You're celebrating 25 years with the National Ballet of Canada. What makes it home?
I wanted to join the National Ballet because it had one of the best repertoires in the world. We do all the staples of the classical canon and yet get to work with amazing creators like Jirˇí Kylián, William Forsythe, Glen Tetley and all the iconic choreographers of the 21st century. I still feel that way.
What have you learned that could be helpful for young professionals?
Look around and really watch the people around you. I can't tell you how important that was for me, to have so many great dancers to learn from. You can absorb a lot by watching, you don't always have to do.
Your tenure has spanned three directors. Do you have tips for surviving directorial changeover?
The directors I had were each wonderful for me at that point in my career. But regardless of the director, my work ethic and how I treat this art form remain the same. You have to realize that what you are contributing is also important for the company. Trust yourself.
Photo by Aleksander Antonijevic, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.
Can you speak about dancing existing roles versus being part of the creative process?
Recently I danced Sir Frederick Ashton's A Month in the Country. I love the creative process, but there's also something really special about taking on a work created for two iconic dancers, Anthony Dowell and Lynn Seymour. It was very humbling, but it was just as much joy as something done for me.
What helps you find your character in a story ballet?
Music is the most important thing. It informs my technique, the character, pretty much everything. But also the coach. I've been crafting roles with my coach, Magdalena Popa, for 25 years. I trust her completely.
What's been your funniest moment onstage?
Once my partner broke the handle off the butter churn in the first act of La Fille mal gardée. He couldn't really do the choreography. We covered it up okay, but the audience saw it break, and they started laughing. And once you start laughing onstage, it's so hard to stop…
What would you take with you to a desert island?
Of course I would take my family. But, is there food on this desert island? Because I'd take a chef.