From Student To Star | Kilian Smith | The Royal Ballet School
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.
You’ve accepted a contract with The National Ballet of Portugal. How did that come about and when do you start?
Yes, I join the National Ballet of Portugal (CNB) on the 1st of September, I can’t wait to get started! CNB was probably the fourth audition I went to. Numerous teachers at the Royal Ballet School had suggested that I audition thinking from their experience I may be a good fit for the company. Fortunately I was asked to attend class as part of a private audition. After the class I felt really positive about the whole experience, it’s difficult to describe but I think occasionally you can walk into an environment and instantly get a good vibe. I definitely felt that I would be happy to work and form my career with the National Ballet of Portugal.
What do you know of the company?
A great thing about coming from the Royal Ballet School is that there are so many people in companies around the world who are alumni of the school so I was able to get any information I needed from current dancers in the company. The National Ballet of Portugal perform a mix of classical and more contemporary work so there’s lots of opportunity to dance a broad range of repertoire. I was lucky enough to take a class with the company at the very beginning of the summer just after my graduation, it was good to get that ‘first day’ anxiety out of the way while introducing myself and getting to know the company before I start in September.
What are you looking forward to about joining the company?
It sounds obvious but the thing that I am most looking forward to is officially starting my professional career! I have been at The Royal Ballet School for eight years and in that time it can sometimes feel like you are never actually going to make it! So I am incredibly excited about finally being able to start this stage of my life. I think meeting and working with new people, living in a different country and taking more responsibility for myself and my career are all experiences that I am really excited about.
How do you think company life will differ from your student days?
I think I am going to have to wait and see! I hope that company life will differ in the way that I would like to have more freedom for this part of my career and be allowed to develop as an individual person and dancer. However I would like to think that the focus, attention to detail and drive that I received from the teachers at the RBS won’t be lost in company life as I hope to keep the same attitude to work and improvement.
What do you think you will bring to the company?
I am definitely planning on bringing a strong work ethic, I believe working hard is the only way to achieve success, in my opinion you can’t rely on talent alone and I like to think that all of my achievements to date are down to ambition, perseverance and working hard. I have been lucky enough to have watched some of the best dancers in the world while working with the Royal Ballet, if I can absorb even a little from that experience and apply it to my career I’ll be very happy!
How are you preparing yourself for your first professional contract?
I have tried to stay relatively fit over the summer taking classes as often as I can to be sure I am in good shape for the start of the season. I do think it’s important to have some sort of rest or calm especially as I think the first few months in Lisbon could be a bit hectic. It’s been nice to have some time off. I’ve already been doing lots of preparation in terms of finding flats, opening bank accounts etc so I feel like I am almost ready to make the move.
What are you your best achievements as a student?
There is so much I am proud of during my time as a student. Many experiences and performances will remain special to me but the highlight has to be the graduation performance on the main stage. After watching the graduates for eight years, to finally live that moment was an overwhelming feeling and I think the standard of performance I reached at the end of the third year was something I am very proud of.
I think you have got to be a little crazy to pursue a ballet career! But it is something that has felt completely natural to me. As a child I would dance and perform to all of the old Disney films, one day I told my mum that I wanted to become a dancer, I was so sure this was the thing I wanted to do. She told me if I was serious about a career in dance I should start with ballet…
Do you have a dream role and/or dance partner and if so what/who are they?
The two favourite roles that I would most like to dance is Des Grieux in Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon and any role in Ashton’s Symphonic Variations. I really haven’t thought of a dancer I would most like to partner in the future. Though I have been very lucky to have partnered some amazing dancers while at school. A ballerina that I particularly admire is Tamara Rojo. She danced Swan Lake in the very first performance I saw at the Opera House while I was in the production as a Junior Associate of the RBS, I find her particularly inspiring.
What would you say to those students entering their graduate year ?
I would say: Stay inspired
Know your worth
Surround yourself with support and positivity
Where would you like to be this time next year; how will you measure your progress over the year?
This time next year I would like to be preparing to return to the National Ballet of Portugal after having had a successful and rewarding first year with the company. I hope to have comfortably established myself and maintained working at a high standard to reach my potential as a developing dancer.