Cupcakes & conversation with Antoinette Brooks-Daw, Apprentice, Northern Ballet
Antoinette will be dancing in next season’s productions at NBT including Dracula, Wuthering Heights (a revival which the company performed last season), Peter Pan and A Christmas Carol. There is also going to be a gala celebrating NBTs 40th anniversary.
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday Morning ?
Monday mornings are always hard, for many people I would think, but I have to admit unlike many people I’m a bit of a morning person anyway! I still sometimes get those Monday feelings, a strange mix of dread, anticipation and excitement about the prospect of the week ahead but I just have to remind myself how lucky I am to have a job which brings me so much enjoyment and opportunity.
Who would you most like to dance with ?
There are so many great dancers out there at the moment that to pick just one would most likely lead to hours of procrastinating over which one to put! I’ve always loved watching the partnership between Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
Preparing a pair of shoes can be quite a lengthy process. I often feel so sorry for the person who makes my shoes ( I currently wear Freed point shoes which are all handmade) because no sooner do the shoes arrive, before no time is lost in the art of hammering, cutting, tapering, sewing and shellacking (the latter used for hardening the shoe). All this is necessary for a dancer to feel comfortable (to a certain extent) in her shoes yet I still can’t help but feel the slightest twinge of remorse as I make my first incision into the unspoiled satin!
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I have two different routines depending on whether the company is out on the road performing or back home in Leeds rehearsing. We are currently out on tour so a typical day would go something like this.
Up at 8:30, shower and have breakfast before leaving for the theatre. Class is at 11:30 (usually on stage) so I try and spend the hour before doing specific strengthening exercises that are a crucial part of my everyday training. The end of class leaves just a little time to practice, whether it be particular steps from the show that need attention or elements of class which could have been better. Off to the dressing room to do hair and make up and grab a quick bite to eat before the matinee, curtain up at 2:30. Show finishes and time to get some fresh air and head to the shops to buy dinner for later. I try not to get too distracted by Topshop and Urban Outfitters!!! Back at the theatre and time to get ready again. Show starts at 7:30 but I go down at the half to do a warm up and attend to any niggles which may (and usually do!) creep in during the day. The curtain falls and it’s not long before I’m out of the theatre, and heading home to my digs. Dinner, shower and off to bed. I don’t need to be told twice!!!
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Brad Pitt (for obvious reasons!), Jimmy Carr, Kings of Leon (I’m counting them as one), Dame Antoinette Sibley, J.K. Rowling and President Barack Obama.
What would surprise people about you ?
I have a real passion for music. It’s unfortunate that these days we all lead such busy lives and there is not a lot of time left to enjoy the things we really love and music has always been one of them for me. I was incredibly lucky as a child to be given the opportunity to learn not just one but three instruments. The Piano, Violin and my most favourite, the harp.
Who inspired you to dance ?
I think the dancers who I really looked up to and admired, especially during my training, were ballerinas like Darcey Bussell, Sarah Wildor and Alina Cojocaru. They really inspired me to persevere through my training even when times were tough and I questioned my incentives. I must also mention my lovely mum who I undoubtedly owe so much to and who got me to where I am today through nature, nurture and unconditional support.
How would someone else describe you ?
I guess it depends on who you ask! I think most people would describe me as petite, blonde (not just the hair colour!), caring and considerate.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Never give up on your dreams and ambitions. If you really want something, and want it bad enough you will get there and you will achieve it, in your own time, in your own way and on the pathway which is right for you.
Which role has tested you the most and why ?
I would probably have to say that David Bintley’s Galanteries has been the toughest piece I have faced so far and one which I was lucky enough to perform in my graduate year at school. Having a lead role was a big test and meant a lot of hard work trying to accomplish a good level of stamina, artistry and technique without showing the nerves!!!
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you ?
I’m having trouble thinking of something good enough, so I’ll tell you what happened to my friend (who shall remain nameless!) There was a big jeté onto stage for all eight flowers in Nutcracker, and one of the flowers, in a momentary fit of madness, jetéd on her own, four counts off the music and ahead of everyone else. She froze in a comical position, looked around her in a panic and jetéd again when the other seven flowers exited the wing to join her on stage. Nobody could stop laughing for the rest of the night!
If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
On stage, costumes are obviously an integral part of the look of the show, and they are also enormously helpful in helping you get into character, which is important. However, intricate costumes can often really inhibit you in performance, and you can feel like you’re fighting the costume instead of it making you look good. My ideal costume would be something pure and simple, a lightweight design that feels like a part of the dancer rather than something stuck on the top. I enjoyed dancing in the ‘snow’ costumes in Northern Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker, because they looked really good but were so comfortable to dance in.
What are you most proud of ?
I have to say, I’m most proud of my family, my sister especially. She moved to Germany six years ago, and although I miss her (what would we do without Skype?!) I’m pleased she’s has made a life for herself, independently.
Who would play you in the film of your life ?
I think it would have to be Cameron Diaz, because I like to think there is a slight physical resemblance (although I wish I had her height!) and also she seems like she has a sense of humour. Us blondes have to stick together!
What is your favourite quote ?
I actually have two favourite quotes.
‘Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery but today’s a gift and that’s why it’s called the ‘present’
‘Pain is temporary, glory is ever after’
Do you have
a secret skill that no one knows about ?
Well, it’s not such a secret but I am quite handy with a needle. I recently made a needlepoint wedding sampler that went down very well. It took me six months but every stitch was worth every minute!