Cupcakes & Conversation with Jessica Morgan, Northern Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
Not much! I am definitely not a morning person! However, once I have managed to peel myself from my bed and had my morning coffee I become excited about the prospect of another inspiring and creative week. It is my drive to continually better myself as an artist that motivates me.
When I was younger I would follow my sister everywhere. She began ballet, so I followed. I was only three years old, I had no idea dance would turn into a life- long passion.
What are you looking forward to dancing during 2013 & what are the big challenges likely to be for you?
In 2013 we will be creating The Great Gatsby. This is so exciting, I am not only looking forward to creating new movement but I also enjoy researching the different characters and learning more about the fascinating era – I love everything about the 1920s!
I think the biggest challenge will be for all the dancers and the creative team to come each day with fresh ideas – the first stages of a ballet are always exciting and inspiring but can be particularly tiring, both physically and mentally.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
I would love to dance the role of Cathy in David Nixon’s Wuthering Heights. My Heathcliff would have to be someone I am able to connect with on stage. I have seen many of the male Premier Dancers perform this ballet, each giving a very different portrayal and would consider myself very fortunate to perform opposite any of them.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
It would be in my home town Newcastle, Australia for my Grandparents.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I have always worn the same Freed pointe shoes and luckily I do not have to do much to them. I sew the ribbons and elastics on and cut the satin off the tip. I then put a generous amount of superglue on the sole and inside the box; I prefer superglue to shellac as it doesn’t melt with the heat.
What is your daily routine at the moment?
I always get to the theatre at least an hour before class; it takes my muscles and bones a little while to wake up! If I have time I do a quick cardio warm-up to get my blood pumping and I have a daily routine which involves a lot of exercises and stretching, ironing out any creases that have crept up on me from the previous day before I start at the barre. After class we either have a matinee performance or three hours of rehearsals before preparing for the evening show. After the performance I need time to wind down, when on tour this usually involves a dose of one of my TV programmes and when I’m at home I enjoy a nice hot bath and some quality time with my dog before heading to bed.
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day?
If I do not have a good breakfast you can guarantee I will be grumpy for the rest of the day! I always start with porridge or a bowl of cereal with soy yoghurt and a nice strong coffee. During the day I snack on things like fruit, nuts, oatcakes and energy bars and I always have plenty of water. Dinner varies; I am pescetarian so when I am at home it usually involves seafood and vegetables. I am guilty of having a big sweet tooth; my favourites are jelly beans and liquorice allsorts!
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
Miucca Prada, Bradley Cooper, Will Ferrell, Matthew Bellamy, Tim Minchin and Bruce Lee.
What would surprise people about you?
I love fashion! I have a subscription to Vogue and Elle and I spend far too much money on clothes!
Who inspired you to dance?
Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing!
What is your best piece of advice?
At the risk of sounding cliché, live everyday like it is your last. If you want something, work hard enough to achieve it. Do what makes you happy and spend your time with the people you love.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
I like to feel prepared and have a strict schedule! After I have had something to eat, I get my hair and my make-up done while listening to music (I always have my earphones in; my mood dictates what I listen to). As soon as the stage is available I am usually on it. I have a series of exercises I do and I roll out my muscles on a foam roller. I put my pointe shoes on at about the half, practice the movements I need to for the show and then finally put my costume on.
How do you deal with the stress of performing?
If I feel nervous my music normally calms me. A quick call to my mum at the half also always makes me feel better and a small prayer before I go on stage. Once I am out there nerves seem to disappear and I am able to enjoy the performance.
Which role has tested you the most & how?
I found the role of Myrtha in Giselle quite challenging. It requires a lot of stamina to get through the copious amounts of allegro and nerves of steel to carry out the first two penches whilst surrounded by dry ice!
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
Something simple and flattering. I love watching all of the muscles working so a costume that shows off the legs and back would be my preference.
What do you look for in a dance partner?
Someone who fully commits to their character and is 100% involved in the story. It is fantastic when you can bounce off one another’s energy and draw the audience into your dance.
What is your favourite quote?
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.” –Bruce Lee.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
I have always enjoyed turning and jumping. Being a tall dancer I love using a lot of space and really moving.
A phrase I use far too often is …?
“Can I get a soy, caramel latte?!”
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far?
Performing in Kenneth Tindall’s, Production Prize Winner, Project#1 in Hanover.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
I love to bake! I make pretty awesome cupcakes!
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
I hope I am still growing as an artist, learning new things and being inspired every day. A few more lead roles couldn’t hurt either!
What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it?
I am currently doing a degree with the Open University. I am very interested in sports psychology. Whatever I decide to do after my ballet career I know it will have to have some sort of physical element to it – I can only sit still for short periods of time!
Read more about Kenneth Tindall’s Project #1
Foam rollers are fabulous for stretching soft tissue and the fascia between skin and muscle. I recommend buying a long roller, as there are so many ways to use it – you can even lie on it to stretch your arms. A shorter roller is useful for carrying about though! Don’t buy a soft roller – it should be hard and slightly uncomfortable when you roll over it, and spend as much as you can afford so that it lasts well. Here are both :