Cupcakes & Conversation with Angela Malan, Senior Principal dancer, Ballet Mistress and Coach, South African Ballet Theatre

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Angela Malan, Senior Principal dancer, Ballet Mistress and Coach, South African Ballet Theatre ballet dancer smiles at camera

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?

I am motivated by the constant, yet unobtainable strive for perfection!

Why ballet ?

Ballet is the only thing that feeds all I need: my soul, my body, my mind and heart.

What are you looking forward to dancing during 2012/13 & what are the big challenges likely to be for you ?

The South African Ballet Theatre and Mzansi Productions is currently in rehearsal for the South African premiere of Le Corsaire. I am performing in, and part of the Artistic Team staging the ballet. I will be making my debit in the role of Medora and trying to maintain my highest standard while dealing with advancing age!

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?

I have always wanted to perform Tatyana Larina in Onegin, perhaps with a dancer such as Rex Harrington. Unfortunately Onegin is not in the repertoire of any South African ballet company and so my dream has yet to be fulfilled.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?

I would like to dance at La Scala, Milan-my husband is Italian and I would love his family to see me dance.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?

I sew elastics and ribbons and off I go! No breaking, hammering, darning or breaking in-I wear them just as they are!

How have your other roles – choreographing/staging etc – come about and what do you enjoy about them ?

When The South African Ballet Theatre (SABT) was founded in 2001, we were really thrown into the deep-end. We were just six founding members with a group of dedicated dancers from the State Theatre Ballet, and little experience running a full-time, professional ballet company. We were determined not to let the art form die in SA and in the beginning, often went without salaries. I had already been teaching Company class, and coaching Soloists at the State Theatre Ballet, and continued to do so when SABT was founded. SABT celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2000 and I am very proud that we reached this milestone.

I benefit immensely from coaching soloists and Principal dancers as this gives me a greater understanding of the various roles and ballets. It also assists me in determining my own interpretation when I dance those roles as I do a great deal of in-depth research on the productions which we stage.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

I wake up at 06h30 and enjoy a cup of hot coffee while catching up on world issues on CNN or BBC. I then have breakfast with my two little dogs, my husband Luigi would already have left for work. I arrive at the theatre by 08h30 to attend meetings or to prepare for the day’s rehearsals. If I am teaching Company class, I always do the class which I have set by myself beforehand. Lunch is spent replying to emails or gossiping with my fellow Ballet Mistress Lauren Dixon-Seager!

Rehearsals end at 17h30 or 18h00 (if there is no performance). When I get home, I walk my dogs and cook dinner with Luigi, have a glass of wine, watch a bit of television and prepare for the next day. I try to be in bed around 22h30.

What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?

I have yoghurt and cereal for breakfast; fruit and a toasted sandwich for lunch. I try to eat a good, healthy meal of meat and vegetable, perhaps chicken and salad or pasta for dinner. Supper is accompanied by good wine and water! 

ballet dancer at the barre

Angela Malan at the barre

You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?

May I have two scenarios?!

Option No 1: humanitarians such as Oprah Winfrey, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Paulo Coelho, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

Option No 2: special people from the ballet world: Marius Petipa , Tchaikovsky , Balanchine , Sylvie Guillem , Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

There are many more people I would like to meet but I think the mix of the people above will make for an interesting dinner party!

What would surprise people about you ?

A few things may surprise people about me! I have angel wings tattooed on my lower back. I also have webbed toes-this way before Black Swan! Having webbed toes helps me balance en pointe!

Who inspired you to dance ?

My ballet teacher Lynne Fouché. Each year, SABT travels to Knysna, where Ms Fouché now lives to perform for, and raise funds for Hospice.

What is your best piece of advice ?

Life is going to happen-don’t fight it rather let it take its course.”

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

My dressing room door is always open, I don’t like being alone before a performance. I think through the ballet as I apply my stage make-up and do my hair. Being obsessive compulsive,  I always do my make-up in a particular order! I then make my way side stage to warm up about an hour before the tabs go up. I do a warm up and like to be ready, on stage by the fifteen minute call from the Stage Manager.

When Beginner’s Call is announced, I call the cast together for a group hug. I dedicate our performance to a cause. It calms me to dance for something greater than myself.  Before stepping onto stage, I say a short prayer thanking God and the angels for this beautiful gift. Then last, but not least, I step onto stage-always right foot first!

How do you deal with the stress of performing ?

I enjoy a glass of wine and a hot bath after the show. Spending time with my husband and dogs is a huge stress reliever.

 dancer on ballet poster

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

I remember feeling that Balanchine’s Theme & Variations was a huge challenge when I first learnt the ballet. If I had to perform it now, I imagine it would not be as difficult but it presented a major challenge to me all those years ago!

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?

It would definitely be a tutu. I would design the perfect tutu: not too perky, not too floppy, a perfectly fitted bottom and a lovely low back.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?

I look for height and a connection in a dance partner . A good partner is someone I work well with and with whom I feel a sense of equality.

What is your favourite quote ?

“Believe in the magic.”

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?

‘Attitude derriere’-this shows my line at its best!

A phrase I use far too often is … ?

 “Oh F&%!” – it’s not printable!

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?

I have very special memories of my final performance in Swan Lake with SABT at the Joburg Theatre on March 29th 2010 . My partner was Raimond Martinov. Everything came together that afternoon: the music, the choreography, my mind and my partner were all one. We had a tremendous response from the audience, it was truly memorable.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?

In Giselle, I blur my eyes at the end of Act 1 for the ‘mad scene’! I can’t focus properly on anything when I do this and it helps to portray the shock which Giselle has just experienced through Albrecht’s betrayal. I don’t think too many people can do this with their eyes!

ballet dancer with pointe shoes

Angela Malan

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?

At peace!

What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?

I don’t think I will ever stop dancing-even if I am no longer performing. A daily ballet class is very much a part of me and I cannot imagine a day without at least a thorough barre. I would never want a final or farewell performance. Life happens and when the last performance does happen, I would prefer not to know. At the moment, I treat every performance as my last and each performance as a blessing!

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