Cupcakes & Conversation with Michele Wiles, Principal, American Ballet Theatre
What motivates you at 8am on a Tuesday morning ?
Tuesday is the first day of work for ABT. My husband, James McCullough, is usually up by 6. He makes the coffee and gets me up, so I can be in class by 10 am.
What are you looking forward to dancing this year ?
I am looking forward to the classics, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, and Giselle. I am also looking forward to performing in Ratmansky’s new ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House in May.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
It would be wonderful to have a ballet created for me. I always love to dance with my fellow American Ballet Theatre principals including my current partner for Swan Lake Cory Stearns. Roberto Bolle and I had a fantastic time dancing Sylvia at the MET and I hope to partner again with him. New York City Ballet principal Charles Askegard is another of my favorites and one of the best partners I have had in my career. Mauro Bigonzetti would be my top choice to do the choreography.
If you could dance anywhere, where would you choose ?
If I could dance anywhere, I would dance on the moon because I wouldn’t have to fight gravity anymore!
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
Recently, I have switched pointe shoes. Now, I wear Freed shoes and sew ribbons and elastics on them.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
My routine is class at 10, rehearsals at American Ballet Theatre, some exercises to strengthen weak muscles, then home or performance. This happens six days a week.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
I would invite Billy Jean King, Hilary Clinton, Bill Moyers, Bill Maher, Anna Pavlova, and Sergei Diaghilev.
What would surprise people about you ?
People would be surprised to know that I am a huge fan of Bill Moyers.
Who inspired you to dance ?
At first, music inspired me to dance. Then I was inspired to be a ballerina when I saw Gelsey Kirkland, Natasha Makarova, Cynthia Gregory, Susan Jaffe, and Amanda Mckerrow.
What is your best piece of advice ?
To believe in yourself and keep going.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
Hours before the show I like to eat a good meal and take a nap. The work is done, now I can enjoy the show!
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Swan Lake has tested me the most because in one ballet you have to have both a lyrical and bravura technique and on top of that you have to be romantic and seductive. To achieve this you need many performances and lots of rehearsal!
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I don’t know what costume I would design, but I know I would have to experiment a lot!
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
In a dance partner I look for openness, a personal connection and a willingness to take risks.
What is your favourite quote ?
“This too shall pass”.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I don’t think any dance step has come naturally to me, but I have worked really hard to make the dance steps look natural.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
My best on stage moment was Sylvia with Roberto Bolle in 2009.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I’ve never admitted this before, but I really enjoy doing the laundry. My husband does all of the cooking.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
In a year from now I hope to be digging even deeper into my roles. I also hope to bring an awareness of the art to a younger generation and hopefully spark the interest of people who normally wouldn’t go to the ballet.