Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis. Photo by Tristram Kenton, Courtesy ROH.

Edward Watson: For the Muscular Royal Ballet Principal, Working Out Is Just Another Part of His Day

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2015 issue of Pointe.

Royal Ballet principal Edward Watson is known the world over for his incredible range, whether he's dancing dramatic works like MacMillan's Manon or creating roles with contemporary forces Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon. But when he's working out, Watson leaves his creativity at the door. “For me, it's all about maintenance," he says. “I think of it like brushing your teeth or washing your hair, you know? I have to do certain things in order to make my body do what I want it to."

Pilates prowess: Before class, Watson wakes up his turnout with a progression of Pilates mat exercises. “It's all about opening from the hips," he says, “so that when my muscles are tired I don't turn out from my knees or ankles or grip my feet." He's been working with the same teacher in Notting Hill for the last 15 years.


Watson with Francesca Hayward in "Manon." Photo by Alice Pennefather, Courtesy ROH.

To the minute: Stretching is a priority for the extremely flexible Watson. “Because I use a lot of my facility, I've built up these big hip flexors, so I always make sure that I release them." He uses the stopwatch on his phone to time a three-minute stretch on each hip flexor and glute and finishes with a three-minute hamstring stretch. “It's 15 minutes out of my life each day."

Weight work: “It's important for me to feel my chest and my arms and my shoulders as much as my legs," says Watson. “It's not just for partnering. Physically, I feel like my body's more complete and I'm more aware of every muscle if I've done some lifting. But I'm not always pumping and building; sometimes I'm just waking stuff up."

The real thing: “As soon as I know what I'm dancing, I'll try to run it so I've got a feeling of how tough it is," says Watson. While he does the elliptical sometimes, he finds that the best way to build stamina is “just doing it, just rehearsing the ballet."

Backstage snack time: “During performances, I have bananas and sometimes a little bit of chocolate to keep my energy up," he says. “It's like a picnic back there."

On versatility: Working with McGregor and Wheeldon has taught Watson that he has to be ready for anything. “Whatever they ask you to do, your body has got to be up for it." But no matter what rep he's faced with, Watson says, “I work really hard on my classical technique every day in class. Apart from keeping an open mind and being brave, that sets me up for anything."

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Sydney Dolan Takes Center Stage at Pennsylvania Ballet

This is Pointe's Summer 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Just days before the world shuttered under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, and the curtain came down indefinitely on dance companies everywhere, Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Sydney Dolan debuted Gamzatti in La Bayadère with captivating ease. Her jumps soared, her technique was sound, and her cheeky smile paired with exquisite port de bras was beguiling. Though she didn't know the company would soon cancel the remainder of its season, her beautiful performance acted as a kind of send-off into the unknown.

Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

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Courtesy de Roos

SAB Student Founds Dancewear Nonprofit to Help Others in Need

When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

#TBT: Royal Ballet Principals in a Gala Tribute to Tchaikovsky (1993)

It's not often that you get to see eight principal dancers sharing a stage, but Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's centennial is a special circumstance. In a 1993 gala honoring the composer, former Royal Ballet principals Darcey Bussell and Zoltan Solymosi, Leanne Benjamin and Tetsuya Kumakawa, Lesley Collier and Irek Mukhamedov and Viviane Durante and Bruce Sansom performed alongside The Royal Opera Chorus in Madame Larina's ball scene from the opera Eugene Onegin.

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