Cupcakes & Conversation with Stephanie Williams, Corps de ballet, Het Nationale Ballet – Dutch National Ballet
As we celebrate National Cupcake Week, please, be upstanding for cupcakes and raise your glass (or tea cup), while I hope you’ll enjoy this specially baked Cupcakes & Conversation.
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
What motivates me is the prospect of a new weeks’ worth of learning, exploring and experiencing. I am a very routine person but I’m also very aware that I get to go into ‘work’ and dance all day doing something I love! That’s motivation enough!
It’s simple… I love it. I love the feeling of moving through space and being given the opportunity every day to express myself through this movement. It is when I am dancing I feel most free and comfortable to be exactly who I am. It’s my form of escapism.
What are you looking forward to dancing this year?
I am really looking forward to dancing in the traditional Swan Lake. I was fortunate enough to dance Odette/Odile upon my graduation from The Australian Ballet School but since then I have not been a part of a traditional production, so I can’t wait to be on stage listening to that amazing score and getting lost in the movement. There is also a mixed program with Balanchine and Forsythe. Two genius choreographers whom I love, so hopefully I will get the opportunity to be a part of that season.
Who would you most like to dance with and what would you dance?
I would love to dance with Nicolas Le Riche in anything… I remember watching Le Jeune homme et la Mort on YouTube many years ago and being totally captivated by him. He is so real when he dances and when he looks at his partner. I love sharing special moments on stage with my partners and to be able to look into his eyes.. Yes please!
I also would love to dance Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux with Damian Smith from San Francisco Ballet. A fellow Aussie who is as beautiful on stage, as off. That would be a dream.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I wear Freed Studio Professionals and I start by sewing on the ribbons and elastic. Then I take out the top two nails and cut the insole out so the shoe bends correctly with where my arch is. Then I shave the sole down, mould the shoe to my foot and then they are ready to go!
What is your daily routine at the moment?
At the moment I wake up, have breakfast, walk to work and do some Pilates followed by class and rehearsals. I am spending quite a bit of time in our gym at the theatre doing some cardio and reformer work to keep my body in a good, balanced condition so I’m ready for any opportunity. At the end of the day I’ll head home for some relaxing with my housemate and lots of laughter!
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day?
I usually start with fruit and yoghurt in the morning and then have small snacks throughout the day. I don’t like feeling full when I’m dancing and doing lots of rehearsing so I like snacking a lot and throw in a Chai Latte and a Coke Zero throughout, before having a nice dinner with lots of veggies, some meat and pasta and a frozen yoghurt for dessert.
You can ask six famous people to dinner- who would you invite?
Lance Armstrong, Baryshnikov, Nicolas Le Riche, Johnny Depp, Coco Chanel, Sylvie Guillem.
Who inspired you to dance?
I wouldn’t say there was one person in particular. I love observing people and being inspired by what I see and feel around me every day. I am constantly being inspired by normal everyday beauty that is all around us if we just take the time to look.
What is your best piece of advice?
Live in the moment.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
I usually head to the theatre quite early and listen to some music whilst I’m doing my hair and make-up. This always puts me in a focussed and good frame of mind and I will make sure all my shoes and costumes are ready before heading to the studio to do some Pilates before barre and then it’s time for the show. I always jog on the spot side stage to keep my body temperature warm and ready to go. It also jogs out any excess nervous energy!
How do you deal with the stress of performing?
I actually feel totally at home on stage performing. I am almost more comfortable out there than I am in everyday life, so apart from a little nervous energy I just lose myself and dance and feel exactly where I am meant to be.
Which role has tested you the most and why?
Upon graduation from The Australian Ballet School I performed the dual role of Odette/Odile in the traditional Swan Lake and as a ballerina this ballet really has it all. It’s technically and emotionally very demanding and I remember being so emotionally drained after the two performances because I had put every ounce of my young self into those two complex personas and had nothing left when the second performance was over.
I also had an exciting and scary opportunity in my second year. As a corps de ballet dancer, all of our principal ladies were off and I was asked to learn the principal role in Krzysztof Pastor’s Symphonie Fantastique in three days and perform it on opening night. It was a very intense process but also one of the most exhilarating times in my career and the stress and nerves were high but as soon as the curtain went up I became lost in the music and loved every minute.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume what would you create?
I love a tutu. It accentuates a woman’s best features and always looks elegant and beautiful.
What do you look for in dance partner?
I am all about the eyes, so I need real eye contact and a mutual trust.
What is your favourite quote?
“There is no shortcut to any place worth going.”
Do you have a signature step?
I like an arabesque.
What’s been your best onstage moment so far?
I couldn’t really choose one moment because there have been many. My most special moments have been experienced with my partners on stage and simply looking into their eyes and sharing something special and unique to the two of us is always very magical. I have a very strong emotional memory of when I danced Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun with guest artist Cedric Ygnace. This ballet has very little eye contact as we are both acting as young dance students gazing into the mirror but the few glances that we shared throughout this piece were definitely some of my most special moments on stage.
In terms of your dance career where would you like to be in a year from now?
If you could dance in front of anyone who would it be and what makes them special to you?
I really wish I could dance in front of my nonno again. He passed away two years ago and I remember watching my nonna and nonno dancing at their local Italian Club in my home town of Newcastle years ago and I knew straight away where I got my natural love of movement from. They were amazing, moving around the dance floor so effortlessly in sync and with the rhythm flowing through them. I think of him so often when I am dancing.