Cupcakes & Conversation with Simon Ball, Principal, Houston Ballet

January 12, 2012

Cupcakes & Conversation

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Simon Ball, Principal, Houston Ballet

Simon Ball Kaye Marvins photography

Simon Ball Photograph : Kaye Marvins photography

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?  

My family is my greatest source of support and motivation.  My beautiful wife and two gorgeous daughters inspire me to push when things get tough.  I certainly think of their faces when I am out of breath, and don’t want to go back on stage for the coda.

Why ballet ?  

I have not found anything that interests me more.  The combination of music, movement, story-telling without the barriers of language, and live performance are intoxicating to me.  I am also very excited about what is around the corner for dance.  I think we are going to see a lot of fresh and vibrant voices in ballet in the near future.

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

Honestly, I look forward to dancing with my wife at our daughters weddings.  That is, assuming our daughters wish to marry.  If not, I’ll dance with my wife anyway.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

Rehearsal week routine

6:45am: I wake up and make breakfast for my 6yr old.

7:30am: Off to Kindergarten.

9:00: Drive to work to warm up on the elliptical.

10:00am: Class (the lesson)

11:45pm – 6:45pm: Rehearsal.

7:10pm : Get home to the sound of little girls screaming “Daddy, daddy, daddy”

two ballet dancers on stage

Sara Webb & Simon Ball in Carousel Photograph : Amitava Sarkar

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?  

During the day I try not to alter my routine too much.  Nearer to the show I go into a kind of an energy saving mode.  I sometimes worry that I will not snap out of it by the time the show comes.  So far, I have.

How do you deal with the stresses of performing ?  

Stress lets you know you still care about what you do.  I invite a certain amount of stress.  When it feels overwhelming or toxic, a few deep breaths usually do the trick.

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

I hope this is a living or dead party…  Charles Darwin & Stephen Hawking… who, together, have a pretty good chance at figuring out the secret of life, Leonardo Da Vinci & Thomas Jefferson… to determine a way to have the best quality of life…  and if those folks don’t make any headway, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin… for some after dinner entertainment, just to remember to live in the moment.

What would surprise people about you ?

I can only count to eight, but that is all a dancer needs.  Just kidding, I can count to nine.

Who inspired you to dance ?

My sister April (who now dances with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo) got me hooked.  We always pushed one another growing up.  I think we still do from afar.

What is your best piece of advice ?  

There is no substitute for smart/hard work.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

Onegin is a special role to me.  I have been fortunate to dance Cranko’s Onegin on a few occasions.  Onegin and I, thankfully, don’t have many of the same character traits.  The first time I performed the ballet it was a great challenge to understand his motivations. It is technically challenging with more than one monster pas de deux, but more than that, a real tight wire act emotionally.  There are a wide range of emotions for him to go through in a short amount of time.  Just thinking about the role, I am pondering how I would approach it differently next time.

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?

Less is always more.

A phrase I use far too often is …

“Let’s do that one more time.”  More appropriate would be “Let’s do that 17 more times, or until your shoes are dead”

ballet dancer on stage

The Concert. Simon Ball Photograph : Amitava Sarkar

What is your favourite quote?

The one that sticks out in my head is:  The saddest words of mouth and pen, are the words “It might have been”.

What’s on your iPod ?

Let’s take the “B artists” for example.  Bach, Beyonce, Bela Fleck, ballet class music, Blind Willie McTell, Beethoven, Bessie Smith, Buddy Holly, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Bill Monroe, & Bob Marley.

What makes you a good dance partner ?

I hope that I can make a ballerina feel comfortable, confident, and that I can anticipate what it is she needs on stage.  There have been times that I have just watched new partners in class to see how to best enhance their dancing as a partner.  Besides that, I try not to leave any bruises.

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

Whistling… I love whistling.

If you could dance in front of anyone, who would it be and what makes them special to you?

It would have to be my parents.  Their selflessness allowed me to be who I am.

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be this time next year ?

I would love to be doing exactly what I am doing now… maybe a little smarter.

ballet dancer on stage

Little Dancer Simon Ballet Photograph : Amitava Sarkar

What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?

I don’t have a concrete plan.  I’ve found that I have a very one track mind and quickly become obsessed.  So, while my body still allows me to dance, that’s my focus.  There are so many things that I find fascinating.  When the time comes to stop, I really look forward setting a new goal and having a new obsession.

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