Cupcakes & Conversation with Dreda Blow, Soloist, Northern Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
I really enjoy my work so I don’t really have trouble motivating myself on a Monday morning. It is, however, tough to get your motor running again after a few days off. I love breakfast and always make something special so that helps me to start my day on the right track.
If ballet chose you, as many dancers say it did, what is it that has made you stick with it ?
I have stuck with dancing because there are always new challenges which keep it exciting. I am constantly trying to improve, pushing and exploring myself, my movement and my expression. And of course I love the way dancing feels! Not to mention the excitement of being on stage, putting on a show, taking that final curtain call. It’s completely addictive!
What are you looking forward to dancing during 2013 & what are the big challenges likely to be for you ?
It’s hard to know what I will be dancing the rest of 2013 since the casting isn’t up yet! Midsummer Night’s Dream and Christmas
Carol are both wonderful shows coming up next season and I can’t wait to perform them again, regardless of what roles I will play.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
My childhood hero was Gene Kelly so in a dream world I would go back in time and dance with him! He was so charismatic and always
looked at a woman like she was the only woman in the world. I don’t mind what we would dance, perhaps the big number at the end of Singin’ in the Rain (though I wouldn’t like to be compared to the wonderful Cyd Charisse!)
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
Many years ago when I was still a student, I was fortunate enough to perform in the south of France in an outdoor theatre amidst
old castle ruins. It had such an incredible atmosphere once beautifully lit at night time, with the stars and the moon above us. I would love to perform somewhere like that again.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
Nothing too fancy… I always shellac my shoes to harden then slightly, then sew my ribbons and elastics to the outside of the shoe to keep the satin snug against my foot.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
My daily routine at the moment consists of waking up at 8am and preparing for work. Company training starts at 10am, followed by 6
hours of rehearsal with an hour lunch break in the middle. In the evenings I enjoy downtime with my boyfriend Bruno, having a nice dinner and maybe watching a film.
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?
I have to eat lots of snacks to keep me going throughout the day: usually nuts, yoghurt, or fruit. For lunch I have a soup with crackers or salad with quinoa or falafel, lots of veggies and feta cheese.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
John Lennon, Billie Holiday, Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart, Ryan Gosling and Zooey Deschanel.
What would surprise people about you ?
It often surprises people that I can speak Dutch.
Who inspired you to dance ?
Growing up, I was obsessed with Hollywood musicals and had seen every Gene Kelly, Judy Garland or Fred Astaire film at least twenty
times by the time I turned 10! It was the magic of song and dance, the excitement of putting on a show, and the life-affirming charm of those old films that inspired me to dance.
What is your best piece of advice ?
To quote that old folk song: ‘Keep on the sunny side of life!‘
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I don’t have a very strict pre-show ritual like some dancers. I always eat something substantial but not too heavy, then start doing my hair and make-up. About half an hour before the show, I go onto the stage and warm-up/stretch and jump around to get my blood pumping. Then I get my costume on and it’s show time!
How do you deal with the stress of performing ?
I try to stay relaxed by chatting in the dressing room and not letting myself get too introverted or intense. I remind myself to keep things in perspective. Performing is nerve-racking but the worst thing that can happen is I do a bad show. No one’s life is on the line, I’m not a brain surgeon or a pilot!
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Beatrice in David Nixon’s Ondine challenged me both technically and artistically. She is character of immense power, confidence and
cunning. The solos were quite ‘virtuoso’ and I really had to command the stage with every fibre of my being.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I suppose it would depend on the production, the character and the style of the piece. I loved working on the costume designs for Ugly Duckling, a children’s ballet I recently co-choreographed with Sebastian Loe. It was great fun brainstorming ideas and designs and picking fabrics. I loved seeing the dancers wear them for the first time when it all came together.
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Trust and communication. It’s most important for me to feel like I can talk to my partner about what I need, what he needs, how we can
connect, coordinate and express the feelings of the characters we are playing. I need to feel like we’re a team working towards a common goal, equally committed to the work.
What is your favourite quote ?
“The best portion of a good man’s life is his little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” – William Wordsworth
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I don’t know if I have a signature step, but movements with a gentle, lyrical quality tend to come more naturally to me. My limbs are
long so it’s much easier for me to move slowly than quickly!
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
‘You’re invalidating my feelings!’
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I’m fortunate to have had many great on-stage moments but one of the best was also the most recent: my final show as ‘Daisy’
in The Great Gatsby at Sadler’s Wells, dancing with the wonderful Javier Torres. The audience was completely packed and we knew it was our last show so we just went for it. I loved every minute.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I’m a really good cook. And resourceful too! Someone might look in the fridge and think we have nothing to eat but I will somehow rustle up a feast!
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
A year from now I hope to be continuing my career with Northern Ballet, dancing more wonderful roles that challenge and inspire me.
Who would you like to have a conversation with ?
Sorella Englund was a guest teacher of Drama and Expression when I was at school in Toronto. She is one of the kindest, wisest, most nurturing and inspiring women I have ever met. She has a deep understanding of dance, right down to its very essence, and I would love to meet her again.
What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?
To be honest, I don’t have an exit strategy yet. I know I would love to have a family one day, but at the moment I’m really enjoying my life and my career just the way it is!