Cupcakes & Conversation with Michaela Paolacci, First Soloist, Northern Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
This depends on what time I get it bed the night before! Monday mornings can be very tricky, especially after a relaxing weekend but generally speaking, ballet dancers have to be naturally motivated especially if they want to get the most out of their career. The idea is to always try and get enough sleep and rest whenever possible in order to avoid working yourself into a state of complete exhaustion. I absolutely love my job, and the gratifying feeling I get after having spent a whole day in the studio rehearsing and facing new challenges. That’s what motivates me every morning!
Why ballet ?
I love ballet because it is an aesthetically beautiful and expressive art form. At the same time ballet demands tremendous physical endurance and a huge amount of hard work and dedication. Most of the time, I have a lot of fun with it and for me this is one of the most important aspects to one’s work.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
I would have loved to have dance with Julio Bocca. I once watched him dance with Alessandra Ferri in Romeo and Juliet and was mesmerized by the fluidity and passion the two of them shared.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
My pointe shoes are my best friends! You build such a bond with them during your career. They stay on your feet all day and it’s imperative that they remain comfortable and supportive and allow you to dance freely. I don’t do much to mine; they are pretty perfect when they arrive!! I just make sure I always super glue the tips inside to retain strength and hardness.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
When I am at home in Leeds, my routine tends to be a lot more hectic, depending on our workload and what we happen to be rehearsing. I usually arrive an hour before class in the mornings. This allows me to organise things before the day begins, such as shoes for rehearsals and of course there needs to be ample warm up time before class. At the moment, we are very busy rehearsing The Nutcracker. My days tend to be full of rehearsals with one hour for lunch. I try to also fit in some physio time and a rest! After work I go home and prepare my dinner and have a nice hot bath to relax my muscles. I’m usually pretty exhausted after a hard day but I do love to unwind both physically and mentally and reading a good book and skyping my family is top on my list!
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?
Good food is very important to me. I only eat organically grown produce – lots of vegetables and fruit. I tend to avoid dairy products, but I love fish, especially salmon! I also can’t do without eggs, in any form, and seeds!! I put them in everything!! When I’m working, I’ll pack a light lunch from home which usually consists of a nice big salad, lots of fruit and maybe a yoghurt or left overs from the night before!!!
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
I would invite the three stooges (can’t they count as one!) Roger Federer, my dog Coco, Bradley Cooper, Abraham Lincoln and Joan of Arc.
What would surprise people about you ?
People are very surprised to learn how irreverent I can be!! I’m also not as intense as I may seem, in fact, I’m very laid back and I love to laugh!
Who inspired you to dance ?
I believe that inspiration comes from within and from the heart. It awakens naturally. Since I was a child, I’ve loved music and dancing to it was fun and felt right.
What is your best piece of advice ?
My advice would be to live your life freely and with honesty; to never give up on yourself and never have fear and always follow your heart!
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
Sometimes I’ll have ample time before a show and therefore I can be relaxed and focussed. Other times I may have to hurry, in which case I may feel the pressure. I have everything I need in my dressing room so the make-up and costumes go on pretty smoothly. While I get ready I listen to music and go through the show in my head making sure I remember any corrections or notes which may have been given to me.
How do you deal with the stress of performing ?
Performing on stage is a thrilling experience although very often a dancer may feel nervous before he or she goes on which is quite normal. The trick is to be able to conquer your nerves before you actually set foot on stage. Some people listen to music, others may read a book. My method is to just go for it!
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
The role of Giselle has probably been the most challenging for me. Giselle is one of the most sought after roles in ballet, and every ballerina dreams of dancing Giselle so it is a great honour to have been given the chance. Giselle is a ballerina’s showcase in that she should be technically perfect, exceptionally graceful and lyrical and also have excellent acting skills. For me, one of the most difficult aspects of Giselle is trying to portray her as spiritual and unworldly but loving at the same time.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
It obviously depends on the role, but I absolutely love costumes that sparkle and glitter!!
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
I like to feel very comfortable and secure with my dance partner so he should be strong and reliable. He should be also be collaborative and have excellent dramatic skills. A bonus is dancing with someone who shares your energy and passion.
What is your favourite quote ?
My favourite quote is by Abraham Lincoln: “Everything I am or hope to be, I owe to my darling mother”.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
“is it organic?!!!” or “I don’t know, Google it.”
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
I know where I would like to be, the thing is : will I get there!!?