Interview with Emilia and Linda, founders of The Ballet Bag and Lume Labs

by Admin18. September 2012 11:24

Ever wondered what it’s like to write a dance blog? We caught up this summer with Linda and Emilia, the ladies behind the renowned dance blog “The Ballet Bag”. They created the blog back in 2009 with the intention to give ballet a new spin and they now count thousands of readers! They post regularly about everything fun and interesting currently happening in the ballet sphere.

In today’s interview, Emilia and Linda tell us more about their story, their blog, their best tips to use efficiently social media as dancers and their newest venture, Lume Labs.

Capezio Interview - The Ballet Bag - Emilia and Linda

Emilia and Linda, Founders of The Ballet Bag and Lume Labs

 Hi girls, we’re so excited to meet the founders of The Ballet Bag! Can you tell us how you two met?

E: Actually, Linda and I are both from very different backgrounds. I am a lawyer and Linda is a physicist. 

L: But one of our common denominators is ballet. We met in the blogosphere!


That’s fantastic! So did you both have your own blogs before then?

E: Yes, more general blogs. After we met, we were talking about blogging a lot and Linda suggested we create a blog together about ballet and see where it goes. With this whole new social media craze becoming so important, we thought we could plug in some social media channels and try to market our blog that way.

L: Yes, with The Ballet bag, we really wanted to use social media to connect with potential readers who'd have similar interests.


And it worked! You now have thousands of followers. Could you please tell our readers more about the kind of content you post on The Ballet Bag?

L: Initially we were writing about the shows we would watch - not to be critical but because we couldn't find a forum on the internet that would speak to us. There were either forums that were very specialised, for people who have seen lots of stuff for many many years or sites that were more targeted towards students.  There were very few places where we could connect with other people who, like us, would go to shows but were not students. So this blog is more about our point of view. We also try to write with a bit of an educational angle.


Brilliant. What's your favourite memory since you've started the blog? 

E: There is a funny story! We recently had to write a commission article for Wired magazine and we met bestselling author David Eagleman. As part of the piece we were writing on him we also had to interview the choreographer Wayne McGregor. We did a Skype video chat with Wayne and this was during my move day. We were a bit star struck and a little embarrassed as he could see all my paper boxes piled up behind us but he was lovely to talk to. We were talking to a guy we totally admire in the midst of all that chaos! That was so funny!

L: He is so easy to talk to and approachable.


How cool! Let’s get back to blogging, can you tell us more about the blogging scene at the moment in the dance world?

L: there are lots of blogs about dance but of course the subject and the content they produce vary a lot. I think that if you really want to produce something that people are passionate about, you need to come up with new ideas to differentiate yourself.


Who do you think can benefit from having a dance blog? Dancers, teachers, dance enthusiasts…etc?

E: Everybody you mentioned but in the case of dancers themselves, having a full blog is hard because they don't always have time to sit down and write about something in full length. So for them, what can be interesting is to use microblogging platforms like Tumblr or Pinterest. 

L: I personally think a blog is a great thing no matter who you are but you can easily feel pressured to keep your blog updated and then drop off and stop writing. That's when having a Tumblr is great. It's friendlier! You're like “OK I need to post something to connect with my readers but I can only share a photo” and that's fine. If you're on a tight schedule, that's perfect. But in general a blog is a good thing for anyone; It's not only a window to put your thoughts down but it’s also great to connect to people and try different things.


What would you recommend to our readers who are not necessarily professional dancers but who’d still love to get started/improve their blog?

L: Well, you need to choose your angle properly: tell stories from your view point. When you speak with your voice, it sounds more honest and people connect to that. You know it's just like us: all we had was our passion. As long as you have a strong passion, go for it!


Now, can you tell us more about the benefits of writing a dance blog?

L: There are different opportunities. Of course it depends on the quality of your blog. You can get invited to shows, blogger events to connect with similar audiences and participate to creative projects that involve blogging. 


What about the challenges?

L: When you're both blogging and self editing it can be very hard to either free yourself up from your inner critic or have an inner critic. You need to meet in the middle and know when to re-word things.

E: Yes, the biggest challenge for bloggers is to be both the blogger and the editor at the same time. 

L: For us, it has always helped that it's the two of us. When one is the blogger, the other can be the editor and vice versa. You have to be careful with the tone of voice you want to have and also if you have a big readership, you need to be very responsible towards your audience: you have to be objective yet still show your passion and interest.

E: Read a lot. Proofread! Read how other people are writing. Pick people you're identifying yourself with and keep tabs on what they're doing and how they're doing it.

L: You also have to be careful with the structure of what you write. Sometimes bloggers post very long articles which is absolutely fine but you do need to have some kind of structure so that it’s easy to read and engaging for your readers. 

E: Don't let yourself go too much.

L: And don't forget the grammar patrol!


Very good tips! You've been involved in various conversations online about facebook, twitter and other social media. Can you tell us more?

E: I think it's fantastic! Social media and dance go hand in hand. It's allowing people to break down geographical barriers and engage in conversations with companies that they would only really hear about if they were touring in the city where they live.

L: Nowadays with the Russian companies being on Twitter, the Youtube videos, the photos on Facebook…etc you can really feel like you know them even if you've never seen them! You can pick and choose who you want to follow depending on what's interesting you and keep track globally of what's happening in dance and be part of a global experience.

E: And because the dance world is such a creative world, the possibilities around social media are really endless. I mean people can always improve but so far I think they're doing great to reach out on these channels!


Why do you think it's essential for dancers to join social media?

L: Because people are there! We spent so much time online and on our mobile devices. 

E: People are so curious to hear what goes on behind the curtains so if dancers can be there and give them a little flavor of what things are like backtage, it's like giving people a piece of cake; they will come back for more!


So you recommend for dancers to give a sneak-peak of performances, things like that?

L: Not only that. It's really about having a two way conversation. Of course if you have a lot of Twitter followers you can't reply to every single tweet but if someone is looking for advice on a particular point, it's great to interact with them and to give them some advice. And also it's a very good very for companies and dancers to get direct feedback. There's no better way.

E: It's like virtual flowers!


Alright, what are your do's and don'ts for social media? In the Do's, so far we've got interacting with your followers and being innovative.

E: Giving advice, showing whenever possible images, cool photography.

L: Be generous!

E: Be engaging and have a strategy.

L: Be a resource: if it's in your capability, offer service and advice. It's about relationships.


What about the don'ts?

E: Don't over-share. That's why I was saying you need a strategy. You've got to be aware that if you are on social media it's like talking to the press. You shouldn't say anything that you wouldn't say publicly or to the press.

L: Even if you delete a tweet, it will still be there and it will chase you back.

E: I would say that the dancers who never ever engage back with followers or don't really respond to their fans.

L: it's like talking to the wall, it's boring. Even if on Facebook you do literally!


Who are your favourite dancers to follow online?

E:  Maria Kochetkova from the San Francisco ballet, Bennet Gartside from the Royal Ballet and Jonathan Goddard. He always has something to say because he is so broad-minded, he sees a lot of things that inspire movements or making interesting parallels between dance and other forms of culture. Lauren Cuthbertson. She's also very interesting. She engages a lot with her followers.


Let’s talk about your new venture now: Lume Labs?

E: We started this venture late last year and we're still developing it slowly but surely. We started it because we felt like we could bring all these ideas that we're using in The Ballet Bag to advise people and show them how to set up channels like these themselves or how to manage them. We can also help people brainstorming to find creative things that they can share online, either by helping them coming up with the ideas or by executing the ideas for them. It can be by taking over somebody's twitter feed for a period of time to help them to establish a presence out there, find what the right angle is for them or to produce something that can be shared virally in these channels.

L: And also writing. We've done a couple of articles for programmes or magazines so different things.

E: We are working to get our website launch by next month so watch this space! [EDIT: the Lume Labs website has now been launched].


Out of curiosity, what's behind the name of your company, Lume Labs?

E: That's an interesting story actually! I am Brazilian and Linda is Mexican and "lume" in both our languages means something bright. Also if you take parts of our first name and surnames and combine them, they form the word Lume. So Lume is for the pieces of our names and something bright.

L: And labs because it's all experimental and exciting.  


Great idea! Emilia and Linda, thank you very much for your time! We wish you the best of luck with Lume Labs.


In the mean time, please everyone, do check out The Ballet Bag blog and let us know in the comment section what you thought of the interview.



The Ballet Bag blog

The Ballet Bag twitter

The Ballet Bag facebook

Lume Labs website

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 Maria Jose Sales, Soloist at Barcelona Ballet

by Admin26. July 2012 14:08

Today we’re having a chat with Maria Jose Sales, Soloist at Barcelona Ballet. Maria trained in Valencia, Spain, before moving to England to take classes at English National Ballet School. After graduating, she danced principal roles with the Santamaria Compañia de Danza in Spain for 2 years before heading back to the UK to expand her classical repertoire with the renowned English National Ballet.

Maria tells us more about her story and how Spanish people need to fight to keep ballet a part of their culture.

Maria Jose Sales. Photo: Patrick Baldwin

Hi Maria! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Wed love to know more about your passion for ballet. Where is it coming from?

MJS: My passion for ballet started when I was 11 years old. At the age of 7, I was seeing ballet more as a hobby than something that I could actually live off.  But later on, when I started watching ballet videos of Barishnikov and Harvey, Don Quixote…etc., I realised that I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I love to play different roles, take the audience to a different world and make them forget real life for a moment.


Can you talk us through some of the differences between the training you received at the Valencia Center of Dance with Mari Cruz Alcalá and at the English National Ballet School with Alicia Markova?

MJS: If you want to be a professional dancer you have to go abroad. When I was at the Conservatoire of Dance and RAD, I was taking one ballet class a day of about 1hour 30 minutes. Then I had music, A level dance…etc. I graduated when I was 13 years old with the superior title of Choreographer and Classical Ballet Technique but this wasn’t good enough to join a company. Mari Cruz Alcala decided that it would be a good idea to do an exchange with Russian ballet dancers so we could see how ballet worked elsewhere. A group of students from our school went to Moscow. That was hard! The kids there were amazing! I told my parents that I didn´t want to keep studying on the side so my teacher at that moment - Ana Maria Campos - organized an audition for ENB school. When I joined, I was so impressed; the students had pas de deux classes, tap, pointe work, 2 hours classes, contemporary, character, A-level art, notation... we started at 8:20 a.m and finished at 7p.m every day.  There were only 9 students in my year so you could not hide from the teachers! We had the chance to see the company classes every morning in between classes. In a way it was motivating but the whole thing was really exhausting. It was the first time I was living on my own and on top of that I didn´t speak a word of English! Hopefully with the new school that Angel Corella is opening in Barcelona, the new generation of children that want to be ballet dancers won’t have to go abroad and that will make it a bit easier for them.


What was the best piece of advice your teachers gave you and that you’d like to share with the new generation?

MJS: If you don´t believe in yourself, no one will believe in you. I was very shy when I first starting dancing so my teachers kept telling me to believe in myself.


Prior to joining English National Ballet, you worked for 2 years with Juan Carlos Santamaria, dancing his entire repertoire. Which ballets and roles did you enjoy the most?

MJS: When I graduated from ENB School, they offered me to stay three more months at the school and then join the company. So I was one of the lucky girls that got to perform with ENB while still being at the school. Unfortunately I had to keep paying and it was too much money. Also it wasn’t clear to me whether or not I wanted to live there and be a part of this world; it is very competitive and I´m not like that. I like to enjoy what I’m doing and learn from others but I hate competing. So I went back to Spain and gave up ballet for a year!  I finished my studies while taking ballet classes in Madrid. Juan Carlos Santamaria got in touch with me as he needed a girl to play the role of Clara in his Nutcracker tour. I joined his company and I loved it. Juan focuses on emotions in all his ballets. They’re essential to the dancing. I like his entire repertoire really but Sonidos and Lágrimas were my favourite ones. He was the push that I needed to complete my learning about ballet. I had the technique from England and the feelings to play roles from J.C Santamaria.


You even had a role created for you: “Aariko” pas de deux. Can you tell us more about it?

MJS: It was about the mistreatment of women. It’s really hard to play a role when you don´t understand why people do that. How can these women stay with this kind of person? I had to watch movies about it, to pass on to the audience the feelings I had when I saw these movies. I didn’t want the audience to clap at the end of the pas de deux so that they got my message! I was really impressed the day that I danced it for the first time: there was a huge silence at the end and little by little you started hearing one clap and another one and then everyone. I had made it!! That was a big experience for me.


It sounds like such an incredible experience.  Can you tell us more about working with Juan? What was it like?

MJS:  Juan works a lot with feelings.  I really liked working with him because he made me understand and feel ballet in a different way. Sadly I eventually had to leave the company because we weren’t getting paid much. I didn´t want to ask for more money to my parents so I decided to audition somewhere else.

Maria Jose Sales. Photo: Fernando Bufala

Your time at English National Ballet seems to have been another stepping stone in your career. You danced many principal and soloist roles. What would you say has been your biggest breakthrough?

MJS: When I joined ENB I already knew some of the people there so I didn´t feel too strange. I studied in Markova House during my first year at the school so it was like hello again! My first six months in the company were about catching up: I was coming from a new classical contemporary company so joining one of the most important companies with a classical repertoire was difficult. Getting used to pointe shoes again was also very hard! My first principal role with ENB was during my second year in the company. I was the Fairy God Mother in Michael Corder´s Cinderella. I was the last one listed in the cast. I had Daria Klimentova and many others in front of me. I never thought that I’d get the role but Corder wanted to see me on stage so they gave me the chance. They were really happy with me after the show and me too!  After that they started giving me more important roles to dance.


Who did you enjoy dancing with while at ENB?

MJS: I really enjoyed dancing with Fernando Bufalá. He is now first soloist at Barcelona Ballet. It wasn´t an important role but we had so much complicity that it made it very easy. I also loved working with David Dowson when we were rehearsing Million Kisses to my Skin; he really pushes you to the limit and I love his ballets.


After 7 years or so at ENB, you joined Corella Ballet (now Barcelona Ballet). Why and how did this move happen?

MJS: I moved to Corella Ballet because I needed to move on in my repertoire. The season coming were ballets that I had danced before and that I wasn´t too excited to dance again. At the same time I had always wanted to dance in my country, Spain. There are too many Spanish around the world dancing for other companies; our country needs to fight for dance. I decided to resign from ENB and stand up for Spanish ballet companies. Spain needs it! People need to know more about ballet. There are still people out there who think ballet is not a profession. They are too much into football and Formula 1, yes! Pretty sad! I felt I needed to really stand up for Angel Corella´s project and give my support.


What are your first memories of Corella Ballet?

MJS: I’ve been very happy since my very first day with the company. Everyone is very nice. We used to go out almost every day and then the next morning everyone was in class, rehearsing, giving 200 per cent of themselves and the energy that Angel transmitted. Having Makarova rehearshing me was also like a dream. I have really good memories.


Within just a year, you were promoted to Soloist. A title much deserved! What did this promotion signify to you?

MJS: When Angel promoted me to Soloist it meant that he believed in me and it was the recognition of all these years of work. I was really thankful. 


Maria Jose Sales and James Forbat in Les Emotions. Photo: John Ross

Do you remember your first role as a Soloist?

MJS: I remember perfectly my first important role! It was the main pas de deux (blue) in David Richardson´s Bruch Violin Concerto.


Did you feel more nervous for this role in particular?

MJS: I have to recognise that I was very anxious to dance it.


Speaking of being nervous, what are your best tips to keep calm and stay focus?

MJS: I always think that if your director puts you on stage, its because you can do it. It is just about enjoying your moment because the work in the studios is done.


Now that you’ve been with the company for a while, do you feel like it’s a great fit for you?

MJS: I´m really happy with the decision I made in 2008. Angel and Carmen Corella believed in me and that made me grow a lot as a dancer. It really feels like home.


What do you hope to achieve next season? Are there any roles or ballets in particular you’re looking forward to dancing?

MJS: What I´m looking forward to dancing next season is the Merry Widow but that will not happen until the government of Spain realises that ballet is a way to educate. They need more funding. Ballet cannot disappear! The people of Spain want to see ballet! 


Maria, thank you for your time. We’re hoping we will see you in the Merry Widow very soon!


Maria Jose Sales, Capezio

Maria Jose Sales. Photo: Fernando Bufala

Useful resources:

Barcelona Ballet

Interview with Lee Payne, Professional Tap Dancer, Sky 1’s Got To Dance 2012 Semi- Finalist and Director of Bruckfeet Productions

by Admin23. July 2012 16:16

As announced earlier, we are now officially sponsoring the brilliantly talented Lee Payne. His theatre credits include Riverdance, Singing In The Rain and Magic of The Dance, Bouncers, Jekyll & Hyde, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Hamlet. You might also have seen him on Top Of The Pops, the Des O’Conner Show, Got To Dance and numerous broadcasts of his Riverdance performance on television stations all over the world.


Read our interview with Lee to find out more about his passion for dance, how it all started for him, along with his story and upcoming projects.


Capezio sponsors Tap Dancer Lee Payne

Lee Payne, Got To Dance 2012

So Lee, tell us more about yourself and why you love tapping?

I started watching old movies with all the great hoofers like Jimmy Slyde, Bunny Briggs, Sammy Davis Jr, Chuck Green…etc when I was 4 years old.  I loved it! Listening to all the different styles of music made my love for music grow. The more I listened, the more I wanted to sing… but I wanted to sing with my feet! When 2 hoofers are together, it then becomes like a conversation of rhythm.


How did you get into tap dancing?

I started tap dancing when I saw the Nicholas Brothers perform their amazing duet in the film “Stormy Weather”. From that moment, I just knew that it’s what I wanted to do.  


Who are your current inspirations?

I still look back on all the great Hoofers for inspiration but at the moment I also very much enjoy watching Michelle Dorrance. Breaking it down with a beautiful flow really helps me to create and compose new ideas and tunes.


Speaking of composing new ideas and tunes, what’s the creative process behind setting up a performance?

So many people have different ways of setting up a performance. Depending on the kind of show I am putting together, I will take the format (Cuban night, Corporate event…etc.), put together a music programme and then work the hoofing around that.


Any favourite tap step?

I don’t have a favourite step… I get more enjoyment from all the steps once put together in a beautiful lyrical pattern.


You were a semi-finalist on Got To Dance, what did you think of this experience?

It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad that I performed on the show. I was a great profile builder and I hope it has let people know that there are new tap shows are out there.


Of all the performances you’ve done, which was one was your favourite?

I would have to say that my favourite would be my semi final piece. I was able to tap and be myself. It was great!


Do you have a word of advice for dancers who’d like to go on the show?

Always be true to yourself and do your thing. Whether you win or lose, the only way you can improve your dancing is by believing in what you’re doing, your creative ideas and put them out there for others to enjoy.


Capezio sponsors Tap Dancer Lee Payne

Lee Payne - Got To Dance

Great advice! Can you tell us more about your company Bruckfeet productions?

Bruckfeet Productions is being built for performers with new ideas to be able to get a chance to develop and hopefully get their idea up and running. It’s in the early stages and I’m working out my new ideas to get some capital behind the company thus helping others.  There are so many talented people out there that don’t always get a chance… I just want to help them get that chance. 


The company has a long way to go and a lot to do: teaching, filming, performances (arts/media) are the areas that I will be looking into, not just going down the Tap route but all styles of dance. Acting - from TV to film.  Artists - from Painters to sculptors.  With the collection of talented people that I have been bringing together, there will be very soon a whole new catalogue of talented people with amazing ideas.


What projects are you currently working on?

At the moment I am working on the 2012 London Olympics. I’ve also been putting a lot of time in my band “Vinx and the Groove Heroes” and my Duet. There will definitely be big things coming soon!


You seem to be a very busy man. What’s a typical day like for you at the moment?

Well I’m on my own putting Bruckfeet Production together as I have to lay the foundations first before I can move forward. So I’m handling finances, publicity, artists, acts and more every day. Between paperwork I enjoy spending time with my 2 beautiful daughters and choreographing. My days are pretty much nonstop!


Any plans to rest this summer?

Well, this summer I am hosting the Cotton Club over in Ireland. The ambience of the jazz vibe is amazing and I always feel at home. So if you can make it, please come along: Friday 10th August from 8:00pm until 2:00am at the Grand Social in Dublin. It’s going to be a thrilling night of world class Tap Dancing and Hot Jazz with the Cotton Club House Band and Truly DiVine. Tickets available here: I hope to see you all there!


Sounds exciting! We’ve got one more question for you: people often ask what they should wear for tap dancing. What would you recommend?

I would say a nice light but strong pair of trousers that allows you to move and be flexible. A T-shirt is always a good choice and on the feet I only swear by Capezio’s K360.


Thank you Lee for your time and best of luck at the Cotton Club!

Lee Payne


Useful resources:

Sky 1's Got To Dance

Bruckfeet Productions


Interview with Patricia Zhou, Apprentice at the Royal Ballet and Prize Winner of the Prix de Lausanne 2011

by Admin19. July 2012 12:19


Late ballet beginners and Prix de Lausanne entrants will love today’s interview; Patricia Zhou, Apprentice with the Royal Ballet, tells us more about starting her training at the Kirov Academy at the late age of 13 and her incredible experience at the Prix de Lausanne.

She has recently announced she will be joining Staatsballett Berlin as a member of the Corps de Ballet for the 2012/2012 season.


Patricia Zhou, interview with Capezio

Patricia Zhou

Hi Patricia, can you remember your first ballet class?

I can't. Sadly when I first started ballet, I didn't really focus on the dancing. I just remember playing with my friends in class and enjoying dance lessons for that reason.


That’s a good start! When would you say you started to think seriously of a career in dance?

I didn't actually ever consider a career in dance until quite recently. Growing up I used to play a lot of piano and I studied quite a bit as well. I'm sure if I hadn't gone the way I did, I would have still been doing something that had to do with creativity. I've loved art for as long as I can remember.


Dance is a great form of art so you’re definitely going in the right direction! Tell us about your training at the Kirov Academy?

My training there was so incredible. However, it was very difficult in the beginning as I was very much lost at first and I couldn't remember the combinations fast enough due to the lack of training prior to joining the Kirov. I  I think because I was really apprehensive that I wouldn't be able to do what the teachers asked of me, I always got so nervous before class, even in my last year at school. With that being said, I truly feel that I was lucky enough to have teachers that expected a lot from me and pushed me everyday. Though it made taking class quite nerve wracking, I can't imagine my training any differently and would not want to change a thing about it.


You started your training slightly later than other dancers. How has it affected your training?

Well I obviously felt very embarrassed being the oldest in the lowest level and having no clue what was going on most of the time in the first few months. I did have to try my best to catch up with the rest of my classmates. Thankfully, I had the fortune to work with great teachers and was able to move up to the highest level within two years.


I do admit I started really working a lot harder in the past couple of years after I realised that I had a chance at being successful. However, looking back, what I used to think was hard work back then really wasn't... Still, I never had imagined that I would make it to where I am today after just a few years into ballet. 


That’s very impressive indeed. What do you think has been your most formative experience?

I can't single out a specific one because I have had so many great experiences. Among them, having the opportunity to work one-on-one with a big handful of amazing teachers and mentors was the best. I think during private coaching I really grew up as a dancer and it helped me improve my technique a lot faster because of the constant attention. I was also lucky enough to have many caring teachers both inside and outside of Kirov who all sincerely wanted me to do well. Their nonstop pushing really gave me the drive to keep going.


You mentioned your mentors and some amazing teachers. What was the best piece of advice they gave you?

The best piece of advice I've ever been given is from my mom. And it doesn't apply solely to ballet, it's somewhat universal.

When I first started competing, she would always tell me to just enjoy the stage and do the best of my ability, instead of thinking about competing with others and placing. She would say that you can't suddenly be better than everyone if they have had more training and experience. At the competition, I would just compete with myself and was just happy to own the stage. Because of her advice, I was never nervous because I was just trying to do my personal best. In reality I was much more grateful that judges recognized my potential and talent than for the awards I won in the end.

Patricia Zhou, Capezio interview

Patricia Zhou at the Prix de Lausanne

Speaking of competitions, we’re very interested in hearing more about your experience in this area. One competition in particular must have opened a lot of doors for you: Prix de Lausanne. Can you tell us about it?

Among the four competitions I competed in, Prix de Lausanne was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had. It was so surreal to be there in the first place as I'd watched the finals on YouTube quite a few times and had always been in awe of the beautiful young dancers that competed there.

I had always imagined it to be quite tense and formal, but it was just the opposite. Once I got there all of the dancers were so nice, and the atmosphere was as relaxed as a ballet competition can get. Overall, it was very reassuring to know that everyone was there to make sure we all had an amazing week. 


Were you not stressed at all then?

I admit as much as I am a very calm person in competitions, I was a little bit of nervous. As my teacher was not able to accompany me to the competition, I was on my own. The raked stage was also very daunting and we didn't get much time to adjust to it. However I've never been a super competitive person who has to win, so I just enjoyed the chance to dance for the audience and judges on such a famous stage. For me it was more about the experience and knowledge that I gained from being amongst the world's top young dancers. 


Can you give our reader some tips on how to remain calm during a competition?

My best tip is: "Compete with the best of yourself rather than with others. Enjoy the audience, stage, and experience!"


Patricia Zhou

What do you think is the best way to make an impression in competitions like these?

I think you just have to be yourself and really perform as an artist instead of a technician. I think if you can show the judges that you truly enjoy what you're doing and dance from within, that makes a lasting impression. To me, there is nothing more you can do.


How did you feel when you were told you had won?

I was very much humbled! I know that I wasn't able to dance to the best of my ability with the conditions given, so I was so grateful that the judges believed in me. I could not have been happier.


What did it mean to you?

It really meant a lot to me because I never thought I would compete in such a prestigious competition when I first started training at Kirov, let alone being placed. I was already thrilled by the opportunity to dance in the finals for such a big audience, and knowing all of my family and friends were watching from around the world was just fantastic.


It must have been a very special moment. You graduated from the Kirov in May 2011. Was your move to the Royal Ballet already negotiated or did it come later?

Well I got the apprenticeship through Prix de Lausanne in February, but I didn't know it would be for the Royal Ballet until the end of March. It was one of the happiest days of my life!



What is always a dream of yours to dance with the Royal Ballet then?

It had been my dream to dance with the Royal Ballet, so I was elated to see it on the choice list at the Prix de Lausanne. They have amazing repertoire and of course some of the world's most brilliant dancers, not to mention the fact that it is in one of the most best cities to live in!


Speaking on London, I suppose crossing the ocean to start a career in England was both exciting and scary. Tell us about the move and your first few months in London.

It was definitely very bittersweet to leave America to go to a country where I knew no one, but I was looking forward to starting my professional career, so I didn't hesitate at all.


The first few months were pretty lonely and scary to be honest. I am not the most outgoing person when you first meet me, so it took me a while to make friends. Working professionally was also very new to me, and it was difficult for me to figure out how everything worked. From casting to full calls, I was a bit lost at first. After a few months though I found my way and started to get used to everything.


You’ve been with the Royal Ballet for about a year now. What do you hope to achieve next season?

Well I am actually moving to Berlin in a few weeks to join the Staatsballett Berlin as a full member. I'm really excited and very much looking forward to be dancing there. I hope I'll get used to their way of working quickly and will be able to immerse myself in rehearsals and shows as soon as possible.


Congratulations! What roles would you like to dance there?

I would love someday to dance "Romeo and Juliet", "Giselle", "Swan Lake"... All of the tragic ones. I also dream of dancing Forsythe's "In the Middle Somewhat Elevated". 


We would love to see your interpretation of these classics.


Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions Patricia. We’ve got one more for you: what are your plans for this summer? I suppose you will be resting and packing before heading to Berlin?  


I get about a month break, so I'll have a good amount of time to get ready for the new season. However, I'm actually going to be dancing all summer. I am teaching in the US for the first time which I'm a little bit anxious about, but quite excited at the same time. I will also be dancing in the "Stars of Russian Ballet Gala" with both world renowned ballet stars and aspiring young ballet students in Michigan, so I will be training for that as well. The gala, which started three years ago, aimed at bringing world class ballet to Michigan has provided such a great opportunity for ballet students to train and perform with professional dancers from all over the world. The annual gala has brought so many great ballet stars from all over the world and grown bigger and bigger every year. This will be my third year being invited back and it is the performance that I look forward to being part of, so I can't wait until August!!


Fantastic! That’s a busy summer in perspective then. We hope you enjoy your time back in America and we’re looking forward to hearing and seeing more from you at Staatsballett Berlin!


Useful resources:

Patricia’s website

Patricia’s blog

Patricia’s twitter

Royal Ballet

Staatsballett Berlin


Interview with Melissa Hamilton, Soloist at the Royal Ballet

by Admin16. July 2012 14:21


Melissa Hamilton. Interviewed by Capezio

Melissa Hamilton. Photo: Simon Fowler

In today’s interview, Melissa Hamilton, Soloist at the Royal Ballet tells us more about her incredibly inspiring story and how believing in herself and her dreams has got her where she is today. Melissa is also dancing in Metamorphosis Titian 2012, a super production already considered as one of the highlights of the London 2012 Festival.


Hi Melissa, your story is incredible and we can’t wait to share it with our readers. Our first question is about your passion for ballet. We’d love to know how it all started for you and what it is that you love about this discipline?

MH: I started to go for one lesson a week of ballet from age four purely as a hobby.  It wasn't until I went to a Summer School in Scotland when I was 13 and was dancing all day every day for a week, that I suddenly found something that I really loved spending that amount of time doing.  From then on I had it in my head that I would audition for a vocational school (at 16) after my GCSE's, which my parents wanted me to stay in Northern Ireland to do.


I love how there is always something new to learn in ballet, you can always do things better than you did them yesterday so it's impossible to get bored as you constantly have something to strive for.


You started your professional training a lot later than other ballerinas. I imagine the first few months at school weren’t easy… Tell us more about it?

MH: It wasn't easy at all... I was coming from a tiny hobby based local dance school, having done only a maximum of two days a week ballet after school, to joining a class of girls who in majority had been at vocational schools since 11years old.  It was like playing catch-up! 


Yes, it must have been very hard... At the end of your first year at Elmhurst, you were actually told you should give up. How did you manage to keep motivated and believe in yourself?

MH: I don't like to be told "you can't" - that's one of my greatest sources of motivation. The will to prove that what I believed in was right regardless of what other people were telling me is what I owe my career to today.  I knew I didn't have the backing of my teachers in that first year in Elmhurst but to be told at the end of the year that ballet wasn't a suitable career choice for me was hard to stomach at the time.  However, I knew that the teachers telling me this were being replaced the coming year, so I went with the gut instinct to return after the summer break - I didn't want to give up on where I wanted my life to go.  


And luckily, when you came back after the summer break, your talent was recognized by someone very important - Masha Mukhamedov – who decided to take you under her wings. What was the year of intensive training you had with Masha like?

MH: Masha came as the teacher to my class in my second year in Elmhurst and suddenly my eyes were opened to a totally new concept of how to work. We only had ballet class with her in this year, no solo, repertoire or pas de deux lessons.  When it was announced she was leaving after one year of teaching there to move to Athens I was devastated.  Soon after I actually was the one to approach her with the idea of teaching me privately - to which she thought I was crazy! However, I knew she was my only hope of getting to where I wanted to be and most importantly I knew she believed in me.  So I quit school after two years (of a three year course) and I started my 10 month intensive training with her in Athens consisting of a solid four hours a day, six days a week. 


What was the best piece of advice she gave you during the training?

MH: Trust me!


Melissa Hamilton. Photo: Simon Fowler

You did and it most certainly worked! You’ve had the opportunity to enter competitions as well, including the renowned America Grand Prix. To your surprise, you won. What did it mean to you? Did it feel like you were finally being recognised?

MH:At 18 that was my first time performing a classical solo in a proper theatre! We knew that I couldn't audition for a company without having any stage experience so this was our way of gaining some of that.  It was also important to see what was "out there" in the youth of the ballet world - competitions are an excellent way of opening your eyes to the talent around the world.  I had never expected to win Grand Prix and it came as a huge shock to both myself and Masha.


Congratulations! This is very impressive. As a result of your hard work, you were offered a contract with the American Ballet Theatres Studio Company but this wasnt what you wanted. You wanted to get into the Royal Ballet. Your determination and talent paid. Tell us how you got in?

MH: To work in New York had never been something that I had even considered.  Being British, my ultimate aim was to dance with the Royal Ballet... however in the ballet world contracts are like gold-dust and not something to turn down unless you have a number of offers.  When we arrived back from New York, Masha contacted Monica Mason the Director of the Royal Ballet, told her about me and asked if she would be interested in looking at me.  Jet-lagged we then set about making a short DVD to send to her in London after which I was invited to take company class and was offered a corps de ballet contract starting at the beginning of the new season.  


Fantastic! You must have been thrilled to get closer to your dream. One thing we haven’t asked yet is what is it about the Royal Ballet that you love and that you think makes it the perfect company for you?

MH: The Royal Ballet offers an incredible repertoire to its dancers with the MacMillan and Ashton heritage a huge part of what makes the company unique. Not only do we dance the classics but an equal importance on neo-classical, contemporary and the creation of new works means all aspects of ourselves as artists are constantly evolving. What we dance is like our fuel so the repertoire is a huge aspect to consider when looking at companies to audition for.  Our facilities here at the Royal Opera House offer us incredibly comfortable conditions to work in and our annual tour is definitely a great perk! 


What would you say has been you first breakthrough after entering the company?

MH: I would always consider my pas de deux in Wayne McGregor's Infra with Eric Underwood was what brought me to peoples' attention.   


And do you remember the first role you had to dance with the corps de ballet? How was it?

MH: It was The Kingdom of the Shades in La Bayadere.  I am thankful that this was the first ballet I was involved in at the Royal Ballet because the corps de ballet girls are used extensively throughout so I was used on stage immediately, not just covering and learning the work in the studio... by dancing on stage we make the biggest progress.  


You mentioned earlier Wayne McGregor and this pas de deux in Infra. This role was created by Wayne himself for you. What a brilliant experience it must have been! Tell us about the role and how you prepared for it.

MH: This was at the beginning of my second season.  I was very naive to what it meant to be created on by the Resident Choreographer of the Company and what a priviledge it was. I was just going on the fact that I was loving the rehearsal and creation process and found it all new and exciting - I never thought of the impact this pas de deux could have had on my career.


The pas de deux in Infra created on myself and Eric Underwood was very physically demanding as I was literally stretched to my limits... so I had to ensure I was incredibly warm before stepping on stage to avoid injury.  I will be dancing Infra again in the 2012/13 season with the company so it will be very interesting to come back to and develop it which is always important when you get the chance to repeat a role.


Were most definitely looking forward to see you make your return! How is it to work with Wayne?

MH: Wayne pushes his dancers to new limits.  His language is not like classical ballet, which has a name for each particular step, instead his is purely about the movement of the body so to learn and retain is a lot more difficult.  This makes the creating process sometimes more mentally than physically challenging to begin with, but by performing your body works on muscle memory and physically you can push it to it's extremity.  


Melissa Hamilton and Edward Watson in Romeo and Juliet. Photo: Bill Cooper/ROH

Speaking of pushing limits, you reached new heights recently when you obtained one of the roles most coveted by all ballerinas: Juliet in Romeo & Juliet. The reviews were great. Tell us more about being Juliet and more importantly how you added your own touch to it?

MH: Juliet is truly one of the most incredible experiences I have had on stage.  To live out a role like that is something that words cannot describe.  You give yourself to be your version of "Juliet." You feel every emotion on the journey she goes through over three hours and at the end you are paid back for all the hours, months, years of work you have put in.  I studied Shakespeare's text, watched the films and of course other ballerina's take on Juliet.  You can learn so much from watching other dancers.  To draw on your own experiences in life is also important when dancing a role. I think it is by putting aspects of yourself into a character on stage that brings it to life and makes it become so much more than the steps...this is how you touch people. 


You danced with Edward Watson who was Romeo. Did you enjoy dancing together? How is he as a dance partner?

MH: I was scheduled to dance with Rupert Pennefather as my Romeo, but three days before our performance he injured himself and Edward replaced him. This is not the most ideal scenario, especially when you are making a debut, but I had worked with Ed in a lot of the McGregor ballets so I felt very comfortable at such short notice to put a three act ballet together with him.  I absolutely loved those three days and the performance with Ed - he was so supportive of the fact that this was a debut for me and I had total faith in the fact that he would be the Romeo to my Juliet in the performance.


Youre dancing in Metamorphosis Titian 2012, which was showed for the first time on Saturday the 14th July. Can you tell our readers more about what it’s about?

MH: Its a collaboration with 7 choreographers, three artists the Royal Ballet and the National Gallery to create an evening of three new works in their response to paintings by the Renaissance artist Titian.  The works are based around three of Titian's masterpieces - Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon & Diana and Callisto. It is all part of The National Gallery's contribution to the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.  There are four performances and it will be relayed live in Trafalgar Square and across the UK on 16th July. 



Tell us more about what we can expect from this production? 

MH: It will be an exciting evening showing how masterpieces like these by Titian paintings can inspire living artists today. The new work will be created on the company with Wayne McGregor and Kim Brandstrup's Machina, Christopher Wheeldon and Alastair Marriott's Trespass and Will Tuckett, Jonathan Watkins and Liam Scarlett's Diana and Actaeon.  


Who would you say this production will appeal to?

MH: With the collaboration of the British artists Conrad Shawcross, Mark Wallinger and Chris Ofili working alongside the choreographers creating the set designs for each ballet, I hope an audience will be drawn to see the vision and work of some of the best contemporary artists in different fields of the art world in one space in one evening. 


Last question: what are your plans for this summer? Some time off will be much deserved after all your hard work.

MH: Immediately after the season finishes on 23rd July I go to Spain to perform in a gala before taking a short holiday.  After this I will start preparing to dance the lead female role in the ballet "A Bientot" which I am guest performing on 25th and 26th August with The Asami Maki Ballet in Tokyo.  Then straight back to London to start the new 2012/13 season on 28th.


A very busy summer in perspective then! We wish you the best of luck with the upcoming performances and your career. Thank you so much for your time!


Melissa Hamilton and Eric Underwood in Infra. Photo: Dave M.

Useful resources:

Royal Ballet

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012


Interview with Shelby Elsbree, Corps de Ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet

by Admin13. July 2012 13:55


Today we’re having a chat with the talented and bubbly Shelby Elsbree. Shelby is originally from Florida, USA. She started her training at the Florida Ballet Arts Academy before moving to New York at the age of 13 to train at the School of American Ballet. She was offered a job at Dresden Semperoper Ballet before her last year at SAB but eventually turned it down to join the Royal Danish Ballet where she still dances to this day.

In this interview, Shelby tells us more about her life as a dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet, her blog “The Offbeat Chronicles of a Tutu with Tea” and her best nutrition tips for dancers.


Shelby Elsbree

Hi Shelby, do you remember your first ballet lesson?

I remember entering the studio feeling both curious and excited... The girls in the class came right up to me and showed me how to start stretching to warm up... the rest is history!


It sounds like you were immediately accepted in the group. What was it that you immediately liked about ballet?

My favorite part of ballet has always, always been performing. I have grown to enjoy classes and the rehearsal process more and more as I've grown up, but performing, for me, is undoubtedly the highlight — the opportunity for me to give back and share what I enjoy with those I love. I couldn't ask for more. Oh! Costume fittings are always a thrill too!


Yes its always exciting and puts things in perspective! So tell us, who were your favourite dancers growing up?

I have always admired Julie Kent from ABT for her timelessness. She has always danced with grace, strength and contagious passion, which I can't get enough of... Lately Marianella Nunez and Alina Cojocaru from the Royal Ballet of London are among my favorites... There are just so many talented dancers out there.. I love finding new sources of enlightenment in this art form. 


Can you tell us more about the kind of training you received?

I began training in the Vaganova style at the age of 9 at the Florida Ballet Arts Academy in Sarasota, Florida. I spent a year with the Sarasota Ballet before moving to New York City to train at the School of American Ballet at the age of 13, and moved to Copenhagen when I turned 18 to join the Royal Danish Ballet as a member of the corps.


Before we talk about your move to the Royal Danish Ballet, wed like to know what the key lessons you learned during your training are: what is the best piece of advice you received?

Be true to your technique, and trust it...That way when you are performing, it is there for you, and you have more freedom, artistically, to just let go.


Shelby Elsbree in "The Sleeping Beauty". Photo: David Amzallag

Thank you. So, what about your move to Europe? How did it all happen?

My final year at the School of American Ballet was at the heart of the economic crisis, so I thought it wise to audition elsewhere so that I might have options in case there weren't any jobs available in New York. My mom, sister and I took a tour de force of 5 European companies in a total of 8 days during which I auditioned. This week of life changing perspective and exposure was probably the highlight of my entire dance career so far.


Was it a dream of yours to cross the ocean and perform with a European company?

Yes indeed! I always considered New York to be the closest thing America has to Europe, and given how much I love and truly cherish my time in the city, I couldn't wait to see all that Europe had to offer. 


Tell us about your move to Copenhagen more specifically and your first few months there. It must have been a little bit of a culture shock!

Wow... I didn't even stop to think about it until a few months in, now that you mention it... Everything was so new and nonstop, I packed up about 6 of (my brother's) hockey bags and my mom and I moved not a week after I decided to take the job. We found an apartment in less than a week and I was thrown into an all Balanchine program - much to my excitement - right away... It wasn't until I had my bank account set up, a working cell phone and internet, finished unpacking and had my first 'real' day off about 3 months in, that I remember sitting on my balcony eating a Danish (how fitting :) and thinking to myself, "...did I really move to Europe?!" It seemed impossible, surreal, thrilling and terrifying all at once. The culture shock hits me every time I go back and forth... no less exciting to discover new foods in the market, shows on tv or movies in the theaters... It has given me such a new perspective of both America and Europe and has truly defined the dance world for me as I know it.


Speaking of the dance world, can you tell us about the differences you have found between ballet in America and Europe?

I have had so much fun both discovering and experiencing the differences of ballet in America and Europe. I find that there are far different mentalities approached with different styles...My Balanchine training from SAB, for example could not be more opposite than the Bournonville style I've become more familiar with. I enjoy seeing how they play off of each other in keeping me a well rounded and versatile dancer. The strengths of my technique for example (from Balanchine training) give me the freedom to explore more artistically, which is a specialty of Bournonville dancers.


I also find that pressures are different with European audiences versus American (namely New York) audiences. Where Americans have more competitive tendencies in the dance world, I am seeing that Europeans (at least in Denmark) seem a little less 'cut throat'.


One more thing I've grown to appreciate is tradition. Because European companies are so much older than those in America, I find that there are more traditions passed on from generations of past dancers and ancient theaters...little things like "good luck gifts" which we call 'Pøj Pøj's' or the customary "Thank you for tonight" or "Thank you for last night" (re: performances), daily exchanged between my teachers, director and colleagues, alike. I love hearing about the superstitions of old Opera houses and being let in on secrets of history.


These are lovely traditions! Why did you choose the Royal Danish Ballet in particular?

I chose Royal Danish Ballet for several reasons. I love that it has many ties to New York City; My director is a former NYCB principal, and the director of NYCB is originally from the Royal Danish Ballet. I was enticed by the mix of repertoire, one that would allow me to perform the likes of Balanchine & Bournonville on the same stage, on the same night even, and the opportunity to expand my styles of dancing. I find the city of Copenhagen to be perfectly quaint, yet progressive. It's not too big, not too small, eco friendly and inspiring. It helped, of course, that everyone speaks perfect English and the airport is lovely.


Youve been with the RDB for a few years now and you've had the opportunity to dance several roles. Which one has been your favorite?

It's truly hard to say... I've enjoyed so many of the opportunities I've been given to challenge myself both as a dancer and as an artist. It might have to be a tie between Blue Girl in Jerome Robbin's Dances at a Gathering and more recently as Olympia in John Neumeier's Lady of the Camellias. The former was so thoroughly exhausting and fulfilling in every manor... I would push myself so hard, savoring every second on stage and then during the divertissements I wasn't in, I would lay on the floor, put my legs up, close my eyes and enjoy the beauty of the music. Olympia definitely pushed me to explore my artistic/creative side of expression. I LOVED the costumes, hats, jewellery, veils, etc that we got to wear and enjoyed becoming more and more of my character with each additional glove and gem. I could lose myself daily to Chopin's melodies and I think that Neumeier's ballet version of the story could not have been done any better. It was a true honor to bring that character to life.


What about your most challenging role?

My most challenging role was probably the Student in Flemming Flindt's The Lesson. I absolutely LOVED the challenge of this ballet. I read the play twice to prepare myself and watched several different versions of dancer's past. I found it harder artistically than technically, having to take the audience on this emotional roller coaster with not more than a minute off stage during the entire 28 minute piece. Having to live in the moment, beginning as a fearless, peppy young student, not able to anticipate the fear or pain that would soon be inflicted, it was unnerving in the best way. I would go home after these performances feeling drained emotionally, physically and mentally, and always entirely fulfilled. 


Shelby Elsbree. Photo: David Amzallag

The last performance of the season was early June. I suppose you are now enjoying some quality time off?!

I sure am!!! This summer was long anticipated after a very long winter in Copenhagen... Time for family, friends, sleeping and sunlight... I love to think of it as fueling up for another great season.


What are your plans for the summer holidays then?

I always go home to spend time with my family for the summer. We just took a big family cruise to Alaska which was breathtaking in every sense, and later this summer a trip to Paris and Greece with my best friend. In the mean time, I will teach a few classes here and there, take a few classes here and there, but mostly just soak up the sun...letting my body and mind rest and recover...


A rest much deserved after all the hard work! Now we'd love to talk about your blog The Offbeat Chronicles of a Tutu with Tea. What a great name! What inspired you to create the blog?

Two summers ago my sister claimed that I needed a carefree hobby. One that didn't involve ballet or working out... Well photography is what came of this and after my first few 'shoots' I found it too much fun to keep to myself. I thought of Tutus&Tea while I was lying in bed one night, and that was the beginning of an ongoing outlet of creativity for me...One that would help me balance my life as a dancer, foodie enthusiast and lover of travel and exploration...I love looking at my 'Stats' to see which countries my readers come from..It's so thrilling to think just how far we can reach out to share and inspire others with our opportunities, experiences and passions.


Can you tell us more about your favourite topics to blog about?

I love blogging about new combinations. Unexpected flavor pairings of food and presentation... I love finding new nooks of the theater too, like the costume or textile room and giving my readers a 'sneak peak' into my daily life at the theater, it helps me to appreciate it more as well.


You seem to be an excellent cook, what is your specialty?

OOooooo I love to cook! I have to say that as much as I enjoy (and truly, truly enjoy) baking, I like getting experimental with everyday meals...Probably breakfast is my favorite. There is not one food in this menu that I would not enjoy at any time of the day :)


Does your love for food sometimes get in the way of your diet as a dancer?

Never Ever ever! I've been brought up with the mindset of everything in moderation. It is so important to keep your diet balanced, just like every other element of life. I enjoy a big salad, brimful of fresh market veggies and topped with grilled salmon for Omega's & protein! Just as enthusiastically and appreciatively as I would savor a chocolate milkshake on a hot summer afternoon. I believe if you deprive yourself, you will only want it more ~ I read something recently that said "I take everything in moderation...even moderation." This is brilliant. I also consider myself (and all dancers) to be elite athletes, and in so being, we have to fuel our bodies with ample nutrients to hold such high expectations for ourselves. If you put premium gas into a car, you know it will run better...It's the same idea with food and the body. I believe that a healthy relationship with food is probably the most important element of being a successful, long-term athlete.


What are your best diet and nutrition tips for dancers?

The better quality ingredients and substance that you put into your body, the better quality you will get coming out of it - energy, endurance, strength, injury prevention... these are all key elements of being a successful, healthy dancer and these are all DIRECTLY related to the food you fuel yourself with. Try to have a balanced diet, eat seasonally and change up your meals....You know how boring it is to do the exact same combinations every single day in class? Well imagine how your body feels when it knows exactly what to expect for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Snack often to keep your metabolism revved up, and enjoy getting to eat ample amounts of protein and carbohydrates because you've earned it and because your body needs it to recover, repair, rejuvenate, and answer strongly and healthfully to all that you ask of it. Bon Appetite! 


Thank you Shelby for your time and for sharing your nutrition tips with us!


Useful resources:

Royal Danish Ballet

Shelby's website

Shelby's blog


Interview with Adeline Pastor, Principal Dancer at the Aalto Ballett Theater Essen

by Admin11. July 2012 12:12

Adeline Pastor was born in France in 1982. She studied Ballet at the private school of Claudette Douillon and won more than 15 competitions in 5 years. In 1998, she became a member of the National Ballet of Cuba under the direction of Alicia Alonso. She then danced with several other companies including the Ballet de Victor Ullate in Spain and the State Theatre in Wiesbaden, where she was a Soloist. She joined the Aalto Ballett Theater Essen as a Principal Dancer in 2008.


In our conversation with Adeline, we talk about her love for ballet, the training she received and her best tips on preparing for roles and choosing a company to dance with.


Adeline Pastor in Don Quixotte. Photo: Mario Perricone

 So tell us Adeline, how did it all start for you? What is your earliest memory related to dance?

My family was not in the ballet world. I did other sports like tennis and swimming at first. I liked it but I didn't love it. I started to love Ballet at the age of 8 years old when my mother put me at the private ballet school of Claudette Douillon in Nice, France. I was going there once a week and after 2 months I already wanted to take more classes, up to 4 times a week!


You said you started to love ballet at 8 years old. Did you already know by then that it was something special you wanted to do for the many years to come?

When I started, I didn’t think immediately that I wanted to be a professional ballet dancer. I just knew that I loved dancing. That’s when I was about 12 years old that the thought to continue this path professionally became bigger.


What is in particular that you love about ballet?

I would say this is something with dance in general: it is a way of expressing myself. What I love in Ballet, it's not only the technical side of it but the artistic parts of it. I get to interpret a different role every night. With dance, we can tell a story that the entire world can understand.

Adeline Pastor in Carmen/Bolero. Photo: Mario Perricone

 You mentioned studying with Claudette Douillon. How was it?

 Claudette gave me the love of dance, the discipline and rigor. She has always believed in me and me in her. Her basic education has been the best I could get.


What is the best piece of advice she gave you?

I will say that all her words were advices. You know, she never said to me "very good". She would say "it's better, it’s coming" and I think this was to push me more, to get better. But she was always reporting back to my parents to compliment me.


Choreographer Pedro Consuegra sent you to the National Ballet School of Alicia Alonso. This was such a big move and a great opportunity for you. Tell us about it.

Pedro noticed me in a competition in Grasse, France, where he was in the jury. I was 12 years old. He took me under his wings and started to teach to me. I could say so many amazing things about him but I would say that Pedro was most definitely a key factor in my career.  Everything started at this point. At 14 years old, he decided to send me to the National Ballet school of Alicia Alonso in Cuba.


Did you speak the language when your first arrived? If not, how did you communicate with the other dancers?

I was not speaking Spanish when I arrived to Cuba but the students and I communicated in sign language. And after only 3 weeks, I spoke Spanish fluently. Everybody was great!!


Can you tell us more about what you learned in Cuba specifically? I suppose the training was slightly different than the one you received in France.

I learned their technique which helped me improve my pirouettes, my jumps, Pas de deux...  and the desire to succeed.  I had my bases from the French school but to have also the Cuban school with me is great!!!


You have won so many prizes and competitions. What prize do you cherish the most?

That is a difficult question because I am proud and love all of them but to name a few: In 1997, I received the Technical and Artistical Revelation Price in the International Ballet Competition in Cuba. In 1998, I won the SILVER MEDAL at the renowned international competition of Varna (Bulgaria), 1st price and Grand Prix in the International Ballet competition of La Havane (Cuba) and I obtained the Diploma of the end of study, with Special distinction: 1st of the class and congratulations of the good work. In August 2010, I received during the Labat Danza Festival in the Italian Loano the "Grand Prix of the Talent of Guiliana Penzie".


Wow. That’s a lot of them. Do you get nervous before competitions or going on stage?

Personally, I love the stage!!! I have the best feeling when I am on stage. Stage is for me like a home. I’ve always loved performing in front of thousands of people.


Do you have any advice on how to keep calm and dance on?

Have confidence but never do too much of what you can do.


Adeline Pastor in Undine. Photo: Mario Perricone

You have already danced several roles in your career, which one was your favourite?

My favourites ballet is Don Quixote because of that playful Spanish character that fit me well... I always enjoy very much when I perform the role of Kitri.


What about the most challenging role?

The most challenging role for me has to be the role of Edith Piaf from "La vie en Rose", a Ballet from B. Van Cauwenbergh. I had to alternate singing and dancing and Piaf’s songs are difficult.


Can you tell us about how you prepared for this role or any other role for that matter?

I always research on the internet or buy a book on how to interpret the role. Also, I always try not to copy anybody because the best that I can do is being myself and no one else.


That’s a very good advice. There is a quote saying “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”. At the moment, you’re dancing with the Aalto Ballet Theater? Is it a good fit for you?

I get to dance many roles. I can do my galas around the world because my director let me go easily. My private life is great!!  I'm not in the largest and most prestigious ballet company but I'm happy and I don't need anything else.


You have danced in several other companies, what do you think matters the most when considering which one to dance with?

You have to choose a ballet company for you and not just because of its reputation and size. And especially since unfortunately in these companies, there are not enough places for everyone.

Adeline Pastor in Coppelia. Photo: Mario Perricone

 Any word of advice for our readers?

When I was 11 years old, I had already won more than 20 gold medals and a person well known of the world of ballet told me "because of your body, you should forget ballet and you should focus on the contemporary". I said to him "Thank you for your advice". If I had listened to him, I would not be what I am today. As my mother says I have strength of character. My advice is to listen to the right people, like your teacher who want your best, work on yourself, never give up and focus on the quality, not the quantity.

 I would like and will always thank the wonderful people who have helped me on my journey as a dancer. Without them, I will not be the dancer that I am today.

Thank you very much Adeline for such an inspirational interview!


 Useful resources:

Adeline's website

Adeline's Facebook fan page

Aalto Ballett Theater Essen