Cupcakes & Conversation with Sarah Kora Dayanova, Sujet, Paris Opera Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
Everything seems possible within a very few minutes when I am going to the Opera, the class will begin : I do like to go to the barre to prepare my body to work and progress. I am aiming at pushing away its limits… I like these moments of doubts, and questionings, some madmen-laughter which we can have in such moments there but also these tears which make me advance. Going to class every day, whether you are in the corps or a principal is just a way of being dancer. There is no question of, “well I donʼt feel like going today.” Not for me.
Why ballet ?
As a little girl I danced ceaselessly, certainly because I felt more comfortable expressing myself in dance and my family is an artisticone. My mother is a painter and my father an opera singer. When I dance I feel free to be myself. That is the point. For me, to be a ballerina is to be individual, to have something no-one else has… but it is a never-ending process, always searching.
What are you looking forward to dancing during 2012/13 & what are the big challenges likely to be for you ?
2012/13 is the tercentenary of the Opera (in 1713 Louis XIV put together the School of Ballet) with great classic ballets, opulent productions and other works. The transmission is a part of our mission and the “boatmen” in Opera are respected; respecting the past speaks to me. I have several roles in Don Quixote, such a stimulating ballet in which the dancers are literally on fire. Next month, a special Nureyev gift to the Opera in 1981, a tremendous Commedia dellʼArte, a competition of promotion and the rest of the season is still considered secret but I cross my fingers to be have the opportunity to interpret a beautiful role!
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
La Dame aux Camellias by Neumeier with Nicolas Le Riche. It would be not so bad !! Or Romeo and Juliet with Mathieu Ganio who is such a unique dancer and person. I do have special memories : we entered the balletin the same year, no one could forget, Ganio had such a blazing and fast trajectory, with such a humility and an aesthetic so pure and so unique …. And some others dancers whatever rank they have in companies which I keep in my heart.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
In space. The weightlessness should be able to give another dimension (size) to certain movements!
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I wear Freed pointe shoes; rather narrow with a sole cut in the middle which I recut myself sometimes according to ballets/roles to be danced. I varnish them with a special varnish and leave to dryfor a few days. Then I sew on transparent elastic laces, elastic (rubber band) in the heels and they are ready !!
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I have daily class at 11h30, and I do some yoga exercices which I definitively need. And then there are the rehearsals in the afternoon. I travel to the Opera on a bike that goes fast and it is practical because I leave very often late but I always arrive on time!
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?
I am a fan of whole grain cereal and I have been a vegetarian for a long time…
What would surprise people about you?
They should tell you..
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Woody Allen, Charlotte Rampling, Isabelle Huppert, Gene Kelly, David Kadouch (a very good pianist and friend) and a guest surprise !
Who inspired you to dance ?
Isabelle Guérin. I was 8 years old when I saw her dancing Nikiya in La Bayadère on television and I had such an emotional reaction that I decided to make ballet my job. One of the things I most admire about her is her ability to use her very strong technique to hide that technique – she can make things look so simple and itʼs only afterwards that you realise the control and concentration that that must take. The greatest pleasure of all is to watch her in a grand adagio, filling out every phrase to the last nanosecond
What is your best piece of advice?
Stand up and Dance…
In other words, I put great emphasis on the idea that I am offering the audience an ʻexperienceʼ, which they can interpret as they wish. Iʼs not only up to the audience to make the effort to become involved either intellectually or emotionally or sensually, it comes naturally. The audience come to the work and at the same time I do expect the audience to come to the dancers.
So, lets dance.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I do some massage for my legs with some arnica oil. I choose my pointe shoes and then I make up. That relaxes me and it is a moment of peace; I find myself a little in front of myself… I do my hair and I am a perfectionist. Then I work at the barre and try the movements I’ll be dancing in the evening that I want to polish up and to strengthen. Finally, I put on my costume and to come down on stage.
How do you deal with the stress of performing ?
The more important the performance the more I feel stressed! I sometimes use Rescue/Fleur de Bach to calm down and a little medical mint spirit for a boost I touch the ground with both my hands, I have a thought for Isabelle Guérin, such an imperial charismatic ballerina. I have been so impressed by her characterisations. And one for my grandmother who left us at the age of 100 in 2009. She was called Mazal which means luck in Hebrew!
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
La reine des Dryades from Don Quixote; my first role as a Soloist at the Paris Opera. And more recently, Gamzatti in La Bayadère which I danced in spite of a very recent injury four days before; I was badly injured, I had to leave my crutches the day before but I would have done anything to dance! The mythical fight is just a great delight! Thanks to my special partner Stephane Bullion.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
A long dress with long sleeves and grey tights, grey pointes and retro headgear!
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
A glance which says everything, a breath where the emotion is instinctive.
What is your favourite quote ?
“Les doutes c’est ce que nous avons de plus intimes.” Albert Camus
Do you have a ʻsignature stepʼ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I adore turning. I am a real spinning top!
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
“Ca s’est fait …Next.“ “It is over, what else, next step.”
Whatʼs been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I shall choose two…
During the annual Competition of promotion at the Opera in December 2006 when I danced the Shadow variation in The Mirages of Serge Lifar and I became Sujet! I had to read the results sheet several times to believe in it!
The second is the fight between two personalities – strong and fragile- Nikiya and Gamzatti and at the same time the glances, the movements, the mime is sometimes even more difficult to do well than 32 fouettés. Another difficulty, another skill.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I write some texts, poems…
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
I am rather superstitious so I prefer to keep secret my desires and dreams !
What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?
When you are in a ballet company, you could lose perspective of reality. So you go for extremes in order to stand out and be noticed… I would like to be involved in theater or in cinema. The connection you can have with people in theatre is very different. And for sure another type of role …. to be a mother.