Cupcakes & Conversation with Elizabeth Mason, Principal, Stuttgart Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
When I’m preparing for work on a Monday morning, I think about my goals for the week and how I want to accomplish those goals. If I don’t have a show then I’m focused on improving specific aspects of my dancing. For example, after my ankle surgery, for a long time I was thinking about jumping. Now it’s jumping and turning. Otherwise, if I have a show, I think about the show, and that’s motivation enough. Lots of people don’t enjoy their jobs. Mine has its rough spots, but overall, I really do love it.
I wanted to play baseball, but my dad said baseball is for boys. Seriously, though, it was basically a childhood activity that my parents enrolled me in, and it really stuck and grew on me.
What are you looking forward to dancing this year?
Actually I just danced the piece I was most looking forward to this year – that was Lady of the Camellias from John Neumeier. I particularly like Neumeier’s work. It’s full of emotion, and I enjoy dancing roles where there is a lot of acting involved. I’m also looking forward to some of the new creations that we will be performing this season.
Who would you most like to dance with, and what would you dance?
Roberto Bolle, in no role in particular. He’s just so much bigger than me; it would be fun to dance with him.
If you could dance anywhere in the world, not only in a theatre, where would you dance?
I like to dance in outdoor places. So a beautiful amphitheater somewhere. It’d be nice to do a performance in the Coliseum in Rome.
How do you prepare your point shoes?
I sew ribbons and elastic in the back for support. I darn the toe a bit because I believe it makes it more stable and maybe last longer. I bend the soles some for form. Then, depending on the pair, sometimes I hammer the box if it’s too hard. After the first time I use them I usually put a bit of shellac to make them harder, which also makes them last longer.
What is your daily routine at the moment?
At the moment my daily routine is – wake up, get ready, have coffee. Ride to work on the scooter. Put on my ballet-wear and warm up with the stationary bike, or with floor exercises. Class is at 10:30. Then, starting at 12 there are rehearsals until 6:30 with an hour lunch break at 2. Then in the evening it’s usually dinner and unwinding with my boyfriend.
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day?
Mostly meat and veggies. Salads, filets, chicken. Generally I try to keep pretty healthy when I’m working. But I do enjoy butter pretzels and fries sometimes.
You can ask 6 famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
I mentioned that I appreciate Neumeier’s work, so I think he’d be on my invite list. I think I’d have to invite Bob Dylan. I’m sure they’d have a lot to talk about, and I’ve heard Dylan appreciates ballet. J.K. Rowling. William Shakespeare. I’m sure they’d have a lot to talk about as well, and it would be good to get some insider information on his work, some of which I’ve danced. The Dalai Lama for obvious reasons. And Hugh Laurie.
What would surprise people about you?
As I mentioned before, I love baseball. I’d say that’s fairly atypical for a dancer. I eat chocolate every day… I don’t know, is that surprising?
Who inspired you to dance?
Well, I guess this is a pretty personal question for me, and the person that inspired me to dance was actually not a dancer or an instructor – it was my dad. He was always amazingly supportive and involved. He was my biggest fan, and a huge inspiration.
What is your best piece of advice?
Stay focused and work hard. And don’t worry too much about things that are insignificant. There can be a lot of external stresses and drama and it’s good to keep that in the background.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
For evening shows, usually I work until one or two. Go home, and eat a sandwich – I always eat a sandwich. Then I take a nap for an hour or so. Then just go back to the theatre, warm up, put my best shoes on, and go.
Which role has tested you the most, and how?
I’d say it was the Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude by William Forsythe. This was a challenge for me because it’s very fast and precise and I’m more of an adagio dancer.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
I like white, and I think my costume would be something eccentric. So perhaps I would design a costume like something the white witch in Narnia would wear.
What do you look for in a dance partner?
Someone who makes me feel comfortable and secure on stage, and who is coordinated and easy to work with.
What is your favorite quote?
This is more of a saying than a quote, but it would have to be “everything happens for a reason.” When life is challenging or perplexing it gives me solace to think that there is some purpose for each difficult circumstance. Or at least that you can make use of them somehow, if that makes sense.
Do you have a signature step – one that comes naturally to you?
Well, maybe not a signature step, exactly. But I guess everyone has a certain signature style. For me maybe it’s my arms. I’ve been told that I have nice arms onstage, and that’s something that comes naturally to me.
A phrase I use far too often is:
“I don’t know.” I’m pretty indecisive, so that’s probably a phrase that I overuse.
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far?
On stage I was promoted to principal after my performance of Lulu. The curtains were closed, so it wasn’t a performance moment per-se. But it was on stage, and it was a pretty big moment for me.
Do you have a secret skill which no one knows about?
Maybe these aren’t such secrets, but I like to cook and I’d say I’m pretty good at it. I’m also an obsessive cleaner and decorator. And I enjoy entertaining guests and I like to think that I’m a good hostess.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a few years from now?
In general I’m always striving further to sharpen my technical skills. I always want to develop myself by dancing as many different roles as I can. And in three years I’d like to have expanded my career in terms of the different types of engagements that I am involved in internationally.
If you could dance in front of anyone, who would it be and what makes them special to you?
If I could dance in front of anyone, I would want it to be my family. Unfortunately that happens less than I would like because we live so far away from each other, but they are always my favorite audience.
Watch Elizabeth Mason and Jason Reilly dance