Cupcakes & Conversation with Shelby Elsbree, corps de ballet, Royal Danish Ballet

December 23, 2010

Ballet, Cupcakes & Conversation

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Shelby Elsbree, corps de ballet, Royal Danish Ballet 

portrait of a ballet dancer

Photography throughout : David Amzallag

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?

A nice big bowl of Oatmeal served with homemade apple compote, a drizzle of maple syrup and a latté.

Why ballet?

I gave it a try, and fell in love with the art form, the music, the discipline, and most especially the reward of performing. That, or course, is my very favourite part.

What are you looking forward to dancing next year?

We are touring to America during the summer of 2011, so basically everything we are bringing there. What an amazing experience to dance with my European Company, on my home terrain!

Fairy of Temperament in Christopher Wheeldon's Sleeping Beauty

Fairy of Temperament in Christopher Wheeldon's Sleeping Beauty

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?

I would be honoured to dance with my best friend Lydia Wellington (a dancer with New York City Ballet) at some point. I think we could do a very fierce ‘Violin’ duo in Concerto Barocco

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?

I have heard magical things about the Herod Atticus Theatre in Athens, Greece. I love the idea of performing outdoors, I love traveling and I’ve never been to Greece, so that is definitely on my list !

How do you prepare your pointe shoes?

After sewing on elastic and ribbons (I use the ribbons with elastic inserts to prevent tendonitis), I bend the shank where my arch is, take out the nail, cut the satin off of the tip, and shave around the rim of the outside shank for a flatter surface to stand on. I stand on the box to flatten in a bit, and they’re good to go.

Pas de Trois in Peter  Martins' Swan Lake

Pas de Trois in Peter Martins' Swan Lake

What is your daily routine at the moment?

Right now we have shows nearly every day for Sleeping Beauty, so on a show day…

Wake up at 7:35am, do about 10 minutes of physical therapy exercises to ‘wake up’ the body…Make a hearty breakfast, and enjoy it while I answer emails and browse the web. Arrive at the theater around 9am for 10 o’clock class. Rehearsals start at 11:30 and last an hour before our lunch break, followed by another round of rehearsals until 2:30pm. At which point I would make my way to the Sauna where I enjoy about 20 minutes of stretching and icing. A quick shower, and home I go for dinner and a nap. Back to the theater around 6pm…Stage make-up, hair, and warm-up, and the performance which goes from 7:30 to 10pm. Back home for a protein shake and a Skype date with the family, and off to bed. If I have a little energy leftover, I blog a bit, which is the perfect way to end my day…

You can ask six famous people to dinner – whom would you invite?

Oooo this is a hard one… I would certainly have to invite Julia Child, Martha Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Jackson, Jesus, and perhaps Josh Groban. That would be a superb dinner party…I’m afraid it might have to last all night.

What would surprise people about you?

My older brother, sister and I earned our Black Belts in Tae Kwon Do.

ballet dancer on stage in George Balanchine's Serenade

George Balanchine's Serenade

Who inspired you to dance?

When I was 9 the woman selling our house suggested I try ballet classes at her daughter’s Ballet School, the Florida Ballet Arts Academy. I was falling out of love with gymnastics after a broken arm, and thought I would give it a try.

What is your best piece of advice?

Listen to your body. Trust yourself, and believe in your unique talent. You have something special, that nobody else in the world has. Find what that is, and share it with others…

How do you prepare in the hours before a show?

I usually do my hair and stage make-up first, then I ride the stationary bike for about 20 minutes while listening to a great, inspiring podcast, usually Joel Osteen. I do a 10-15 minute barrre and stretch a bit, and then I put on my costume and pointe shoes and go down to finish warm up on stage. I always thank God for the opportunity to perform while I’m waiting in the wings; the music begins, the curtain rises, and the magic unfolds…

Which role has tested you the most & how?

Probably performing Blue Girl in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering last season. Not only does it take a lot of stamina, but it beholds such a subtle beauty that cannot look forced or ‘taught’, it simply has to appear natural and lovely. It was my first ‘lead role’ dancing with all soloists and principals in the company. I felt so humbled and so honoured and inspired to be performing with such talented, experienced dancers.

Pas de Trois in Peter  Martins' Swan Lake

Pas de Trois in Peter Martins' Swan Lake

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?

I would probably create a tutu that has a flexible bodice made of some sort of fantastically stretchy cotton or Spandex (but appears beautifully of course) that allows for more mobility. The length of the tutu would naturally be form fitted to make my legs look a wee bit longer too 😉

What do you look for in a dance partner?

I look for someone who dances as confidently with me as he does by himself. Who trusts and believes in me as a dancer and a partner, and who knows how to keep me on my leg !

What is your favourite quote?

“Believe and you will receive.”  Matthew 21:22

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?

Well I love to jump on stage, it just feels so liberating. But waltz steps also make me feel beautiful and basically any step that sings with the music. Performing in general is the ultimate gift, so any step on stage.

A phrase I use far too often is…?

I’m cursed with the ‘like’ word… I mean, like sometimes, there is just no better comparative…

'Aurora's Friends' in Christopher Wheeldon's Sleeping Beauty

'Aurora's Friends' in Christopher Wheeldon's Sleeping Beauty

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far?

Most definitely bowing after my Premiere of Blue Girl in Dances at a Gathering because my mom, aunt and grandparents had come all the way to see me, and they were in the audience. I sobbed afterwards out of pure joy…and maybe a little bit of fatigue…

Do you have a secret skill which no one knows about?

Well I am very skilled at speaking Jibberish. Yes, it is a language believe it or not. I often try to whip it out when my roommates are babbling off in 2 or 3 other foreign languages…It makes me feel included !

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?

In a year from now, I would like to be challenged with more soloist and principal roles, injury free, and savouring every day of dancing with my heart, mind, body and soul…

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6 Responses to “Cupcakes & Conversation with Shelby Elsbree, corps de ballet, Royal Danish Ballet”

  1. Dancing Branflake Says:

    This has got to be my favorite interview! She is so down to earth and lively, I can just tell by her answers and enthusiasm. I would love to know her blog and follow it. Gorgeous dancer! Her in Concerto Barocco would be amazing!

  2. Ballet News Says:

    Dancing Branflake – my apologies, I totally meant to add Shelby’s brilliant blog, Tutus and Tea, to this interview. Here is the link :

  3. May Says:

    One of my favourite interviews of the year….including those in glossies, newspapers and tv! What a sunny personality she has. A lovely Christmas treat to read.

  4. Cheryl Elsbree Says:

    What a fabulous interview and I can honestly say (as your Mom) that this is truly you! Shelby, you are such a strong and amazing person. I am so proud of you. Thank-you for sharing your graciousness.xxoo


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