Cupcakes & Conversation with Sophie Fletcher, Principal, Melbourne Ballet Company (this month, Sophie moves to The National Theatre in Prague).
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
Funnily enough, I have always found Monday’s the best day of the week – I know it’s a bit strange!! But I guess when you love your job it’s not hard to get motivated.
What are you looking forward to dancing this year ?
Well I don’t know what roles I will be performing as yet but I am moving from Perth, Australia to Prague to dance with The National Theatre in August so I am very much looking forward to a new environment, a new culture and new repertoire to dance.
Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
In a dream world I would love to dance with Baryshnikov in Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de deux! If you asked me about Australians I would love to dance with the master of all partners I have witnessed – Robert Curran, and possibly in something more modern like Stanton Welch’s Divergence. My imagination is running away..
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
For me it would be a theatre (although I am sure there are some amazing amphitheatres in Europe where I would love to perform). Lincoln Centre in New York would be a dream come true.
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I wear Bloch pointe shoes which have been made to my specifications so I don’t really need to do too much to them. But I do sew ribbons on to them which have elastic for a healthier demi plie and I stand on the box to make it slimmer from side-on. Then I pull the inner sole off the back down to about half way or where my arch needs the support and then I am ready for class. If I want the shoes for performance I will normally wear them for about three days in the studio, then do the same with another few pairs so I can alternate them and none get too soft.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
We have just been in performance season for Don Quixote so during the week I would go to Bikram yoga at 9:30am and then we would start a 1 1/4hr ballet class at 12pm followed by notes and rehearsal from the show the night before. Our break is around 3pm in which I normally have something to eat, do any chores that I need to and sometimes go for coffee or relax with a DVD. I head to the theatre about 5:30pm to start my hair and make-up and re-warm up for the show (there is a company barre at 6:30pm) then I set my quick change costumes and get down on stage where you will most likely find me balancing – a trick I found years ago to calm my nerves and help me focus!
You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?
This is a tough question as there are so many people I would love to invite…but here goes: Balanchine, Peggy Guggenheim, Vivienne Westwood, D.B.C Pierre, Pina Bausch and Arvo Pärt.
What would surprise people about you ?
??? Maybe that there is a bronze statue of me in “attitude” in Sydney!
Who inspired you to dance ?
It is a funny/interesting story that I actually started dancing because I broke my leg!! (that might surprise people about me too!!) I was very young and my doctor recommended ballet to strengthen my leg!
I have been inspired by many amazing dancers I have watched though. Notably Alessandra Ferri and Ashley Bouder. Travelling and being able to watch these and many amazing dancers live and do class with them has been the most wonderful inspiration for me.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Everything happens for a reason!
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I get to the theatre about two hrs before curtain-up (it depends on the show as some need more time for hair etc). I usually start by doing my hair and then my make-up, then there is always someone else who needs hair help;) I then either do my own warm-up or company barre depending on the repertoire and what my body needs that night. Next is time for costume and pointe shoes; by the 15 minute call I am on stage balancing, setting props, some last minute proprioception exercises and practicing anything particularly tricky in the choreography or any partnering things. By the time all that is done it’s time to start! [Ed note : proprioception – from Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own” and perception, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of your own body].
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
The role I played in a very contemporary piece we danced called It is tested me physically as at the beginning it was so far from my natural movement style that it was a real challenge to get my body to move the way the choreographer wanted. I got there eventually and it was easier to achieve once I had the costume and wig. Bianca in Taming of the Shrew was also a role I loved getting my teeth into and from which I learned a lot.
If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
Something with no restrictions, that is very flattering! Something with as few layers as possible. The costumes I have most loved to wear are little silk chiffon dresses either loose and over a leotard so you just see a silhouette of the body or with a corset top and flowy skirt. Simple is generally best and the ability to move without restriction makes performing that much more enjoyable for a dancer. I have always had an interest in costume design and you will often hear me say “I wish this was a bit more like that, or this line should be here, if we just….”!
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Musicality, movement quality and a little bit of strength;)
What is your favourite quote ?
“The object of art is to give life a shape.” William Shakespeare
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
Not so much a step but balancing on pointe in pretty much any position has always come fairly naturally to me (Rose Adage – one day). [Ed note : the opening chords from the Rose Adage (Aurora’s fiendish balances from The Sleeping Beauty) usually strike fear into the heart of any ballerina – even long after they’ve retired. Sophie is showing commendable fearlessness here !]
A phrase I use far too often is … ?
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
One that springs to mind straight away was my first performance with The Australian Ballet in Balanchine’s Serenade. It is such a beautiful ballet and the opening choreography, with the light.. It will always be very special to me. Another was the opening night of our Quarry season here in Perth last year where I danced the lead Pas de deux with Yann Laine in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Lickety-Split. This is my favourite piece to dance to date and to perform it outside under the stars with the wind in my hair and with a partner who I adore was amazing!!
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
Secret skill…? I can do pointe on a wobble board…
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
In a year from now I will have been with my new company for under a year so it is hard to predict but I would love to be performing in works which I love and being able to tour and dance around as many cities in Europe as possible.