Cupcakes and Conversation with Myriam Simon, Principal Dancer, Stuttgart Ballet
What motivates you at 8 am on a Monday Morning?
At first it is only the perspective of a big cup of coffee that gets me out of bed. But right after that comes the awareness that going “to work” for me is doing what I love the most in the world all day long – that makes it very easy to get going.
I’m tempted to say “fate”. As a teenager, I moved to a new neighbourhood and just walked into the nearby ballet school (as I understood later, it was the École Supérieure de Danse du Quebec!), without knowing anything about it. It was love at first sight: I auditioned for classes before I had even seen a ballet on stage, I had no idea – but they accepted me! When I took the very steps in a ballet studio then, I knew: This was going to be my life.
What are you looking forward to dancing this year?
Since I’ve been in Stuttgart, I’ve had the chance to work on so many different ballets and styles with a lot of choreographers. This season is another good example of how diverse our repertory is: Just now I’m dancing Christian Spuck’s Das Fräulein von S. After that I’m soooo looking forward to Cranko’s The Lady and the Fool, Béjart’s Gaîté Parisienne. In the hallway, you’d bump into Marco Goecke, Mauro Bigonzetti and Edward Clug these days, all three working on World Premieres with contemporary works for the next mixed bill Body Language³. In July we’ll do Cranko’s Onegin…. there is a lot going on!
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
Actually the question where doesn’t matter much to me, as long as I can dance in front of an audience. Knowing that there is someone I am dancing for is indeed very important to me, though.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
This is a very long elaborated process, which is probably not very interesting to read about. First I break the sole and step on the pointes until they become a little softer. Often I also use a door jamb to put the shoe in and soften it further. For performance shoes I cut a little bit from the side of the sole to feel the floor better. I do a series of stiches around the pointe to keep it hard longer and make it more stable to stand on. Then I pancake the shoes and shellac them, also I stitch a seam on the sides to give it a nicer shape. In the end I saw the elastics and the ribbons on.
Especially before performances, preparing my pointe shoes is an almost ritual istic act for me; it can take me up to two hours to prepare the perfect shoe. Crazy, isn’t it?
What is your daily routine at the moment?
I need a certain discipline, of course, and our working days stick to a schedule. But for myself, I try to avoid the feeling of “routine”. I always try to change a little thing, make a detour, plan a little extra or find a particular task to make it a special day.
Normally, I get up before 8 o’clock, have the coffee mentioned above and breakfast, and do some exercises at home before I go to the theatre. Our daily class starts at 10.30 a.m. Monday to Saturday, afterwards I have rehearsals until 7 p.m. at the latest – very much depending on what I am preparing at the time. I try to fit some Pilates exercises into every day, together with the company or alone. If there is a performance, the afternoons are free to rest and prepare, and I am back in the theatre at about 5 p.m..
What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?
I always have breakfast at home. During the day, depending on how much work I have and what I feel like, I eat what I took from home or have a small lunch in the canteen. But the time to sit down and eat unhurriedly is at night. I cook something, or my boyfriend does. All in all, I try to eat healthy and balanced foods, so that my body gets a little bit of everything.
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite?
One artist I’d love to meet personally is Meryl Streep – she would HAVE to come to dinner! Then there would probably be Edith Piaf (I just love her singing), Pablo Picasso (an artist whose paintings I’ve been fascinated by since I was very young), the Dalai Lama (I do read a lot of his texts, he is such an inspiring teacher!) and Elizabeth Gilbert, an author I like a lot. That’s all people who are very communicative, I’m afraid we wouldn’t have much time to eat…
What would surprise people about you?
Sometimes I think I surprise people all of the time, just by putting on a really good show on stage. Obviously I seem very dreamy, soft and quiet – a little “the head in the clouds”. After seeing me on stage, even friends or colleagues sometimes go: “Where did THAT energy come from? I wouldn’t have thought you can be that fierce!” But once I’m on stage, I really go for it, I give it all of my energy, there is no dreaming around or holding back then.
Who inspired you to dance?
I am still inspired to dance by people, all of the time! I’d say there are, for every phase of my life, dancers who were a special inspiration to me. In my beginnings as a dancer it was the beautiful Anik Bissonnette, the first ballerina I saw on stage. I went home after her performance of Giselle and said to my parents: “I know I am going to be a dancer.” She is the artistic Director of my former ballet school today!
During my years at the National Ballet School of Canada, my idols were the Principals of the National Ballet – Margaret Illman, Karen Kain, Robert Tewsley, Vladimir Malakhov.
And today in Stuttgart I am surrounded by Principal Dancers who are such strong artists, I find that a huge source of inspiration! Only think of Sue Jin Kang, for example, or of our Ballet Masters like Georgette Tsinguirides, or of the guests we get to work with: Seeing Polina Semionova do Swan Lake, or standing on stage with Marcia Haydée….
How do you prepare in the hours before a show?
Before a show I like to stick to myself and concentrate. I find a quiet spot, have a rest, eat something and relax. Then there is the shoe ritual… I go to the Maske [the make-up department], then warm up with the company or I do my own warm-up, that depends on the day. I do not communicate much before a show, these hours are time that I need for myself.
Which role has tested you the most & how?
I cannot name one – every single one of them has tested me. I always give it everything I have – physically, emotionally and mentally. People tell me I attune to certain roles 24/7, weeks before the performance. And really, I read a lot; I prepare and try to feel what this character is feeling, to fully understand what moves my stage-character. That’s the case for Tatjana (Onegin) the Katharina (Taming of the Shrew), Marguerite (The Lady of the Camellias), but I also for all the smaller roles I’ve danced.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
I think I would call Karl Lagerfeld and ask him to do it: Someone who knows how to make a lady look good!
What do you look for in a dance partner?
To me the working process with my dance partner is just as important as the performance on stage. I love to feel that someone does his best all the time, that we are risking something together – that even if something goes wrong we both know we gave it all we’ve got. It’s so nice when you feel close to your partner, when someone’s fun to work with and also knows when it’s best to make a stupid joke. I’m very lucky to work with the Stuttgart Ballet Principals, the boys here are so talented. Regarding the performance, next to technique the acting is very, very important to me, that a dancer is believable and authentic to me.
What is your favourite quote?
I forgot where I read it, because I’ve said it to myself so often since then: “Don’t try to be someone, try to do something!” I really believe people focus too much on positions, on fame, on names. In the end what matters is what we can give to the people around us.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now?
I would like to be where I am now, doing what I’m doing.
If you could dance in front of anyone, who would it be and what makes them special to you?
It may sound weird, but I am a performer – an audience is an audience to me. I don’t like the thought of dancing better or worse with a crowd of kings and queens in the room. Every member of the audience, however small it may be, is a human, whose soul we can touch with our art, who can relate to what we are offering. That’s what I believe we are supposed to do as dancers.