Cupcakes & Conversation with Rebekah Rimsay, First Soloist, National Ballet of Canada
Rebekah will dance a Stepsister, a role she created, in James Kudelka’s Cinderella. Celebrating her 20th anniversary dancing with the company, Rebekah’s vibrant and multi-faceted artistry ranges from the boisterously comic and intensely dramatic to the radiantly touching and coolly formal. She is able to invest her character creations with powerfully realized human traits and emotional dimensions as seen in Cinderella.
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
My 19 month old Daughter. She wakes me up at 7:30 most mornings with some cheerful chatter or the call of “Mommy”. Occasionally she treats me to an extra half hour of sleep.
Ballet is an art form where we get to perform, interpret, and express using our whole body moving to music, with lights, sets and costumes.
What are you looking forward to dancing in the new season?
The role of “The Other Stepsister” in Cinderella was created on me but it’s a challenge to keep the humour fresh and the character real every time I come back to it. The rehearsal process is full of laughter and the audience seems to have fun too. Also, Serenade is an all time favourite of mine and being cast as the Russian Woman is new for me so I’m excited about that. I’m also cast in my first Crystal Pite piece. I was pregnant when she choreographed Emergence on the company so now I get to dance it.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
Mikhail Baryshnikov… I would love to experience his charisma, musicality, and charm in Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
Years ago, I dance under the stars and moon on a warm clear night in Caesarea, Israel on the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. It was magical. I would love to do a summer tour of ancient amphitheatres around the world.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I sew the standard ribbons and elastics on, then I cut the shank to a half shank so I don’t have to fight the shoe to point my feet, and then I shave the leather of the sole to give a really flat feeling under my feet for stability and to give the shoe a more streamlined profile. I cut the satin off the tip for traction, I Krazy Glue the inside of the tips and then hammer the pleats on the bottom. Yes, this all takes way too long!
What is your daily routine at the moment?
7:30 am – Wake up, get my daughter and myself dressed and fed for the day and her off to her Grandma’s (My husband is already at work).
10:00 am – Class. I usually zoom in at just before the first note of warm up is played.
11:30 am – 6:30 pm- rehearsals. Every day is different though, so, if I have a long break or no rehearsals for a part of a day, I dash home to spend that time with my daughter. I also try to fit in physio and/or massage.
7:30 pm – Dinner and family time with the kid and hubby.
9:00 pm -Baby bedtime which means it’s time for me to catch up on emails and laundry… and maybe an episode of Dexter or CSI.
During performance season, I’ll get dinner around 5:30 pm, 6:00 – 7:30 pm hair & make-up and warm-up, 7:30 pm – show, 11:00 pm – home and to bed after a snack.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
Al Gore – I admire his passion about the environmental and politics.
David Suzuki – Scientist and environmental activist. I would love to learn more from him.
Rosie O’Donnell – She’s hilarious and smart!
Philip Seymour Hoffman – very intimidating but I’d love to hear about his approach to acting.
Mikhail Baryshnikov – I’ve already sort of summed up how I feel about him.
Jon Stewart – Smart, political and funny. I love his show!
I hope for their sake I’m not cooking.
What would surprise people about you?
I’m not sure. I feel like I’m an open book. Any surprise to someone is because they didn’t ask.
Who inspired you to dance ?
My Mom first. Then the many dancers in performances that she took me to see. Now, my colleagues, coaches and, the most of the time, the choreography.
What is your best piece of advice?
Persevere, but with a sense of humour
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I relish doing my hair and make-up. It’s the time that I transform into something other than myself. About an hour before a show, I stretch in my dressing room where it’s quiet and warm and I can think about the role I’m about to perform. Around the half-hour call, I’m taping my toes and putting my point shoes and costume on. By the 15-minute call I’m warming up in the studio and at the 5-minute call I’m going over the choreography either by myself or with my partner if necessary.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
The lead role in Macmillan’s Solitaire was an enormous artistic challenge. I had never seen the ballet and was given the choreography with little guidance. The choreography is simplistic, the music is childish and yet the concept of loneliness is quite universal and potentially very touching if communicated in just the right way. I went to some of our long-time Character Artists who had danced the ballet in the past and had memories of Lynn Seymour performing the lead role. I hope I brought an honesty and accessibility to the role.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I always want a skirt. I don’t have perfect ballerina legs so a skirt helps me feel free. No sleeves though, like I said, I like to feel free so, spaghetti straps and light flowy fabric. I must have earrings too!
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Presence, eye contact, spontaneity and a little bit of risk taking.
What is your favourite quote?
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” – Albert Einstein
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
I’d say I’m a jumper, especially grand allegro.
A phrase I use far too often is …
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
After 20 years I really can’t, nor do I want to, vote for one best moment. A few highlights:
James Kudelka’s Washington Square – I danced the leading woman Catherine Sloper and relished the moment I got to lock the door on the man who jilted me.
Jiří Kylián’s Forgotten Land, Red Couple – The entrance… vibrating with anticipation.
Cinderella, The Other Stepsister – So many spontaneous moments on stage and so much insane hilarity with my ‘sister’.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I turn best with a severely swayed back, but I have yet to be given the opportunity to use it onstage. Seriously! In 20 years not once… but then I’ve never done a flick flack on stage either.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
This is my 20th anniversary so I’m just hoping to still be dancing roles I love dance, in not too much pain.
Cinderella runs November 11 to 20, 2010 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, Canada.