Cupcakes & Conversation with Lauren Ciobanu, Demi Soloist, Houston Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
My husband kicking me out of bed! No, but seriously the idea that I can keep progressing and evolving. Trying to master or more deeply understand whatever role I am working on at the time. I love the repetition of daily training and the artistic growth that develops during rehearsal.
Why ballet ?
Because it is what I am meant to do.
What are you looking forward to dancing next year ?
Stanton Welch’s Marie, Jorma Elo’s new work, and Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew. I am learning the title role in Stanton Welch’s Marie about the life of Marie Antoinette. Marie is a highly complex character and I love the drama, romance, and tragedy her life possessed. I am excited about being cast in Jorma Elo’s new work. It’s still unfinished but I know it’s going to be very demanding and fulfilling. I graduated from the Cranko-Schule in Stuttgart, so performing one of Cranko’s classics is a little like going home again for me.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
I’ve already had the opportunity to dance Giselle with Jose Manuel Carreno, so after that I would choose Fred Astaire. A number from the movie Top Hat would be wonderful…
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
It’s always been a dream of mine to perform at Covent Garden.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I wear Freeds and to prepare them I sew ribbons and elastics. I also darn the box, sew the vamp to tighten the shoe to my foot and keep my arches from overextending. I also bang the tips to quiet the box a bit and break down the shank to form better to my arch.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
At the moment I am in the middle of the Nutcracker season so my schedule is a bit hectic. Most days begin around 11:30 with training followed by a matinee at 2 pm then an evening performance at 7:30pm. After that, dinner and bed and start the process all over again!
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Bob Dylan, Buddha, Billie Holiday, Jack Kerouac, Sylvie Guillem, and my Grandmother Lois and Paul Newman might just drop by uninvited to make it an even 8.
What would surprise people about you ?
I just recently learned how to ride a bicycle!
Who inspired you to dance ?
My mother took me to see the San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker at the age of three. That’s all it took to get me hooked!
What is your best piece of advice ?
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I try to eat and rest before getting to the theater. Once I’m there I set up my dressing room (make sure I have my lucky horseshoe), have some tea, start make-up and hair maybe listen to some Billie Holiday. Then warm-up and get out there.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
My first principal role was Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. It’s such a physically demanding role, but to also convincingly portray both characters was extremely difficult. I’m more suited to the white swan’s temperament and movement so working on the black swan was my priority. It was a very fulfilling time for me. I hope to revisit the role someday.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
Most likely a tutu of some sort. Maybe in the style of Frank Gehry…..
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Someone I can trust and that I feel a connection with. Someone that inspires me.
What is your favourite quote ?
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Steve Prefontaine.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I’m not sure. I try to make everything as natural as possible…I enjoy adagio work and jumping though.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
My mother would say I use the phrase “I feel” a lot…
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I had my premiere in La Fille mal Gardée as Lise last June. I love Ashton’s choreography and it’s a ballet I have always loved and felt comfortable in. It was my first principal role in Houston and I had a wonderful time, I didn’t want the performance to end!
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I used to be a professional baker. Apple pie is my specialty.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
I’d like to continue to be challenged by interesting and important works and to continue to evolve as an artist.
If you could dance in front of anyone, who would it be and what makes them special to you?
It’s always special to have family and friends out there supporting you, but having a good performance in front of my artistic director, Stanton Welch, is the most rewarding.