Cupcakes & conversation with Hannah Bateman, First Soloist, Northern Ballet
I like to think that all of my interviewees have given a little piece of their soul, to show themselves in the way that they would like others to see them. These interviews are all about revealing something of the person behind the dancer, and it’s up to each of my interviewees how much they want to reveal.
I am sure that as you read this interview you will agree that Hannah has been extraordinarily frank about what it takes to be a professional dancer, and for this I applaud her. I hope you will too. I love that she has lived dangerously with it and I hope very much that Hannah will reap the rewards.
One more thing before you meet Hannah; the photograph at the end is, well, a piece of dramatic theatre. You have been warned !
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
Ahh, 8am on Monday morning is painful!!! I am not a morning person or at least it takes a hot shower and a cup of tea to get me there. Once I am awake, ready for the day and in the car on the way to work I am genuinely excited to get into the studio. Some days class is harder than others, you know ‘not plies again’, but once in rehearsals it doesn’t feel like a job, it’s an experience.
What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
We have some great rep coming back this year. I am looking forward to Dangerous Liaisons as I missed out on that back in 2004 as I was injured, so it will be great to put some demons to bed when I get to dance in that. David’s Swan Lake and Wuthering Heights are beautiful ballets and amazing to be involved in, and they are coming back in 2010. The mixed bill we are doing in Leeds in March will be great but I am really looking forward to dancing Juliet again in Romeo and Juliet.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
This is a hard question! I enjoy dancing with Tobias Batley as we have a good mutual respect for each other as we both got our big break in Romeo and Juliet together. I also love to dance with Kenneth Tindall as he has such a masculine lyricism and is an excellent partner. I got to dance with Hironao Takahasi this season and I got to understand on a whole new level why he has been a Principal for over 10 years. I can be quite crippled by confidence and can sabotage myself, which is something I have to work on constantly, so I feel much more settled if I know my partner on some level. But practicalities aside, I would love to dance in The Leaves Are Fading, Manon & Swan Lake, and I would love to dance with Federico Bonelli or Arman Grigoryan.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I would like to experience dancing outside. I have only ever danced inside theatres and I can image that it must be magical to dance in an amphitheatre, say in Italy ! When I go away I try and visit the big national theatre of that country; La Scala’s theatre in Milan is beautiful as are the theatres in Paris but I was really blown away by the MET in New York.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I have a mad passion for shoes in general and so I love to have all my pointe shoes ready and lined up! I have Freed shoes and have done since I was 12. I have them in forte flex and then I check them all for width when they arrive at work. If they are all good then I shellac them on the inside sole, toe and side and leave them to dry in my airing cupboard for a couple of days. I then cut the satin off the toe and stitch a circular elastic around the edge. This helps maintain the edge of the pointe or box. I then put a crossed elastic on the inside and over to the back of the shoe and finally ribbons. I wear them once for class and then dry them out and put them away for whatever performance they are suitable for!
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
When we are back at base I get up at about 7.50-8am and get ready for work to leave just before 9am. It’s a quick drive in and then a warm up for class at 10. Class is 1hr 15mins and then into 3hrs of rehearsals, lunch is at 2.30 for an hr and then we do another 3hrs till 6.30pm. Our rehearsal periods are exhausting and intense but it’s an amazing thing to push your body every day. I try and relax in the evening and always have a major hot bath and stretch out before bed. I also have to do homework! I used to hate myself for always having to go through work again when I got home, but I have learned it’s just part of my process. I write most of my choreography down to really get it in my head and then body, not because I want to but because I have too! Theatre weeks are slightly different, later starts and later finishes!
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
Audrey Hepburn, Audrey Tatou, I love both of these strong actress’s, Wayne McGregor, I just got to work with him and I didn’t get to ask him half the things I wanted to! Christopher Gable, Edward Norton and Amelia Earhart.
What would surprise people about you ?
I am not really sure if there is much that is surprising about me, maybe that up until about a year ago I used to find it really difficult to handle my nerves; I used to plan an escape route from the theatre just in case it got too much! I never used these escape routes but I had to have them to give myself a sense of safety!!!
Who inspired you to dance ?
I was first inspired to dance by my dance teacher ‘Miss Sue’, I thought she was a real life Princess – I was four at the time! Today I am inspired by so many things, when I see live performances I want to be up there on stage too! My boyfriend inspires me, my colleagues, also David Nixon and Yoko and also the fact that I am doing something every day that I love; that’s inspiring.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Just get out there and dance it, the only thing to fear is fear itself!
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I like to be ready and set for the show by the half [the stage call half an hour before curtain up]. It takes me about an hour to do hair and makeup and also set all my costume changes and lay out a few shoes that I have ready. I don’t give myself too many shoes to choose from as I can get overly picky about them! I then like to do a simple warm up and then go though my entrances and exits and any tricky steps, lifts, etc. I try to get myself in a positive, productive state of mind and ready for the journey, be it Romeo and Juliet or Dracula. By the time it comes to the show it’s important to remember that provided you have put in the hard work, it’s time to enjoy where that hard work has taken you. Hopefully a successful show!
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
The Queen in The three Musketeers, it was a beautiful role but I was mentally ready for such a challenge. I could physically do it, it’s just I didn’t believe I could and so it resulted in these over powering nerves. I hated every show and couldn’t wait for it to be over. It made me question why I danced if it caused me so much anxiety, I would come off stage and literally have no memory of what had just happened. I was so disappointed in myself as I wanted to be given bigger roles, more challenges, but I wasn’t helping myself with my lack of self belief and subsequently motivation. It was a turning point for me.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I would love to create and design costumes. I think the most important thing is to be able to see the dancer’s bodies. I love structured costumes but maybe in transparent materials. It’s also important that the fabrics are soft and light and move with the flow of the dance style so becoming an extension of the dancer’s limbs and not a hindrance.
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Most important is chemistry; a connection of some sort. Also strength – I like to feel 110% safe, like you can go out there on to the stage together and no matter what happens you will be able to get out of any situation. I have missed a couple of major lifts before and because I have had amazing partners I hadn’t realised how wrong they had gone until it had already been rectified. I like to think that’s because we have been dancing together, in sync on the same wave length, but maybe I am just lucky!
What is your favourite quote ?
I don’t know if it’s a quote, or simply a saying, but ‘just do it’ from Nike. Short and sweet and to the point!
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
I love to jump, any sort. Quick batterie, or grand allegro and I love a big split jeté!
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
I don’t really know but …
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
Three moments stand out. The first time I danced Juliet, overwhelming relief and joy at completing a three act ballet, the Alumni show of A Christmas Carol, just pure fun and also the run of Swan Lake we did at the start of the year. It was the second time I have danced in Swan Lake and four years on I was relieved it felt easier and I enjoyed every minute. That music just sweeps over you, it’s complete harmony.
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
I can do a really good Danni Minogue impression, X Factor Danni, when she is giving her critique !!!
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
A year from now I hope I will have been given the opportunity to learn one of the Principal roles in Swan Lake, getting ready to dance Juliet in Beijing, having started my new business which I am in talks about now, and I hope NBT are in our new building. Fingers crossed !!!