I am delighted to show another specially commissioned drawing by Sarah, a naturally gifted artist, to introduce this latest interview series. Sarah’s brief was to depict the dancers’ progression from student to professional, and the resulting sketch perfectly represents that transition.
From Student to Star is a series of interviews featuring Graduates as they begin their professional careers, and will be following them regularly.
Freya Thomas graduated from The Royal Ballet School this summer.
What were you most looking forward to about joining Bayerisches Staatsballett, Munich ?
I was most looking forward to achieving my ambition of becoming a professional dancer in a top class company. I was excited by the opportunity to learn new roles and dance in ballets by choreographers who have created work especially for the Bavarian State Ballet and by being able to live and work with dancers from all around the world and experience a different country’s culture.
I was also very much looking forward to wearing my own dance clothes in class! It may be easy to get up and put on your school uniform leotards but it gives you a bit more personality to wear your own things.
How is Company life different from your student days ?
Life as a student was very regimented with a fixed timetable for each day of the week. In a company the days are much more varied with classes and rehearsals and performances arranged as needed. Some days I will be working from first thing in the morning to late at night and other days I may have a couple of hours off in the middle of the day and then have to come back in for the evening. Today for example I had class at ten followed by rehearsals until two, then nothing until a stage call from six to ten tonight. Weekends are also working days if needed! Being in a company also means you have to be more independent and take responsibility for your own development.
What are your best achievements as a student ?
Completing 8 years of training at The Royal Ballet School, both at White Lodge and The Upper School, was a huge achievement and in fact I was the only girl in my year group to join in year 7 and graduate last July. Whilst at school I was a finalist in the Young British Dancer of the Year competition for 3 years running and won the Sibley/Dowell Award for the most promising student in 2007. I also had the opportunity to dance in numerous productions with the Royal Ballet Company at The Royal Opera House, including Swan Lake, Giselle, La Bayadère and The Sleeping Beauty and I was lucky enough to go on tour with them to China, Japan and Hong Kong, which was a phenomenal experience.
Which professional dancer/s do you most admire and why ?
I admire so many dancers, it’s difficult to know where to begin, however Lauren Cuthbertson has always been an inspiration to me. To watch her perform you can see just how much she has thought about every single gesture; no movement or expression is unimportant. She makes her dancing look so natural and effortless it is incredible to watch. I also admire her humility and wicked sense of humour; qualities all good dancers should have.
What do you think you will bring to Bayerisches Staatsballett, Munich ?
I hope to bring all of the exceptional knowledge that my teachers at the Royal Ballet School have instilled in me over the last 8 years together with my dedication and determination to succeed in all I do. I would like to think that I will be a happy and pleasant dancer to work with and also as the only English dancer in the company I shall introduce them to the joys of eating Marmite!
How have you found your first days there ?
I have been in the company for two weeks now and have really enjoyed myself. The very first day I was a little nervous about meeting everyone but they were very friendly and welcoming. I enjoyed company class but then I had to do a rehearsal for a contemporary work which threw me completely out of my comfort zone. Although I enjoy dancing contemporary pieces I find them more challenging to pick up at speed than traditional classical vocabulary. I survived however and now we are rehearsing for Raymonda which opens on Wednesday and I am really enjoying the work and looking forward to taking my first steps on the stage of the beautiful National Theatre.
Which role would you most like to dance ?
I love to jump (my nickname at school was Tigger!) so I would enjoy dancing roles such as Gamzatti in La Bayadère or Myrtha in Giselle. It is every tall girl’s dream to dance the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty and I am no exception. Ever since I first saw it I have also always wanted to dance in D.G.V. by Christopher Wheeldon (Danse à grande vitesse).
What would you say to those students entering their Graduate year now ?
Take each day as it comes, there is no point worrying over things you can’t do anything about. Keep smiling and audition for everything you can. Even if you don’t end up with a contract, it’s good experience.
Where would you like to be this time next year ?
I would like to be well established in the corps de ballet, and hopefully understanding a lot more German than I do now!