Cupcakes & Conversation with Jake Mangakahia, Corps de ballet, The Australian Ballet

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Jake Mangakahia, Corps de ballet, The Australian Ballet

ballet dancer stands at barre

Jake Mangakahia The Australian Ballet Photo by James Braund

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning?

My alarm ha ha! t’s the want or the need to feel prepared for a day of movement ,inspiration and creativity.

Why ballet ?

It’s fun, exciting, beautiful, adventurous and creative! The lifestyle of dancers is so cool. I’ve had the opportunity to meet such a vast array of highly influential and wonderful people, from CEO’s to actors, other artists and directors. However what I love and what I’m most passionate about in classical ballet is not the lifestyle, but it’s music ! All music, but especially classical music. It makes me want to move to dance with a passion and a spirit, to feel, to imagine and to live. It creates this surreal, unbelievably beautiful, bright world that you can be a part of and share with others.

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

For a classical ballet like Onegin or The Sleeping Beauty, I would choose Hannah O’Neill, who I danced with at The Australian Ballet School and is currently dancing with the Paris Opera Ballet. I really loved the way she moved and her seamlessly refined yet intense passion for dance. And it would be a dream to go to NDT and learn from the master Jiri Kylian. I love his work!

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

Covent Garden/London, Palais Garnier/Paris , David H Koch Theater in New York (of which I have been given the wonderfully exciting opportunity to perform this year with The Australian Ballet’s contemporary-Indigenous work Waramuk – in the dark night in June and I can’t wait!) and on a stage in the Sahara Desert/North Africa as the sun sets amongst the huge, majestic sand dunes.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

As a dancer, one thing is certain. It is, that nothing ever is certain! With injury, media calls and the company’s confidence in the next season, it’s always subject to change. However I typically wake up, travel to work, start any Pilates or conditioning around 9.00-9.30 am, class is 10.30 or 11.00, rehearsals 12.00 till 4.30, break and barre at 6.30 then the show till 10.30pm, so my days are pretty full on.

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

Lots of fruit – an apple, banana, and an orange, plus two muesli bars and  two sandwiches. Sometimes yogurt or chocolate or banana bread, really anything that gives me energy!

Ella Havelka and Jake Mangakahia  Warumuk - in the dark night  photo by JEFF BUSBY_2321 (3)

Ella Havelka and Jake Mangakahia Warumuk - in the dark night Photograph :Jeff Busby

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

I eat dinner 2-3 hours before a show, have a 15-20 minute nap , then put some music on, like Michael Jackson or any music really and have a bit of a boogie before barre. When I’m side stage just about to go on, it depends what I’m dancing; if it’s slow, deep breaths, say what I’m feeling and where I’m going with the piece.

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2012 ?

Pretty much everything. That’s probably the best and most personally fulfilling thing about The Australian Ballet is that we have the opportunity to experience such a diverse, rich, different repertoire of dance. Like our brand new contemporary Infinity season, Onegin, Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake, and a new traditional Swan Lake by Stephen Baynes.

How do you deal with the stresses of performing ?

I deal with pressure by going back to basics, it always helps! If I’m injured I’ll work on my deep muscle tissue core strength, or if I’m not getting a step or a jump before a performance I take it to its simplest form, like a balance or timing for co-ordination. My Dad also once said that nerves are good because they give you energy, and with that extra bit of energy, you can jump or turn just that little bit higher!

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

If they were still alive – Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee, Tchaikovsky, Fred Astaire, Julie Andrews, Abraham Lincoln.

What would surprise people about you ?

I love to draw, I can do the Haka (a traditional New Zealand dance) and I really want to learn karate.

Who inspired you to dance ?

No one really! I just loved moving to music, so I guess music inspired me. And I have awesome and supportive parents too!

Jake Mangakahia with Halaina Hills photo Lynette Wills

Jake Mangakahia with Halaina Hills Photograph : Lynette Wills

How would someone else describe you ?

Passionate, hard-working, happy, entertaining, grand charisma, strong mind and body, loves to help others!

What is your best piece of advice ?

Hold fast to your dreams and don’t let go.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

My latest role as the Moon in a pas de deux called Eclipse, for Stephan Page’s new work Waramuk – in the dark night. Being able to emulate and also make my own way through Stephen Page’s Aboriginal Indigenous- contemporary style of movement was really exciting.

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

I am one of six monks in Graeme Murphy’s Romeo & Juliet. And one night the smoke machine attained a default and so it spread a really slippery chemical all over the stage. There’s this part where four of the monks lift Juliet and run … well next minute Bang! The monk in front of me falls and Juliet slips but we saved her whilst treading over the poor monk. For the rest of the calm, peaceful, loving pas de deux these six monks kneeling at the back, facing the audience had massive smiles, trying not to laugh  and barely keeping it together. I don’t think I’ve ever tried not to laugh so hard in my life!

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

I think it would be cool to experiment with LED light technology on a leotard or tights. And I would love it if the orchestra pit was like those gymnastics foam pits, full of foam, so when one finishes a dance piece they can just jump in! Not sure if that will ever take off.

A phrase I use far too often is …

Instead of saying goodbye to someone I always say ‘Catchyalater‘. It’s my trade mark word at the moment in the company.

Who would play you in the film of your life ?

Gene Kelly – I think he was a pretty cool cat in his day.

What is your favourite quote?

‘Dance to the rhythm of life, with the spirit of youth’.

What’s on your iPod ?

I like all music but my favorite is Michael Jackson, R&B, soul and blues.

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

As many people as I can all over the world, because my dream is to dance, create and perform for people everywhere.

What makes you a good dance partner ?

Sense of humour, good communication, strong rapport, patience and most of all passion.

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

I can weave seven small hula hoops into shapes like an eagle, horse, butterfly, snake, flower and a bee.

Describe yourself in just three words.

Passionate, humble and charismatic.

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

In this wonderful company The Australian Ballet, dancing my heart out!

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

I love all aspects of arts, from choreography to set design, art or even architecture.


Watch A year inside The Australian Ballet starring Jake Mangakahia

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