From Student to Star | Mariana Rodrigues, Northern Ballet

August 5, 2012

From Student to Star

From Student to Star | Mariana Rodrigues, Northern Ballet

ballet dancer rests on the grass

Ballet News World Exclusive illustration by Noemi Manalang

From Student to Star is an interview series featuring Graduates from vocational ballet schools as they begin their professional careers. Ballet News will be following them periodically to keep you up to date with their progress and whether the reality of ballet life lives up to their (high) expectations.

Mariana Rodrigues is a Graduate of The Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden, London, and heads up to Leeds to work with Northern Ballet. I caught up with her recently to catch-up with her news and to watch her accomplished Graduation performance on the main stage at the Royal Opera House.

ballet dancer sits on stage

Mariana Rodrigues Photograph : Johan Persson

You’ve accepted a contract with Northern Ballet. How did that come about?

Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director, David Nixon, came to watch one of our ballet classes at the Upper School and he invited me and three boys to audition for the company in Leeds. About two months after the audition, the School’s Director, Gailene Stock, called me and told me I had been offered a contract with the company! I was thrilled!

What do you know of the Company ?

Northern Ballet is a touring company based in Leeds. It is famous for bringing full length story ballets to audiences across the UK and overseas.

Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director is a world renowned choreographer who constantly creates new works that keep up with the creative impulse of our dynamic, ever changing world, aiming to make ballet accessible and meaningful to audiences from all walks of life.

What are you looking forward to about joining the Company ?

I am really looking forward to the creative process of the making of a new ballet.

I am also looking forward to performing in different venues and connecting with different audiences. Being constantly surrounded and looking up to more experienced dancers should be a great learning experience. My mantra will be to learn as much as I can from everything and everyone, so I that I can continue to evolve as an artist and as a human being.

ballet dancer in a backbend on stage

Mariana Rodrigues in Un Ballo Photograph : Johan Persson

How do you think Company life will differ from your student days?

As a student you spend most of your days training and acquiring the skills that will be required once you step into the professional world. That means you spend most of the time in the studio rehearsing and working on your technique, and you do fewer performances. Performing constantly with a company will set me on the path to mastering the art of being on stage and will teach me things you can only learn through experience.

What do you think you will bring to the Company?

I put my heart and soul into my dancing. I think it is such a beautiful art form and so powerful. I am committed, hardworking and I welcome challenges when they come my way. I also think there is nothing more rewarding than giving all of yourself to the dancers you share the stage with and to the audience.

How are you preparing yourself for your first professional contract ?

I am very grateful for the three years that I have spent at The Royal Ballet School. It has been the most amazing experience and I have learned so much from all the teachers, staff and students at the school. They could not have given me a better preparation, and now it is up to me to treasure everything I have learned and carry it with my into the professional world.

What are your best achievements as a student ?

Being a finalist at Youth America Grand Prix 2009, which gave me the opportunity to study at The Royal Ballet School. Being at The Royal Ballet School opened so many doors for me. Amongst them, being given the opportunity to dance one of the main duets in Jiri Kylian’s brilliant Un Ballo for my graduate performance at the Royal Opera House main stage earlier this year. From day one in the studio working with Arlette Van Boven until the performance day it was a truly magical and transformative experience.

Why ballet ?

I have wanted to be a dancer and a choreographer since I was four years old, when I started to go to dancing lessons at my school. The classes used to be very creative, more in a contemporary style, and my teacher saw something in me. When I turned nine she suggested I auditioned for the main ballet school in Lisbon and so I did and I got a place. Everything just evolved from there and ballet became a big part of my life.

balleet dancer lifted on stage

Mariana Rodrigues in Un Ballo Photograph : Johan Persson

Do you have a dream role and dance partner and if so what/who are they?

There are quite a few roles I would consider to be dream roles for me but from Northern Ballet’s repertoire performing the title role in David Nixon’s Cleopatra would be fascinating. I haven’t really thought about my dream dance partner although it would have to be someone who I truly connect with.

What would you say to those students entering their Graduate year ?

Although it is vital to make plans for the future regarding which companies you want to audition for and what you want to achieve, living in the present moment and taking each day at a time is vital. The only things you are in control of are how you prepare for what may happen, and how you react to what happens, so be in control of what you can control, but let go of what you can’t.

Where would you like to be this time next year; how will you measure your progress over the year?

I am trying to live with no expectations or needs for the future to be a certain way. It is said that you only evolve when you’re outside your comfort zone, so I will keep looking for a healthy level of discomfort, but with a sense of balance, harmony and peace in the background.

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