaud Wiser


What is the inspiration behind the production?


MD: First- the space, it is large, raw and one could say- a bit hunted. We wanted to create a world of illusion and played with ideas of pareidolia- brain misinterpreting shadows and its audio equivalent EVP.


The paper maze was a way for us to re-design this vast open space, enable us to project images, create silhouettes and shadows. As choreographers working from remote location we also needed a “glue", starting point for the creation. I am a big fan of Paul Auster's work and the ambiguous world and characters of his "New York Trilogy" seemed to us like a perfect place to start.

Dancer: Joe Walking; Photo: Renaud Wiser


Can you tell us more about what audiences can expect to see?


MD: We would love for Casting Traces to be an engaging experience for all senses- the audience will be encouraged to take an active role in the show, blending with the set and performers as they discover the pockets of our maze, "meet themselves" projected onto screens around the corner, take a drink at the bar, listen to the violin or take on a “detective” role, following our dancers through the labyrinth.

Dancers: Patricia Okenwa & Joe Walking; Photo: Renaud Wiser


Speaking of violin, tell us more about the soundrack.


MD: The music is created by Szymon Brzoska, young Polish composer based in Antwerp. You may have heard some of his music in Sutra-collaboration with Sidi Larbi, Antony Gormley and Shaolin Monks or Dunas, featuring Maria Pages. Similar to shadow play, the score explores ideas of Electronic Voice Phenomenon - whispers, sound of steps, echoes- are they real or imagined? The electronic element is complemented by live violin- very poetic and powerful.

Dancer: Jonathan Goddard; Photo: Renaud Wiser


It seems to be a very unique piece. If you could describe Casting Traces by comparing it to other works, how would you describe it?


MD: Like nothing you have seen before!!! For the more cautious readers I would describe it as an immersive theatre performance.


The show will end in July (13.07), what are your plans for the rest of the summer?


MD: Casting Traces will be on for another day at Testbed as an installation- the space can also be visited during the day 10-14 of July if you just want to have a wonder around the maze, see some of the projections or chat to one of our dancers "on duty". Monday is the "get out"- yes, we are doing that too! Then submit the reports and probably just sleep for a week! My partner and I are going to spend 2 weeks in France this summer, by the Atlantic Ocean and have invited some of our friends scattered around the world for a holiday re-union. This is most likely to involve beach ball games, bathing, crayfish fishing, trips to the market place, cooking and wine drinking. Can't wait!


Thank you Malgorzata for taking the time to share your story with us.


Useful links and resources:


Malgorzata Dzierzon’s website


Rambert Dance Company


New Movement Collective


Casting Traces trailer


A Summer of Dance

by Admin2. July 2012 12:36

To celebrate the launch of our blog and our 125th anniversary, we’ve been working on a special campaign called "A Summer of Dance". Dancers and dance professionals from all over Europe accepted to share with us their stories and give our readers their best tips on how to make it in the industry, get rid of stage fright, go through auditions, prepare for shows and more.


From today until the end of August, we will post these interviews on the blog. We hope they will inspire you to keep dancing and make the most out of your passion.


Want Capezio to interview your favourite dancer? Drop us a comment or send us your suggestion at


We will be announcing on facebook and Twitter when we’ve got interview scheduled in so that you can send us your questions as well.


The first interview will be published today so watch this space!