Cupcakes & Conversation with Alys Shee, Artist, Birmingham Royal Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
Mondays begin at noon for us so the mornings are very relaxing. It makes it very easy to ease into the working week.
If ballet chose you, as many dancers say it did, what is it that has made you stick with it ?
I chose ballet. I had done many other things sports related, musical and in dance such as Irish Dance, but I knew my heart was in ballet and it was something I completely understood. I felt strongly about finding my own way and talent which is what I did.
What are you looking forward to dancing during 2013 & what are the big challenges likely to be for you ?
Birmingham Royal Ballet will be performing The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and The Prince of the Pagodas over the forthcoming season so there is much to look forward to. I also have my own goals in terms of technique and work that I would like to get done which presents me challenges to work towards.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
There are quite a few people I would love to dance with. My friend Sterling Baca, who is currently with American Ballet Theatre, and I, have been talking about this since we were both 12 years old. We suit each other physically as well as personality wise and I think dancing with him would be brilliant. The sooner the better!
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I love many types of theatres and what is more important to me is the audience. I love dancing for an attentive and interactive audience who are there because of how ballet makes them feel. So I would have to say that it is not about the place specifically, but the people.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I do very little to my pointe shoes. It depends on how well they are made. Usually I can get away with a bit of water to soften them and sewing my ribbons and elastics on them.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I wake up and get ready, eat breakfast and make tea. I head into work and do my stretching, then attend class. Depending on which rehearsals the company schedules me for I work around my schedule. Lunch is usually one hour at some point during the day and then I go home to eat and do my school work. Quite basic!
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?
I will eat an omelette or bagel for breakfast depending on how much time I have and drink my juice and tea. Lunch is usually left overs from a previous dinner. It can be risotto or chicken and rice or pizza. Dinner is usually some meat or pasta. I do not eat vegetables. I never have, though I try and eat fruit as snacks throughout the day. When I am on tour or in a rush I will eat KFC or Mcdonalds. I love Chicken Fingers and real chocolate milkshakes (made with chocolate ice cream…not chocolate milk which is what I get in the UK!)
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Dan Brown because I’m reading his book, Michael Moore, Chris Hemsworth, Zoe Saldana because I love Star Trek, Nadezhda Pavlova, Evelyn Hart.
What would surprise people about you ?
I swear…..a lot.
Who inspired you to dance ?
No one inspired me to dance. I knew I wanted it from a very young age. I did not see my first ballet until I was about 8 and I had been in weekly classes for about 5 years by that point.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Stay true to yourself. Don’t do things because you are told to. Do them because you believe in them. Stay healthy. No career is worth your health.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I don’t have any rituals. I like to eat early-ish, then do my own barre and stretching. I then get my hair and make up on and try and stay warm until its time to work.
How do you deal with the stress of performing ?
I do not usually feel stress when performing. Things go wrong and my instinct usually will get me through any mishaps. Not over-thinking things helps a lot as well.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Many have tested me in different ways. Some artistically such as my Black Swan for Helsinki, some technically like Medora. I had to really think about Kitri and what my Kitri at my age would look like. I do not like pretending to be 35. I like to bring my youth into my roles and see them develop over the years.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
Something light, comfortable and sparkly. As Evelyn my coach always says, “A girl can not have too much sparkle”.
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
I look for a sense of humour, strong work ethic, the willingness to help me make my part work even if their own part is already done, the ability to work on small details, and patience….
What is your favourite quote ?
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
Most people would say my turns are a step which comes naturally to me. I suppose that could be true but everything takes work. Ballet is natural to me.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
“Aww shame,” and the rest are unfit for print!!
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
My friend recently failed to catch me in a trust fall during Pineapple Poll while on stage. If I ever have trust issues we will know who to blame!
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
It’s not about where for me, its about what I can be dancing. I always look ahead to see what is possible and whether or not it will be something I look forward to.
Who would you like to have a conversation with ?
Any of my great or great great grandparents. No one in my family is artistic and I would like to know if it was ever in my family.
What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?
I am in school working towards my Bachelor degree. It will take me a long time to complete it. I am sure that I will have some ideas as my studies progress and I discover other things that interest me. The key though is to be always learning.