Cupcakes & Conversation with Valentino Zucchetti, First Artist, The Royal Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
The prospect of getting ready for a performance or a role, which luckily is often the case. I could never wake up knowing that I have nothing to look forward to.
It’s a passion that came to me very naturally at a very young age. I started when I was 4, and the passion has kept increasing ever since; I couldn’t tell you why but I just always loved it.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance?
There are many interesting artists around and great artists here in the company so there are many which I’d like to dance with, although I’ve always had a special admiration for Alina Cojocaru. If the possibility ever arose I would love to dance Romeo and Juliet or Onegin with her.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
There is this outstanding open arena in Taormina in Italy, it’s a roman style arena and it faces the Sicilian coast and the whole atmosphere is just breath-taking.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I have a very strong daily routine: I wake up around 2 hours before class and I start my 45 min up to 1 hour warm up routine, exercising pretty much the whole body before class starts. Then I start my whole day of rehearsals and often a show, and then by the time I’m at home I have only 1 hour to spare before bed time. Then it starts all over again!
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?
I follow a pretty healthy diet. I make sure to always have breakfast, then a hot meal with carbs, vegetables and fruit for lunch and a protein rich dinner to recover my muscle for the morning ahead.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I usually have a 20min power nap about 2 hours before a show, then I just eat and put my make up on and go quite early to the stage so that I can get in, what I call, “the zone” for the show.
What are you looking forward to dancing in 2011/12 ?
I’m pretty excited to be doing one of the leading couples in Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia.
How do you deal with the stresses of performing ?
To be honest I hardly ever get stressed on stage as I make sure I’ve prepared properly. I always try to live it as an enjoyable experience. Of course there are some times when you have to suddenly go on because someone gets injured and you are not really sure what to do or where to go. Then it can be pretty stressful. If I’m stressed I don’t enjoy it.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
It’s probably going to sound really random but I’d say: Nureyev, Freddie Mercury, Jiri Kylian, Jim Carey, Hugh Hefner and Giacomo Casanova.
What would surprise people about you ?
That I’m brutally honest and overly energetic at times…I guess.
Who inspired you to dance ?
I don’t really have a specific person, I just remember taking up ballet because I saw Baryshnikov and Cynthia Harvey in Don Quixote on TV when I was three years old and I just wanted to be like that.
How would someone else describe you ?
Energetic, confident, outgoing….I think.
What is your best piece of advice ?
To always try to do what you like and really want to do; life is too short to spend it sobbing and wishing you were doing something else.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
It’s hard to say; probably when I was part of a new creation by David Dawson for the Norwegian National Ballet. The amount of combinations to do “normal” and reverse was mind-blowing and the energy required for the piece was incredible. We all ended up absolutely dead by the end of it – but I loved it!
What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
There are many funny things that have happened to me I must say, but a really funny story was from last season during a show of Swan Lake. I was doing the first act waltz and right at the end of the dance the girl is supposed to come to you after a group circle and you finish the dance together
in a shoulder lift. Well, my partner lost sight of me at the end of the circle and because she couldn’t find me she just left the stage! So I was left there
alone in the first row, while everyone had a girl and I just kind of mimed the end of the ballet and finished with a big cheesy smile but I was really clumsy
about it all. The whole company had a big laugh right after.
If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
It would be something very detailed and stunning, it would have to impress from the first glimpse.
A phrase I use far too often is …
It sounds bad but it’s “please somebody just shoot me!”
Who would play you in the film of your life ?
I don’t know… I would be the best choice I guess!
What is your favourite quote?
“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance, raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.” Ralph Marston.
What’s on your iPod ?
I would say 80% classical music and 20% of bands like Queen, Aerosmith, Ray Charles – things like that.
Who would you most like to dance for, and why?
Probably for fellow countrymen : Italians. I always felt the desire to dance for my country and as I perform most of the time here in England I feel like I’ve been cut off from Italy.
What makes you a good dance partner ?
I really value my partners. I ultimately think that when you do a pas de deux it’s really her moment and you need to help her to shine so I always try to instil serenity and reassurance to them so that they don’t have to worry about anything and can give the best performance.
Do you have a secret skill which no one knows about ?
I’ve got a pretty decent opera voice. I did do some opera singing classes in the past out of interest and they seemed to have paid off.
Describe yourself in just three words.
Energetic, disciplined, passionate.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be this time next year ?
I’d like to be right here where I am now, dancing a lot of interesting and exciting roles.
What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?
I don’t have a “strategy” but I do have some plans. I’m interested in choreography and I’d like to pursue that road, together with teaching and coaching and ultimately becoming a director, although it’s very early on to say all this. I’m right in the middle of my ballet career which I’m enjoying very much and I hope it will keep flourishing.