Cupcakes & Conversation with Jesse Scales

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Jesse Scales, ballet dancer 

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Jesse Scales Photogrpahy throughout : Suzanne Opitz

Jesse performed with the Melbourne Ballet Company last December and then completed her classical ballet training at the New Zealand School of Dance. She auditioned for the Sydney Dance Company held over 2 days in July this year and made it to the end (though very interested, they considered her too young). She has been invited to do a secondment week in January 2011. 

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning? 

By 8am I am already power walking up the hill to the New Zealand School of Dance, so it’s the Wellington weather that is my motivation…it’s freezing and in your face which is a very good reason to get inside and get to class! Also my love of dance and the fact that it is a new week that is full of new possibilities. 

What are you looking forward to dancing this year? 

Rehearsing the Odile Variation from Swan Lake (my absolute favourite ballet) and choreographing a contemporary ballet variation on pointe. I am also rehearsing the Carnival in Venice pas de deux and Evening Songs which is choreographed by Jiri Kylian for this year’s NZSD Graduation Performance. 

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

I would dance with anyone as long as it was in William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated.…WOW….every time I see this piece my heart races! 

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

New York City. I went there last year on scholarship with Complexions Contemporary Ballet and I couldn’t get enough of the New York vibe. The city is always buzzing and there is always something to do, see or hear. Everyone is friendly there and I would love to go back, especially to have coffee in Central Park again! 

Ballet NEWS

Jesse Scales


How do you prepare your pointe shoes? 

I wear Bloch Aspirations and sew criss-cross elastics and ribbons and then stand on the block to soften and slightly flatten them. I bend them and then I slice off a bit of the bottom part of the sole with a Stanley knife to make the shoe more stable. I also scratch the sole of the shoe so I can feel the floor more. I cut the satin off the toe to make it less slippery and then do rises at the barre. I also like to have harder or softer shoes for different things, for example, for pas de deux I like to have harder shoes so I will barely do anything to them. However, for class I prefer them to be a little softer so I may put them in the microwave for 30secs and then mould them to my feet. 

What is your daily routine at the moment? 

I wake up at 6am. Breakfast and a hot shower before leaving for the NZSD, which is a 15min walk up a hill in “Windy Wellington” (a great cardio session!) I then do a 30min warm up before classes start at 9am. Classes include classical, contemporary, pas de deux, repertoire and Pilates and usually finish at 5pm. I then go to the gym for a 45min cardio workout. Then it’s back home for dinner, a hot shower and a good book. 

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

William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian, Jude Law, Emma Watson, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky……so I could absorb their brilliance. 

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Jesse Scales

What would surprise people about you? 

My strength of will….for someone so little. The fact that I can’t catch a ball to save myself, and that I love the band “The Gorillas”. 

Who inspired you to dance? 

Meryl Tankard gave me the opportunity to perform with her company when I was 6 years old…it was life changing. I then worked with The Australian Ballet at age 12 in Graeme Murphy’s production of Swan Lake. Seeing the Aussie stars like Simone Goldsmith and Steven Heathcote performing up close definitely inspired me to carry on my dream of being a dancer. Since then, Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden were amazing to work with during the 2009 Complexions Summer Intensive…as they fuse classical and contemporary technique which is exciting, especially on pointe! 

What is your best piece of advice? 

Have an open, flexible mind and gain experience from many different sources to build a large memory bank of emotions, smells, sounds, tastes and movement, which will help colour your performances. AND NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS! Enjoy it. Live it! 

How do you prepare in the hours before a show? 

I like listening to my iPod while putting on my makeup and doing my hair then I visualise the performance. I then like to do a simple warm up and then go through any tricky steps and some yoga stretches to help calm and centre me. 

Which role has tested you the most & how? 

I performed In One Day for the Melbourne Ballet Company, choreographed by Simon Hoy and Robert Kelly, which was fast and furious and needed a lot of stamina, artistry and technique. 

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Jesse Scales

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create? 

I would like to create a tutu as stunning as the ones my mum has created for me. Her attention to detail and individual fitting made them beautiful to dance in. (see photo of blue tutu) 

What do you look for in a dance partner? 

I like dancing with people who want to keep working until everything feels right and with someone who has a shared passion for the piece. 

Ballet NEWS

Jesse Scales

What is your favourite quote? 

 “Dance is music made visible” ~ George Balanchine. 

Technical perfection is insufficient. It is an orphan without the true soul of the dancer.” ~ Sylvie Guillem. 

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you? 

I love movement that is a mixture of classical and contemporary dance…being off balance and edgy! I also love movement that is very fluid and ever evolving, a continuation of motions that articulate body parts and intrigue the audiences’ eyes. 

A phrase I use far too often is … ? 

No pain, no gain”. 

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far? 

Dancing In One Day on closing night for MBC…I had to take the place of the lead dancer in the pas de deux as she was injured, as well as dance my own parts. 

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

Most people are surprised that I’ve done a few secondments at Australian Dance Theatre. The dancers are brilliant and very helpful. Their classes focus on preparing their bodies for their extraordinary movement which I love doing. I can also play the piano. 

Ballet NEWS

Jesse Scales


In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now? 

Dancing in a classically based Contemporary Ballet Company such as Nederlands Dans Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company, Sydney Dance Company, Rambert Dance Company and Royal New Zealand Ballet. 

Ballet NEWS

Jesse Scales


2 Responses to Cupcakes & Conversation with Jesse Scales

  1. Nicolette September 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    Great interview! & amazing pics! I loved the part about how she gets her Bloch’s ready by microwaving to soften… so interesting. Have a great day!

  2. Suzanne Opitz September 22, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    Great interview & wonderful that Jesse is doing so well. Thank you for using my photos – I feel very proud!