Cupcakes & Conversation with Madison Keesler, Corps de Ballet, San Francisco Ballet
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?
For the most part, Monday is San Francisco Ballet’s one free day so if I’m not in bed sleeping chances are my motivation to get up is a massage appointment.
What are you looking forward to dancing this year?
We just ended a wonderful 2010 Season and there are a lot of things I’m looking forward to in the 2011 Season. Even though it will be my third year in a row performing it, I am very much looking forward to John Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid. I feel very passionate about John’s work and I’m happy to know that more and more of his full works are being performed in the States. In addition, I am looking forward to the large diversity that this company always offers. While I won’t know casting for next season until we start back in July I am looking forward to at least watching and hopefully participating in Giselle, Balanchine’s Coppélia, Artifact Suite, Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, and Kenneth Macmillan’s Winter Dreams.
Who would you most like to dance with and what would you dance?
There are many men in the ballet world I would be honored to dance with. I have one person in mind that I would love to do Romeo and Juliet with now and John Neumeier’s Lady of Camellias, when we are older.
If you could dance anywhere in the world , where would you dance?
I want to dance everywhere and experience everything – San Francisco, Hamburg, Berlin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Japan…the list goes on and on.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
I am always looking for better shoes and better break-in techniques but I currently I wear Freed classics, with a lot of personal specs, and “bell” is my maker. I darn the tips, I cut the inside shank so it bends to my arch, and then on the outside I cut a small strip out of the shoe’s sole on a diagonal to give it that extra flexibility right where I need it. I cut the outside on a diagonal towards my little toe because it helps the shoe not sickle as much.
What is your daily routine at the moment?
As I said earlier, our season just ended so my routine is a little out of whack at the moment. Usually I would get up, do my floor barre, class, rehearsals, then performance. Since I have been off I’ve been giving myself a little bit of relaxation time. My summer plans are still not completely organized but I will definitely be continuing class and training in one place or another.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
Gandhi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Eckhart Tolle, Audrey Hepburn, Sylvie Guillem, and John Neumeier.
What would surprise people about you?
Hmm…I don’t feel that I’m much of a surprise to be honest; I am what I am.
Who inspired you to dance?
My mother, Juliet Kent, and the Paris Opera Ballet’s video of Romeo and Juliet with Manuel Legris and Monique Loudieres were some of my earliest inspirations and continue to inspire me today.
What is your best piece of advice?
Live for this moment because it is all that we ever truly have.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
My preparations will vary greatly depending on the show and the part. Usually you can either find me blasting music in my dressing room while getting ready or doing floor barre backstage. I find that my best performances happen when I am calm and present.
Which role has tested you the most & how?
I have been so blessed with opportunities since becoming a professional dancer and every single piece I’ve learned, in Hamburg Ballet as well as San Francisco Ballet, has given me something and I’ve learned so much within these last two years. My wonderful training at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) also allowed me to have countless performing opportunities which greatly shaped how I am as a performer today. One role that tested me the most was Aurora in CPYB’s full production of The Sleeping Beauty. To carry an entire ballet at 16 was not easy and it taught me just how far I was capable of pushing myself, as well as how much further I had to go. There is no such thing as perfection in the ballet world, especially for me, and every day I try to work and keep improving as much as possible.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
I can’t say I have thought much about this in the past, but the first thing that comes to my mind would be a long romantic tutu – a simple yet beautifully jewelled bodice with a long flowing tutu to elongate the legs.
What do you look for in a dance partner?
I think most female dancers would agree that a partner who is well trained in partnering technique is a must. Partnering, just like anything else in ballet, must be learned correctly in order to be successful. In addition to that you must have some sort of connection with that partner while the two of you dance together; without that there is no point, you might as well just dance alone.
What is your favourite quote?
This is a tough one for me to answer because I have so many favourite quotes! I could go on and on but for the sake of this interview I will pick one of my favourite ballet related quotes –
“Movement does not exist outside of the human body. To become a true dancer means to bring to ideal balance the physical impossibilities of your stubborn imperfect body with the possibilities of your soul. Which, as you move through life is continually renewing itself and demanding new expression.”
– Natalia Makarova
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
A phrase I use far too often is…?
I didn’t know this until I asked someone but apparently the answer to this question is – “Why is all of this confusing me so much?”, “No, just kidding”, and “I don’t know”. Hmm, I’m going to have to be more aware of those…
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far?
To be completely honest, I have had so many wonderful moments but none that I would be able to define as my “best on-stage moment”. I will let you know when that comes around.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about?
Well you definitely cannot call them skills but I love singing and acting. I have a secret wish of creating a CD, as well as starring in a movie that has a purpose and a good message.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
I have so many goals for my life, both short and long term, but I have no idea where I will be in a year from now. I am going to let life take me where I am supposed to go, continue working hard, and enjoy every moment of what I do.