From Student to Star is a series of interviews featuring Graduates as they begin their professional careers, and will be following them regularly.
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.
Hanks graduated from The Royal Ballet School this summer and has joined The Estonian National Ballet. His performance as Bottom in The Dream, at The Royal Ballet School Annual Matinee this summer, was the best I’ve ever seen in that role. It’s not often that you see a male dancer having to manage pointe work, but this is one role where the dancer has to master something quite alien, as Hanks talks about later. And master it, he did.
What are you most looking forward to about joining the Company ?
After training at The Royal Ballet School for five years, I am now looking forward to meeting a new range of dancers and different ways of training. It is such a great honour for me to be accepting a contract by Thomas Edur at The Estonian National Ballet. I’m very much looking forward to working with him and performing on stage more regularly.
How do you think Company life will differ from your student days ?
Hopefully dancing more professionally. As a student, I think I have prepared myself to be the best dancer I could possibly be and hopefully I have experienced enough to look after myself and be responsible. Also I’ll be working for myself now and will not have that self discipline that I always had at school. Sometimes it would be very difficult to push yourself in the morning, especially if you were tired and you felt your muscles couldn’t work as well as they should.
Being on tour with the school has helped me a lot to give me a good idea what it’s going to be like in the ‘real world!’
What are your best achievements as a student ?
The Pamela Self Award. During my time at White Lodge, I was chosen with a few other classmates to perform in front of Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace. It was such a magical moment for me to perform in front of The Royal Family. Also performing on The Royal Opera House stage was like a dream come true, it gave me such a great feeling to dance on a stage so big!
It was such a great opportunity to have worked with Wayne McGregor in 2nd year. He made you work to the limit where you’d feel like you were going to collapse. His work was completely different to classical ballet as you had use your body in a different way to pure classical. It was a very demanding piece physically and mentally. We used to feel so good after a hard day’s work with him!
Which professional dancer/s do you most admire and why ?
I remember from a very young age, I watched The Royal Ballet’s Cinderella on the BBC at Christmas. The Principals were Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg. I watched it over and over again because I was so inspired by their outstanding dancing, and their partnership was truly breathtaking. They always make things look so easy, which is always the trick in ballet, that you never want to show the audience how hard it really is. I always wished that one day I would be able to be just as good as them and to allow that to happen and I promised myself to work 100% everyday and work to the limit.
Since being at Upper School I have been very fortunate to watch most of their performances. The first time I saw The Royal Ballet live on stage was The Sleeping Beauty. I watched every single performance as the students would be allowed to watch for free backstage. I would never get bored of watching it as I was so drawn to the Company. I was even lucky enough to get the opportunity to perform with them in my Graduate year including; The Firebird, Giselle, Isadora, La Bayadere, Manon, The Nutcracker, Ondine and Swan Lake. This gave me a very good start exploring company life.
What do you think you will bring to the Company ?
I would like to think that I’ve always been a very hard worker and I’ve always been up for a good challenge in my dancing, so I hope that one day I will be able to fulfil my dreams at The Estonian National Ballet. Hopefully I’ll be able to learn some good roles that I deserve from my hard work in these past years. Hopefully I’ll make just as amazing friends as I did at school!
How do you imagine your first day going ?
I received an email from The Estonian Ballet informing me that I start on the 5th August. I’d imagine the first day to be not too stressful and very relaxing as it will give me the chance to get to know the company and the staff.
I’ll be very nervous for the first class and it will be very strange dancing in a completely different county, new studios and new teachers. I don’t know what to expect from the dancers, but I’m sure they will all be very talented. I hope I make a good impression of myself as a dancer after coming back from a very relaxing summer holiday! I imagine the company to be of a very high standard.
Which role would you most like to dance ?
I would never turn down the role of Bottom in Ashton’s The Dream. I think this role suited my personality very much and I could express myself naturally. I enjoyed it very much and the response I received from the audience was just incredible. It’s technically a very demanding role to do as you wouldn’t often see a male dancing on pointe (except for the Trocks!) It was such a fantastic experience for me and it’s definately a role I will never forget.
What would you say to those students entering their Graduate year now ?
Keep your chin up and never give up! You will get days where you are not happy and having a bad day but stay focussed and keep doing what you are good at. Most importantly, enjoy your final year at school with your friends and make them memorable for the future.
Where would you like to be this time next year ?
It depends on how things are going at Estonian Ballet and whether they extend my contract. I think it is important to give it time even if my first impression of the company isn’t what I expected. I think it would be good if I had at least a couple of years work here. I would definately try to make the most of it even if I was thinking of not staying here for another year. I hope to be happy within The Estonian National Ballet.
Jonathan was reacently featured on Estonian TV – scroll down for the excellent video footage.