Cupcakes & conversation with Tracy Jones, Corps de Ballet, Corella Ballet, (now Barcelona Ballet)
How have you benefited from the training at The Royal Ballet School ?
Having done most of my training with the RBS I feel as if I owe a lot to them as to how I have turned out today, not just as a dancer but as a person also. The pure classical style that they teach there along with the self-discipline which you learn to work with are wonderful attributes for when you join a professional company. I also feel that the technique I learned there has given me a great base to develop into whichever style a director or choreographer would like. In my graduate year there, I was lucky enough to have been given many wonderful opportunities to perform with The Royal Ballet, both at the Royal Opera House and on their International tour, as well as many performances and choreography opportunities within the RBS and I feel that these experiences really prepared me to join a professional company.
What motivates you at 8 am on a Monday morning ?
Well, unfortunately I’m not the greatest morning person, so getting up on Monday mornings is definitely a challenge for me, but once I’ve had a cup of coffee and a shower to wake me up, I find it a lot easier to get going. Sometimes we have Mondays off here so then I am easily motivated to go and explore Madrid and do some shopping. If it’s a working day, I look forward to hopefully fulfilling goals that I have set for myself in class and rehearsals and doing better than I did the week before.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
That’s a tough one. I think that depending what I was to dance would then determine who I would like to dance with, but I think that the dream role for me would have to be Macmillan’s Manon with Jonathan Cope.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I’m not sure exactly where, but I absolutely adore dancing in outdoor theatres, so it would have to be somewhere outdoors with a beautiful setting that was somewhat significant to whatever it is that I would be dancing. I would also love to dance back home in Ireland for my family as they are so supportive of what I do, I feel that the best way that I could repay them would be by dancing for them.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
Firstly I cut the backs so that they are 3/4 length. I then darn an outer ring on the tip of the shoe, followed by sewing elastics and ribbons. I break them in over a few classes and bang them against concrete so as to eliminate the sound. After all of that, I use shellac or Jet glue to harden the ends before using them for a show.
During your year with English National Ballet, what memories did you take away from the experience ?
I have taken with me many great memories from my time at ENB. I learned a lot about how a touring company works and having joined there as a brand new member of the corps I learned quickly to always be ready to jump into whatever spot needs filling. I was also lucky enough to have been with the company when they premiered The Snow Queen by Michael Corder, which was my first experience of working on a new full length ballet with a choreographer. The time I was there, the company also toured to China, which was wonderful as I love to travel, but I would have to say that my fondest memories would have to be of the friendships I made there and the Christmas season at the Coliseum Theatre in London.
What are you looking forward to dancing this season with Corella Ballet in Spain ?
This season opened with 2 new ballets which is always exciting to be part of and very rewarding once the final product is put on stage. We also opened with a wonderful ballet by Jerome Robbins called ‘Fancy Free’ which I dance the ‘third girl’ in, so I was very much looking forward to that. We have a tour to the New York City Centre coming up in March which I am very excited about and I’m also really looking forward to doing a new version of Swan Lake after the New Year.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
At the moment we are on and off tour quite a lot, so it depends really, but if we are at home, our daily routine starts with class at 10.30am till 12 and then rehearsals till 7pm, although most of the time you won’t be involved in all the rehearsals so often you have an hour or so break in between. When we are on tour, we start slightly later with class on stage, followed by any rehearsals which the staff feel necessary, then a break to get ready for the show, followed by the show.
What is the ballet scene like in Spain ?
The ballet scene in Spain is very different to how it is in other countries. Although they have a great sense of culture here and some beautiful theatres, I don’t think that ballet has as much a tradition here as it has in other places. Corella Ballet is in fact the only classical ballet company at the moment in Spain, but there are some incredible Spanish dancers all over the world and now with their own Company, I hope that ballet out here will soon have the appreciation it deserves.
You can ask six famous people to dinner — who would you invite ?
Ninette De Valois, Audrey Hepburn, Neil Armstrong, Walt Disney, Anna Wintour and Nicole Kidman.
What would surprise people about you ?
That I am a disaster in the kitchen.
Who inspired you to dance ?
Darcey Bussell was a huge influence for me growing up, especially as she too had been through White Lodge but a lot of my inspiration and willpower came from my family, knowing that they were behind and supporting whatever I did made me want to work even harder.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Never take life too seriously but, it’s short, so make the most of what ever opportunities it throws at you.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
Once rehearsals finish I normally pop out to grab a quick coffee and a snack. I then use the time before to take a power nap if I need one, or just to chill out with some music and the girls in the dressing room. I then get ready with hair and make-up, make sure my costume and shoes are prepared, and head down to the stage to do a 20 minute barre before curtain up.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
When I first joined Corella Ballet I was cast to dance in Twyla Tharp’s ‘In the Upper Room’, a ballet with a very different style to what I had been used to dancing, but the experience was great and once I had a better knowledge of the movement I was really able to enjoy each performance more. The company also recently added Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet ‘VIII’ to its repertoire, which is a ballet based on Henry VIII and his relationship with Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, and I have been very privileged to learn the part of Catherine of Aragon. It is a part which requires a lot of emotion and I look forward to the challenge of seeing what I can bring to the role.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
It would have to be something similar to the dress normally worn for Tchaikovsky pas de deux or Juliet (from Romeo & Juliet). A light long flowing skirt with an elaborate embroidered bodice might be nice.
What is your favourite quote ?
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can be great”. Mark Twain
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Obviously it is important to have a strong partner with charisma and suitability, but the most important thing for me is trust and a good relationship both on and off stage.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
I have got into a habit of starting a lot of sentences with the phrase.. ” I mean really, ….. ”
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I actually have two of these. The first was in 1999 when I was in my first year at White Lodge. It was the re-opening of the Royal Opera House and it was my first experience of being on such a wonderful stage with so many talented and renowned dancers. We literally had to just stand there while the orchestra played the end score from Stravinsky’s ‘The Firebird‘, but it was such an incredible feeling.
My second moment would have to have been the night that Corella Ballet premiered as a company with Makarova’s La Bayadere at the Royal Theatre in Madrid. Having known how much work everyone put into getting the company up and running, it was incredible to receive a standing ovation by the public and to be part of hopefully what will go down in history as the first performance done by Spain’s own classical ballet company.