Pirates don't typically pirouette. But next week, they'll do just that for Boston Ballet's North American premiere of Ivan Liska's Le Corsaire. Pointe spoke with Ashley Ellis about her debut as Medora, a woman separated from her true love, the swashbuckling Conrad.
You've danced the ballet's famous pas de trois at galas and competitions, but what's it like in this context?
It's really nice to bring the virtuoso dancing into the story. There are these small details that make it more meaningful. Like the way I look at Ali: I don't love him, I'm more gracious and thankful that he's there. And then Conrad, of course, I look at him differently.
What's unique about this production?
At the end of other versions, Conrad rescues Medora and Gulnara. But in this one, Gulnara decides to stay with Pasha and live with all of his riches, and Medora goes to be with the person that she loves. I like that difference between the two lead female characters, that they have different values.
Do you do anything special to get into character for a story ballet?
For me, it comes gradually. The more we work on it, the more a character gets under the skin. When I get to the theater, I feel it even more with the costume and makeup and the sets. It brings it a level where I really feel like I'm in that world. Before that, connecting with my partner helps a lot and just thinking about the character and what they're feeling before a rehearsal.
Do you have any tips for dancers learning a full length like Le Corsaire?
Do your research. It's always valuable to see how other dancers have performed the role. Now, it's so accessible to watch YouTube videos, not to copy them but to get familiar with the character and how it can be interpreted. You should try to always bring as much as you can from your own ideas and personality, but if something in a video sparks your interest and really resonates with that character, brainstorm about it.