Cupcakes & Conversation with Rachael Gillespie, Dancer, Northern Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
Provided I’ve had a good night’s sleep, for me the motivation is simply the fact that I’m doing a job that I love! I’m very grateful to not only be dancing, but to be in a Company that really feels like a family to me. I’m quite a morning person anyway, but a good brew with my breakfast and Chris Moyles on Radio 1 is all it really takes!
What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
Northern Ballet Theatre have some great repertoire to look to look forward this year, so it’s going to be a fantastic couple of seasons. One of my favourites is definitely Wuthering Heights! It’s a truly passionate and dramatic ballet – one I will never tire of! It was actually the first performance I saw by NBT when I was thinking of full time-dance training and it completely inspired me, so I think I may also have a personal attachment to it! I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of NBT Ballet Master Daniel De Andrade’s new work; Glass Cannon. As his first piece with the Company, it’s been a great experience and has felt like a real team effort , so I’m really excited to perform it as part of the mixed bill.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
I’m happy to work on any role! But I would love to be able to perform Northern Ballet Theatre’s Juliet!
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
Funny you should ask this, but this year we’re off to Hong Kong on tour with Peter Pan. This for me is like a dream come true, as I have a great deal of family out there. I’ve only been able to visit them a few times, so to be able to dance in front of them will be wonderful! (The shopping’s great too!!!!)
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
Normally I begin by sewing on the ribbons, followed by attaching elastic to the heels to prevent the backs from slipping off. After this, I use a Stanley knife to cut the material off the tips off the shoes and then shave a bit off the edge of the soles so I can feel the floor better when I’m on flat. I then hammer my shoes on the backs to stop them from being too noisy.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
This usually varies depending on whether we’re at base rehearsing, or performing at the theatre. At the moment, we’re currently rehearsing the mixed bill at base, so it’s up at 7:45am and into work for an hour’s warm up before class. Company training is usually an hour and fifteen, and is followed by rehearsals until lunch. After an hour’s lunch break (complete with a paper or good magazine!) its rehearsals until 6:30. Then home!
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Jackie Chan, Coco Chanel, Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Gene Kelly and Jamie Oliver (my theory is he’d be able to save my guests from my cooking!)
What would surprise people about you ?
As my mother is Chinese and my father is English, my features sometimes confuse people, a lot of people ask me where I’m from and are surprised when I reply with my home town -“Swindon!”
Who inspired you to dance ?
I don’t think I can really narrow it down to one person. I’ve been very lucky to have had wonderful teachers, supportive family and friends, and exposure to big names who have always inspired me, but I don’t think there has ever been one key moment where I decided I wanted to dance, it’s just always been in my blood since I can remember! I just love it! However, I first started taking ballet classes when I was three, after a friend of my mum’s suggested I go because I was always jumping around to music! I also had a video of The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker my parents recorded for me at Christmas when I was six (I used to watch it religiously complete with a pair of satin ballet shoes I used to stuff with tissue and try to go on pointe!)
What is your best piece of advice ?
Follow your own instinct, and remain committed to it. In this profession, there can be no half measures, it has to be 100% dedication. You either want to do it or you don’t.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
Before a show, I like to have a bit of quiet time by myself, whether it’s a good play list on my iPod, or popping out to get coffee. I think it’s important to get fresh air for a good clear mind before a performance by taking a proper break. You need to have a fresh attitude towards each show otherwise it’s easy to become stale when performing the same repertoire for a long period of time. This way you can find new ways of developing your roles and stimulating your performances. This is especially important as member of a theatre ballet company, as we carry out a great deal of narrative work.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
At the beginning of the autumn season, I was lucky enough to be one of the three brides in David Nixon’s Dracula. This was a fantastic opportunity and challenge, as I needed to mature as an actress as well as a dancer. Rehearsing this directly with David Nixon was a true privilege, as well as receiving a great deal of help and advice from two experienced dancers in the Company who had previously performed the role. I knew I had a lot to catch up on, but they were really supportive and helpful with the process.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
I love fashion, so designing a costume would be great fun! I’m quite a creative person, so if it’s not clothes, then I enjoy making jewellery or more recently leotar
ds! For me, I like things with detail and texture – so I guess it would be something eye-catching with exotic fabric! Ultimately I think it’s important to flatter both the work and the dancer.
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
I’m happy to dance with anyone who’s willing to give it their all. I love to feel a sense of team work , trust and achievement with a partner, but at the end of the day I think it’s important to form a good relationship and to be able to have fun together.
What is your favourite quote ?
I can resist everything but temptation! – Oscar Wilde
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
I enjoy adage and grande allegro, but I think it’s important as a dancer not to focus on what you prefer or favour, as much as on what you need to work on. This way it widens what you have to offer, and strengthens what you already have.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
“It wasn’t me!” Being one of three sisters, I had the tendency to use it when we got into trouble!
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
That’s a tough one! Live theatre is always so unpredictable so it’s hard to choose. So far, I guess it would have to be my first company performance and realization of a long standing ambition to become a professional dancer.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I’m a bit of a mimic! I love doing impressions and accents!
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
Still enjoying it as much as I do now, and still applying myself fully to my work. I’ve learnt
to be patient with self progress and to take each day as it comes, but ultimately I’d love to be able to work on some soloist roles.