Cupcakes & Conversation with Emma Hawes, Corps de Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada

April 26, 2012

Cupcakes & Conversation

ballet cupcakes

Ballet News World Exclusive Illustration by Noemi Manalang

Cupcakes & Conversation with Emma Hawes, Corps de Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada

ballet dancer smiles at camera

Emma Hawes Photograph Sian Richards

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?

My motivation is different every day. It could be beautiful weather, friendly faces, or even catching the bus on time; it’s the little things that give me motivation for a day.

Why ballet?

Ballet has given me some of the lowest lows and the highest highs of my life. I think this range, this emotional vulnerability inspires,which is why I am so attached. It gives me the feeling that I am living my life to the fullest.

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

I’m so excited to dance in Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  It’s such an astonishing spectacle and looks like so much fun to be a part of. I couldn’t say what the big challenges are likely to be. Every ballet presents its own set of challenges, so I’ll take it one day at a time.

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

I would most like to dance with one of my best friends – Christopher Evans. He’s joining the Corps at The Hamburg Ballet next season and we both came from the same small town in Ohio! I’d be happy dancing anything.

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

I would love to dance back at home in Ohio for all the people I grew up with.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?

I sew ribbons and elastics, soften the box, and apply a bit of jet glue a bit to prolong their life. But I’m still on a desperate hunt for the right shoe, so that could change any day.

Artists of the ballet in Romeo & Juliet (Emma is second from the back on the right) Photograph : Bruce Zinger

What is your daily routine at the moment?

I roll out of bed at 8:00 am. (No seriously, I actually rolled off my bed this morning. It really hurt.) Take a shower, eat breakfast and head to work. We have class at 10:00 am and rehearsals are spread from 11:30 to 6:30 with an hour for lunch. Then I head home and have dinner. I might go visit friends, or watch a movie or clean or bake or just lay motionless on the couch…every day is different. But I always read a bit before going to sleep by 12:00 am.

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

I have tea, an egg and toast for breakfast. Then I will usually get a sandwich at the cafeteria for lunch. When I get home I usually have some almonds and coconut water while I cook dinner. Dinner is usually rice, veggies and fish or chicken. Sometimes I get more creative than that. Then ice cream. Not every day, but in general, I eat a lot of ice cream.

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

Julie Andrews, Freddie Mercury, Gene Kelly, Carl Sagan, Elizabeth Gilbert and Billy Collins.

What would surprise people about you?

I am genuinely terrified of octopuses.

ballet dancer jumps in the air

Emma Hawes Photograph : Sian Richards

Who inspired you to dance?

There wasn’t any one single person that inspired me to dance. The people I’ve been surrounded by are the inspiration that has kept me dancing.

What is your best piece of advice?

Just laugh a lot.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show?

I eat some dinner and then do my hair and makeup. Then I will warm up a bit, put on my costume and then finish my warm up. I like to have my heart rate going before I get onstage and I like to be quiet.

How do you deal with the stress of performing?

I sort of have this mantra that keeps me in a clear headspace. Back in school, I was preparing for a particularly stressful role and a teacher told me, “you can do this in your sleep.” For some reason, that calmed me down so much. We spend all this time rehearsing a role, and even in the event that you are thrown onstage without much or any rehearsal, you have been training for this your whole life. No matter what, you know your mechanics and you can do the steps. It’s just a matter of surrendering. Of course that is much easier said than done but for some reason, thinking, “Emma, you can do this in your sleep,” puts me at ease.

Which role has tested you the most & how?

This is my first year in a company, so I haven’t got much to choose from. But I would say that The Sleeping Beauty was challenging for the number of roles and quick changes and the effort it takes to stay energized for a three-hour ballet.

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

I would definitely want the hair down and a long, light, flowing dress.

What do you look for in a dance partner?

Confidence and willingness to negotiate.

What is your favourite quote ?

“You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” – C.S. Lewis

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

Not that I know of.

A phrase I use far too often is … ?

No worries.

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

Being a part of Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet was amazing. It was the very first thing I performed with the company, so I was tremendously excited. I love how the storytelling is in everyone’s hands, not just the lead characters. It made this onstage experience very special.

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

I have a myriad of useless talents. I can juggle, sing the alphabet backwards, sing the names of all 50 States in alphabetical order and write backwards, to name a few. This is mostly the product of my disinclination to do math homework.

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

I’d like to be wiser but just as excited by what I do.

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

I don’t have any concrete plans yet but I am certain that I’ll go to school.


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