Cupcakes & Conversation with Chelsy Meiss, Corps de ballet, National Ballet of Canada
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
The fact that I can do what I love is enough. In the morning ballet class is where I am able to maintain and further my technique which motivates me to get going, even on those cold winter mornings!
Why ballet ?
My Mum is a dance teacher and had her own dancing school so I started dancing as soon as I could walk! I knew I always wanted to perform but at the beginning I was leaning towards Broadway; musical theatre. As a kid I always wanted to be Victoria the white cat in Cats! I remember seeing Swan Lake and the white swan pas de deux in act II stuck in my mind. I remember thinking and feeling that it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! In that moment I knew that I wanted to dance that role and soon after I went full time with my ballet training.
What are you looking forward to dancing in the new season ?
Ah, many things! Almost everything we are dancing this season will be the first time for me. I am looking forward to dancing James Kudelka’s Cinderella, Crystal Pite’s Emergence, Serenade, Apollo, Theme and Variations, Don Quixote and Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland..
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
Hmm…There are so many amazing male dancers that I would love to dance with… At the moment though I would say a fellow dancer in NBoC McGee Maddox. He is a great partner and I would love to dance either Swan Lake or Onegin with him.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I would love to dance on the stage at Palais Garnier, Paris Opera Ballet.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
At the moment I am wearing both Freed and Gaynor Minden, I am still deciding between the two! They are customized for me which is wonderful from both pointe shoe companies. The Gaynor Minden’s already come ready to wear – I just sew on the ribbons and elastics. With the Freeds, I cut the insole shank to where my arch bends and I jet-glue the inside for extra strength. Then I sew ribbons and elastics and they are good to go.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
Morning ballet class then rehearsals. We work form 10:00am-6:30pm from Monday-Friday. When we are performing then we work Tuesday-Sunday. At the moment we are working on a few ballet’s as we have a tour coming up to Québec City, Montreal and Ottawa. Actually this week I will begin working on Serenade and Crystal Pite’s Emergence. I have already started rehearsing James Kudelka’s Cinderella which I’m loving. After class we have rehearsals that go till 2:30pm which is when we have an hour lunch break till 3:30pm and then we go until 6:30pm.Sometimes rehearsals are broken up into one hour, two hour or three hour blocks; it depends what our ballet mistress/master wants. I tend to be usually busy the whole day as we are working on a few different ballet’s and I have some different parts. Some rehearsals I have my corps de ballet work and other rehearsals it may be for a soloist role, then it may be a rehearsal for another ballet that is completely different! The company give us a weekly schedule so we can prepare our shoes and ourselves for the rehearsals ahead!
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Dead or alive? Michael Jackson, Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, Frank Sinatra, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon.
What would surprise people about you ?
LOL…I’m not sure if I should say this but it is something that honestly is the truth and always, always surprises people… That I eat McDonalds… a lot!
Who inspired you to dance ?
I don’t think there was ‘anyone’ in particular who inspired me to dance. I started dancing from such a young age and was always surrounded by dance, music and dancers because of my Mum having her own dancing school it was always something fun and that I loved as a kid!
What is your best piece of advice ?
Simply, hard and smart work! To take charge of any opportunity. Any chance you have to understudy a role treat every rehearsal as though you were cast. So many times I have gone onstage for a soloist role when I was just the understudy!
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
Normally at the theatre after class we will have rehearsals before the show. After rehearsal I’ll have dinner which I bring from home to the theatre and then I like to have a nap in my dressing room. I really like having my naps before the show; apart from resting it allows me to be quietly by myself to calmly prepare mentally before the show starts. Then I’ll start my hair and make-up and at half hour call start making my way down to the rehearsal studio to warm-up. Then before you know it it’s time for the show!
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
I would say when I danced Juliet in Javier Velasco’s Romeo & Juliet which I danced with The San Diego Ballet. Karen (Kain) allowed me to return to my previous company before National Ballet of Canada to guest for their premier of Romeo & Juliet. This was my first full length role that was created on me. It was extremely special for me as an artist. I love roles that require a character to develop and my favourite aspect of our art form is to be able to express myself through acting as well as through dance. Having that ballet choreographed on me was an amazing experience and at that moment in my life I was in love for the first time, actually with my partner dancing Romeo (who was my first boyfriend)…so I had many parallels with the character Juliet. Everything felt so natural I completely forgot I was dancing and acting on stage to an audience. I would say this tested me the most, not only for stamina and endurance as a performer but going on the emotional journey of the character carrying the whole ballet with your partner. Giving your heart and soul onstage and being truly in the moment is exactly the feeling, passion and reason of why I dance! It was a dream role for me that I am very thankful for.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
LOL! It would be a tutu covered in jewels!
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
The main thing I look for in a dance partner is a rapport between us. I love dancing with partners that give an emotional connection when we dance together. When your partner looks you in the eye and believes the role and his relationship with you in the ballet; for me that’s the most important thing.
What is your favourite quote ?
“Don’t wait, the time will never be just right.”
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I guess people in the company would say I am a natural turner, especially with fouettes after class. I love turning as sometimes it can feel like time has stopped (in this really cool way!) A ‘step’ I love the most though is port de bras. It makes me feel so regal and expressive and the simplicity can really capture the essence of a role.
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
“What else?” and “What’s the goss?”
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I am lucky to have many and I hope many more! But I think when I danced ‘Juliet’ that was one of the most magical connections I’ve had with any dance partner. Another great moment onstage was last season with NBoC when I danced the Russian Princess in James Kudelka’s Swan Lake (my favourite ballet along-side R&J). Even though the variation was difficult I felt like I was completely in the story and caught up with the music that I forgot any doubts I had with any of the steps, I felt very free, as though I was truly my character telling her story at the ball in 3rd act.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
Well my colleagues from National Ballet of Canada don’t know I’m a good tap-dancer! I think they would be surprised as I am so ‘balletic’ and I have these musical theatre roots that not a lot of classical dancers have.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
Continuing to grow as an artist and making new discoveries with my technique.