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.
Nicola Henshall, Artist, English National Ballet
Henshall is a Graduate of The Royal Ballet School.
What are you most looking forward to about joining the Company ?
I’m looking forward to starting a ‘new life’, having been at The Royal Ballet School for 5 years, I now feel ready for a change and a new start…. I can’t wait to start performing on a regular basis, as a student you don’t often have this opportunity. For me being on the stage makes everything worthwhile!
How do you think Company life will differ from your student days ?
Hopefully the feeling of dancing professionally. It’s what you work for all your student life, performing and getting to dance in the ballets you have only watched and occasionally learnt solos or some of the rep from, which sadly is for the school studios only! Also, working for yourself, having the self discipline to constantly push more and often doing class without personal corrections and guidance.
What are your best achievements as a student ?
Whilst I was at school I received ‘ The April Olrich award: Most dynamic dancer’ ‘The Pamela Self award’ and ‘The Ashton award’
The end of year performances at The Royal Opera House also gave me a fantastic opportunity to dance on such a great stage. For one day you feel like a proper ballerina!
In my 2nd year I got to work with Wayne McGregor; for me it was one of the highlights of my student days. He made you work in a different way, you engaged mentally and physically and I learnt so much during those few months, getting to dance his piece at the Opera House was a fantastic feeling, we also took it to Salt Lake City on our graduate tour.
Having the chance to dance with The Royal Ballet Company was another highlight, it also taught me a lot and prepared me more for company life.
Which professional dancer/s do you most admire and why ?
My favourite dancer to watch has to be Marianela Nuñez. She makes it look so effortless, she has a natural quality. However you can tell she is such a determined hardworking dancer, it is very inspiring to watch people like her.
What do you think you will bring to the Company ?
This is a tricky one, most dancers aren’t too good at expressing their positive attributes! I would like to say I am reliable and very hardworking so hopefully fresh from being a student, my eagerness to learn and prove myself will be seen. I would like to build a positive reputation for myself as a dancer and as a person. Hopefully I’m a likeable person!
How do you imagine your first day going ?
I actually started on 29th July, so, it’s still early days, but my first day, was pretty much how I imagined it, however more relaxed…. People were very friendly and there was a family orientated atmosphere which I liked. Obviously I was nervous for class, and it was strange not being surrounded by my usual classmates. However, I didn’t feel pressured which is important and it was very enjoyable. A positive experience all round!
Which role would you most like to dance ?
I would love to dance ‘Lise’ from La Fille mal Gardee. I love the ballet and have always thought I would suit a role most like her character. However I would also love to dance more modern roles or have the chance to work with someone like Wayne McGregor once again.
What would you say to those students entering their Graduate year now ?
I injured myself 4 weeks into my graduate year and was off for the whole 1st term. Therefore talking from experience, if things don’t seem to be going how you would like them too, keep your spirits up. It makes things much harder if you allow yourself into ‘the black hole’ – something a teacher used to say to me at school, which I think is so true. Keep yourself focused and motivated on what you have to do… but most of all make the most of your final year so that you have many happy memories for the future. I certainly have!
Where would you like to be this time next year ?
I hope to be very happy within English National Ballet Company, dancing and performing like I have always wanted to since being a young girl. I hope to have made a good impression on all dancers and staff and to have lots of friends within the company.
I still can’t believe this is my job!