Cupcakes & Conversation with Iain Mackay, Principal, Birmingham Royal Ballet

ballet cupcakes

Cupcakes & Conversation with Iain Mackay, Principal, Birmingham Royal Ballet

Grosse Fuge  Iain Mackay  photo Roy Smiljanic

Grosse Fuge Iain Mackay photo Roy Smiljanic

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?

My four year old son Oscar gets me out of bed every day of the week, usually around  7.30am and always with a smile on his face. He’s so funny and happy in the morning, so he’s all the motivation I need.

If ballet chose you, as many dancers say it did, what is it that has made you stick with it?

I didn’t choose ballet, my brother did! I only went along because he was the only boy in the class. I quickly grew to love it. I have always enjoyed the physicality of dance and also the freedom to express myself through the movement.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?

Either Onegin or Manon with Jenna Roberts.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?

Glasgow- my home town! I have never danced there as a professional, and that actually makes me quite sad!

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

At the moment I’m coming back from a major injury. I had an operation in December to repair a snapped ligament in my foot, which happened during the coda of my first (and only) Nutcracker show. So my day at the moment goes like this:

8:50am – Drop Oscar at school

Short bus ride into work.

9:15am to 11:30am – Pilates

11.30am to 12.30pm – lower body workout and running drills

12.30pm to 1pm – upper body workout

1pm to 1.30pm –physio

1.30pm to 2pm – Lunch

2pm to 4.30pm – Secondment in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Communications department

Then home!

What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?

Food! Anything and whenever I can! I try and take lunch in from home, so sandwiches or pasta in a Tupperware. If I’m really lucky my wife will prepare it for me and then it’s far more edible!

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

I don’t have a set ritual. I usually sleep if I can in the afternoon, then I get up and have something to eat, then warm up and get ready for curtain up.

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2014 ?

Given my current injury situation I’d be happy to dance the Macarena at this moment. I’m hoping to get back to the stage before the summer break in June, but we will see.

How do you deal with the stresses of performing ?

I very rarely find performing stressful. Usually all the stress comes in the run up to the first show. If things do become stressful the best thing to do is stay calm.

You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?

Leonardo Di Caprio, Sir Alex Ferguson, President Obama, Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson and Hilary Swank.

What would surprise people about you ?

I love listening to Radio 4, but I always turn off when it comes to The Archers… I can’t even stand the theme tune.


Photo Bill Cooper

Photo Bill Cooper

Who inspired you to dance ?

Over the years many people at different times. My grandfather  was a huge influence in my life, Michael Jackson, Gene Kelly, Rudolf Nureyev, Angel Corella, Carlos Acosta, the dancers at Birmingham Royal Ballet inspire me every day to keep working hard, my wife, my son, my mum, dad… just about everyone!

How would someone else describe you ?

I don’t like to think about that. You’d have to ask them!!!

What is your best piece of advice ?

Set yourself a goal, and work as hard as you can to reach it.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

David Bintley created a ballet years ago which I danced the lead in. It was called Concert Fantasy. Wow… that was hard technically and physically. My heart starts racing at the thought of it!

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?

Honestly too many things to mention.

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?

I have no idea… Something that looks good obviously!

A phrase I use far too often is …

“I’ll do that tomorrow!”

Who would play you in the film of your life ?

Johnny Depp, because he is awesome!

What is your favourite quote?

“Once more unto the breach dear friends” William Shakespeare. My Grandfather used to say it to me before… well… just about anything.

What’s on your iPod ?

A lot of blues guitar music, I love the blues. Michael Jackson, John Mayer, Michael Bublé, and usually whatever ballet I’m performing at that moment is on there!

Who would you most like to dance for, and why?

My grandfather, because he died before he got to see me reach what I think was my peak. He would have enjoyed watching the way my life has unfolded.

What makes you a good dance partner ?

The girls I dance with make me a good dance partner! Listening to the ballerina you are working with and understanding her as person as much as a dancer is what makes a partnership work. That, and good chemistry helps!

Do you have a secret skill which no one knows about ?

I’m pretty tidy on the golf course!

Describe yourself in just three words.

Ambitious, caring, selfish.

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be this time next year ?

Fully recovered from my injury and dancing stronger than ever!

What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?

Exit strategy? I’m going to reach for the life jacket under my seat, put it on, and use the whistle to attract the attention of passers-by. Or does that only work for EasyJet flights?

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