Cupcakes & Conversation with Igone De Jongh, Principal, Het Nationale Ballet

September 7, 2012

Cupcakes & Conversation

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Igone De Jongh, Principal, Het Nationale Ballet

ballet dancer smiles to camera

Photograph : Angela Sterling

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?

What motivates me in the morning is my 2 year old son! He usually wakes up at around 8 am and then we have breakfast all together with my husband and then the nanny usually arrives at around 9 and then I get ready to go to class.

Why ballet ?

I started ballet when I was 6. I had seen a performance on tv of the Sleeping Beauty By Dutch National Ballet and I wanted to dance and do the same!  Then my parents let me take ballet classes and I loved it. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

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

I am looking forward to a lot of things for next season. But one of my favorite roles that is coming back next season is Juliette. It is such a pleasure to tell that story and live it on stage. It will be weird to dance the ballet without having Rudi van Dantzig (the choreographer) around. He passed away a few months ago.

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

I would love to dance Dame aux Camelias once with Casey Herd. We have been dancing a lot together the last few years and it just works. And I love this ballet and I think we are both in the places of our careers where we would really enjoy telling this story.

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

I think it must be amazing to dance in the Opera Garnier in Paris. It is for me the most beautiful theatre in the world, and all the history it has ! It must be an amazing feeling to perform there.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?

I changed pointe shoes recently.  I am wearing Gaynor Minden pointe shoes now and I am so happy with them! It took me a few months to get used to them but now I love them. And they don’t need any preparation. I only sew the ribbons and elastics and they are ready.

ballet dancer on pointe

Photograph : Angela Sterling

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

The whole family usually wakes up at 8 am, then we have breakfast, then class, rehearsals, if I have a show I finish around 14.00.  I go home and spend time with my son, prepare dinner and I go back to the theatre around 18.30 and the show starts at 20.15.

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

I try to eat a good breakfast usually – yoghurt with cereals and a coffee – then for lunch a small sandwich. I love to cook so I try to make a nice dinner. Usually a pasta or rice dish with fish or meat.

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

I would love to invite Nelson Mandela, Rodger Federer, Nureyev,Audrey Hepburn, Coco Chanel and Rembrandt for dinner.

What would surprise people about you ?

I think maybe what would surprise people about me is that I love scuba diving. I started diving a long time ago in Indonesia during a summer holiday and I liked it so much that I did three dives a day for the rest of the summer. It relaxes me and I love being in a completely different world where we are just visitors. Night dives are the best.

Who inspired you to dance ?

I think nobody really inspired me to dance : I just really wanted to dance. After I had seen this performance on tv I just wanted to do the same and really enjoyed the feeling of dancing. Of course later in my life I have had a lot of people who inspired me. My mum was someone who always made me believe in myself and inspired me.

What is your best piece of advice ?

I think dancers are very lucky, we get to do what we love and we get paid for it!!! It’s a hard profession and we need a lot of discipline and endurance but we should never forget why we started in the first place.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

I like to work hard in the studio and I have a great ballet master (Guillaume Graffin), so I always feel prepared for a role. When I get to the show I try to stop thinking and just listen to the music and enjoy myself.

ballet dancer on pointe

Photograph : Angela Sterling

How do you deal with the stress of performing ?

I am a lot less stressed since I became a mum. I think it just puts everything into perspective. But I think a little bit of stress right before a show is a good thing. And I love that feeling actually. I try to stay calm. I go over the steps and usually try a few things with my partner and when the show starts I try to let go and enjoy myself.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

For me it is definitely Swan Lake. Its the hardest one for me and the best one at the same time. The second Act needs a lot of strength and control; in the third Act the whole audience expects you to pull of that difficult pas de deux and the fourth Act is drama in its best form. The difficult moment for me is going from the second Act to the third. Sometimes I was so tired after the second Act that I didnt know how I was going to make it through the third. And the waiting before black swan for me is hard but when it works and things are going well it’s an amazing feeling.

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

I think it would most likely be a nice leotard with long sleeves and a skirt that moves nicely when you dance.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?

I have a great partner in Casey Herd and I feel very lucky we get to dance together. Casey is a very good partner so I am always very comfortable and I trust him completely. Also we have a great time in the studio. I think it’s important to work hard but also to have a good time, and we laugh a lot.

What is your favourite quote ?

Work like you don’t need the money, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody is watching.

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

I think it’s very difficult to say, but if I have to say something, I would say developpe a la seconde.

A phrase I use far too often is … ?

A phrase I say very often to myself and people around me is “don’t loose your sense of humour.” I think it’s important to always keep that in mind.

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

I have had so many good moments on stage but one that comes to my mind straight away is my comeback after my pregnancy. Hans van Manen had created a ballet for me and the premiere was a very emotional and great moment for me. He had told me when I was 6 months pregnant that he wanted to make something for me after the baby was born and it was an amazing way to come back to the company and the stage.

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

I think my secret skill is that I think I can do a lot of things at the same time and get a lot of things done in one day! I think you have to when you are a dancer and a mummy. Sometimes I come to the theatre before a show and I meet one of the younger dancers and they tell me “oh, I am so tired” and I think,  “you have no idea!!!!”

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

I would like to be right where I am now.

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

I taught my first classes not long ago and I really loved it. I definitely like to stay in the ballet world but I don’t know exactly how and when.

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