Photo by: Samantha Chin
In His Own Words
1) What gets you out of bed every day?
The dog needs walking and the cats need feeding. I like having simple tasks that you can’t put off.
2) Did you choose your profession in ballet, or did it choose you?
I chose ballet, I thought, because everyone advised me to do something else. But the fact that I did it in spite of all advice to the contrary perhaps means that ballet chose me.
3) As a former principal dancer, where are the most exciting places you’ve ever performed?
New York State Theater – the house that Balanchine built. First show on the new stage of the Muziektheater in Amsterdam was pretty neat and guesting on the stage of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden was also a big deal.
4) What is the greatest thing about your job as Principal Ballet Master/YOU Dance Artistic Director, and the least exciting?
Watching people discover their talent is very satisfying. But I like everything about the job – I like studying the ballets to be able to rehearse them and planning the process that will get the dancers prepared.
5) What is your favourite way to spend a day off outside of work?
I like to garden and cook – both things that require you to step back and let things happen, but that give results much faster than teaching ballet. And my two adult children live in Toronto, so my wife and I often go to dinner with them on a free day.
6) What is the biggest misconception about ballet?
The biggest misconception about ballet is that you have to understand it. I think you can understand very little and yet experience things that are beautiful, because you cannot reduce them to previously known quantities.
7) You must get asked this constantly, but what is your favourite ballet, and why?
I know ballets don’t care what I think of them, but I think it would be unfair to choose a favourite nonetheless. Any ballet you can treat as a favourite — that you can treat as though it will reward the physical and emotional effort you put into dancing it, or watching it — is for sure way up on my list.
8) What prompted you to write this series of ballet guides?
People seem to like the chats before the performances, and every so often, someone would suggest writing them down. Finally, that someone happened to be Kathleen Metcalfe, who owns a publishing business. It was kind of hard to make up an excuse not to. And I like a challenge. Writing is easy until you have to make sure that someone else understands what you have said to yourself. Then it becomes quite difficult.
9) What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Let a work of art change your opinion of how the world works.
10) If you could, what words of wisdom would you pass on to your younger self?
Marry Mandy Richardson – right, did that. Figure out your relationship to your talent, authority, and the impossibility of perfection – working on it.
BONUS: What is something that people are obsessed with, but you just don’t get the point of?
Twitter. I can’t prove it, but I suspect that the paucity of discourse in public life has to do with the fact that statements are thought to have more power when expressed in 140 characters.