Cupcakes & Conversation with Maria Sascha Khan, Bayerisches Staatsballett
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
I am a morning person and I love my job. It’s a pleasure to go to work at the Nationale Theatre each day….. so usually it’s not too difficult.
Why ballet ?
I think that everyone has a purpose and mission in life. I guess that I am fortunate enough to have found mine.
What are you looking forward to dancing this year ?
Ivan Liška, my director, does a great job of putting together an exciting and varied rep. I am really looking forward to dancing the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, as well as our British season. I also love it when my sister, Nadia Khan, and I get to perform together!
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
Well, I was just in San Francisco working with one of their principal dancers Titi Helmets and the choreographer Edwaard Liang on a piece, and I am very much looking forward to performing it! Otherwise I would love to dance with Cory Stearns from American Ballet Theatre and Xander Parish from the Mariinsky.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I am involved in putting on an annual gala in my home state, Montana U.S.A., for the non-profit arts organization Youth Arts in Action called Les Danses de L’Amour. It is such a pleasure to be able to bring back such a high caliber of dancers and I absolutely love performing at home in the mountains!
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I go through a lot of shoes so sometimes I just end up putting on a new pair for a performance. Ideally however I; step on the box to widen them, then cut the shank so that it hits my arch at just the right place and take out the extra nails, cut off the satin and darn around the tip of my shoe, then sew on my ribbons and elastics (I always sew an extra piece of elastic into the ribbons for my Achilles). If I have time I try to break them in a bit by putting hot water on the box and walking around my house in them. To finish I put some shellac on the shank and leave them on the heater to dry…..hmmm it sounds like a recipe).
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
Well, at the moment my daily routine is not that routine! I stopped by Connecticut on my way back to Munich to do a photo shoot with the international dance photographer Gene Schiavone. I had passport issues so what should have been a one day shoot turned into a six day one! We had a lot of fun and it was incredible to work with him. Thank goodness I had such nice people to be with while everything was worked out!
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?
In the morning I’ll have a piece of toast with green tea/coffee. Usually I have rehearsals all day so I’ll have some snacks to keep me going and have a hot meal of protein with vegetables when we finish our day.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Sylvie Guillem, Grace Kelly, Winston Churchill, Robert Redford.
What would surprise people about you ?
The most fun I had this summer was going to a Bull Riding Competition at the Butte Rodeo in Montana.
Who inspired you to dance ?
It wasn’t so much a person as an emotion. I had no idea that ballet could be pursued as a profession. I knew only this otherworldly feeling that would take over when I danced. The feeling of placing your hand on the barre as if you were coming home. I’ll never forget watching my first professional ballet with The Royal Ballet at Covent Garden. They were doing Manon with Irek Mukhamedov and Viviana Durante dancing the lead roles. I still remember Viviana taking one step on stage and the whole Opera House exploding in applause, I had never seen anything like it before. How could one individual affect so many in that way ? Every time you step on stage it is a privilege and a gift that when used properly can change the lives of many. This is what inspires me.
What is your best piece of advice ?
One of them is “A wise man makes more opportunities than he finds”~ Sir Francis Bacon
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
My most important coach, teacher and mentor Marika Besobrasova taught me that if your mind is not clear on what you are going to do how can your body be? She taught me the importance of visualization and that before you dance you should go through everything once in your mind with no mistakes. Visualize yourself doing each step perfectly with the music, emotion etc….I always make sure and do this either the night or few hours before a performance.
How do you deal with the stress of performing ?
Bach Flower Remedies….they are amazing!
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
I would have to say my first professional performance. I auditioned for Vladimir in Berlin and he asked me if I could start as of the next week with a full corps contract. The first performance I did was La Bayadere. I had never even preformed a full length ballet before yet somehow ended up front and center for the entire shades Act (…there was no blending in). At the time I thought that’s just how it was as a professional, now I know that it’s one of the hardest corps ballets to dance!
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I actually designed the peach tutu shown in one of the photos, but I would choose something very feminine, with beautiful fabric that flattered the line.
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Someone who looks at me instead of themselves in the mirror. My two younger brothers Julian and Nicholas MacKay train in Moscow at the Bolshoi Ballet School and I’ve already started teaching them how to treat your partner…..hopefully it will stick.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
I’m infamously known for saying “I’m wasting my time” – just because I always like to be busy and doing something.
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
When I was 16, studying at the Academie de Danse Classique de Princesse Grace in Monte Carlo, I was chosen to perform for the coronation of Prince Albert II. It was the most amazing, surreal and unforgettable experience. Sitting at a restaurant for dinner later that night my performance came up on the TV..….it was just priceless.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
In the same performance I can simultaneously; perform, make my costume, do the lighting and the music…..it was so secret I didn’t even know I could do it until the need arose.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
To continue developing and growing as an artist, especially through the mentorship of coaches and choreographers. As an artist you are either going forward or backward, I don’t think there is much in between. I would also love to start doing more international galas.
If you could dance in front of anyone, who would it be and what makes them special to you?
My parents. NO question. They have given everything for myself and my siblings to be able to pursue our dreams. I am eternally grateful to them and it is far too rare that they get to see the fruits of their labor.