Cupcakes & Conversation with Rachel Cossar, Corps de Ballet, Boston Ballet
Rachel Cossar, of Toronto, Ontario, began her training at the National Ballet School of Canada, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, École Supérieure de Danse Contemporaire before joining Boston Ballet School as a trainee. Cossar danced with Boston Ballet II for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons before she was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2010.
Cossar’s Boston Ballet repertoire includes Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, and John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. Cossar has performed in the 2007 and 2009 Spring Showcases with Boston Ballet School and Boston Ballet II showcase: On Stage, In Studio.
Cossar has competed in extensive rhythmic gymnastics competitions including the World Championships (Budapest), World Club Championships (Japan), Pan American Championships, Grand Prix (Israel, Russia), and World Gymnaestrada. Cossar was a member of the Canadian National team for ten years and was ranked third when she retired.
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
The only way I can get up and out of bed on a Monday (or Tuesday) morning is to find at least one thing that I look forward to in my day. Often times it is a rehearsal, sometimes it’s something I want to work on in class….sometimes it’s breakfast! Whatever it is, I need it to leave my comfortable mess of duvets and pillows…especially in the winter time!
Why ballet ?
Ballet is the most exquisite combination of artistry and athleticism. In no other art-form can you be as physical and beautiful simultaneously. The everyday challenges suit my level of determination and the satisfaction I get once I have overcome them, or once I have gotten a few steps closer to overcoming them, is like fuel to me. There is also something so special about seeing something so inspiring on stage and coming into the studios every day to try to attain that vision.
What are you looking forward to dancing next year ?
In the second half of the season I am really hoping to get a chance to dance Tatania in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is a role I am learning and while that in itself is a great opportunity, to be given the chance to perform it would be amazing. I am also looking forward to the Elo Experience, which will be a combination of existing and new works by our Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo. I think it will be great to be a part of the whole experience.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
I would absolutely love to dance the part of Juliet with…well any male dancer who is tall enough to partner me! haha
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I had the opportunity to dance in an outdoor theater in the Generalife gardens of the Alhambra in Granada this past summer. I don’t think there is a more beautiful or inspiring place in the world to dance…unless they have an outdoor theater in Venice!
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
Arghhh, this is still something I am experimenting with. I have been having some major issues with shoes these days…but for now, I stand on the block to flatten it out. Then, once I have taken out the nail in the back, I try to bend the shank to give it maximum mobility. Sometimes I bang them because for some reason, my solos are like absolute bricks!
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
It’s hard to have a daily routine when we are in our Nutcracker season. On Tuesday and Wednesday we have a regular rehearsal schedule; Thursday and Friday we are split between rehearsals at the studio and then an evening performance; and then Saturday and Sunday we have two performances. Mostly, I get up and get ready, show up at the studio or theatre in a state most people wouldn’t allow themselves out of the house like (mainly dishevelled hair, and never any make up). Then it’s class, followed by whatever rehearsals we have, and a performance, depending on the day of the week. After the show, I like to come home, make a meal and either watch a tv episode or read some articles from the New York Times.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Nicole Kidman, first and foremost, then probably my future husband Shia LeBoeuf (teehee), Jake Gyllenhaal, the entire cast of Straight- no Chaser (can that count as one person?), Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth…some dinner party!
What would surprise people about you ?
Who inspired you to dance ?
Many people have inspired and still do inspire me to dance. Mostly, I am inspired by choreography and music.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Don’t waste energy looking at what other people may or may not be getting; don’t try to fit into a mould…make your own story! Of course, this is all much easier said than done…it takes a lot of mental strength!
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
About two hours before the show I have a good meal, I make my way to the theatre and set up shop at my place in the dressing room. Then it’s make-up, hair, warm-up, costume and then on stage!
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
The most difficult role I have yet performed was being a corps shade in La Bayadère, there is just something so nerve wracking about getting up on a seven foot ramp, descending with 38 arabesques, while trying to be in sync with 24 other girls who are also nervous…not to mention the 12 count arabesque into a penché which happens right after that. Again though, once you have gotten through it, you really feel like you have accomplished something!
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I love two-piece costumes. I would design a two piece with either a flowy knee length skirt, or Jasmine-style pants and a top. Everything would have to be really sparkly and maybe a deep red or dark- blue…
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
I am really tall, so I am always on the lookout for tall male dancers; but more importantly, I like a partner who I can trust and who is calm. It’s hard to keep your cool when you are in a lift if your partner is shaking with nerves underneath you.
What is your favourite quote ?
Do as you would be done by!
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I used to be a rhythmic gymnast, so I am pretty flexible. Any role where I can explore that flexibility is a role I will love! The Arabian pas de deux, in Mikko Nissinen’s version of the Nutcracker is one of my all-time favorites (hence the two piece costume inspiration)! I actually used to have a ‘trademark’ move when I was a gymnast – it was call a ‘back balance to MG’ (modern gymnastics) and…well it’s really hard to explain in words, I would have to show you!
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
Totes Magotes, from I Love you Man
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
The first time I performed Arabian in The Nutcracker…I felt empowered!
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I can juggle three balls at once; I used to make up juggling routines when I was younger…
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
In a year, I would like to see myself performing more lead or soloist roles with the Boston Ballet.