In Conversation with INYB
Each Saturday Irish National Youth Ballet train and rehearse in DanceHouse for upcoming peroformances. As is the case with so many companies, and scheduled performances, INYB's spring season (to have taken place the weekends of 8 and 15 of May) has been cancelled due to Covid-19.
Each year at this time, we catch-up with the company and meet some of the dancers - we felt this year should be no different. Recently, we spoke to Director Lindsay Ashe-Browne, dancers Ella Dennehy, Nicola Kilmurry and Anna McCoy.
This year's spring production, Three Eras, was to feature work to represent, and tribute, past directors Anne Campbell-Crawford and the late Katherine Lewis. Under the new directorships of Lindsay Ashe-Browne, the company was to premiere a commissioned work by Jamie Carter - see an extract here.
We are all adjusting to a new way of working due to the impact of Covid-19 and using our time as best as we can.
We asked Lindsay for what she would advise young dancers during this time of change:
I think everyone needs to be kind to themselves when they feel low but equally make use of all of the online classes - particularly if they can in the morning - in order to lift the spirits. It’s great to keep up some ballet training but realistically with floors that are not ideal, small spaces and potential interruptions constantly this is a great time to work on your weaknesses instead. That might be to up the aerobic fitness, gain flexibility or use Pilates/Yoga classes to achieve balance in body mind and muscle strength and control equally in both sides of the body.
It can also be a great time to learn some life skills that will be needed when dancers move away from the family for training so gaining proficiency in cooking, meal planning, basic banking, sewing etc will stand to them for life.
I recommend looking at companies that one might aspire to join and take their classes. They might be world class ballet or contemporary companies, dance theatre companies like Matthew Bourne or even West End musicals. What ever a dancer thinks their end goal might be this is a great opportunity to do some extra research.
This could also be applied to schools, research where their Alumni have gained jobs and then watch those productions to see if it really is something you could picture yourself doing. And sometimes the reality of doing 8 shows a week of the same production for a year is not actually the dream. Or standing at the back of the corps de ballet waving a garland around and standing in lines for half a ballet each show. It might be more achievable and more artistically satisfying to be in a smaller company and do different productions more often, have a chance to shine in a bigger role sometimes. This is where companies in Germany, Poland and other European companies can be great stepping stones for young dancers. In Germany all ballet companies are rated A, B, C but all run on an annual contract giving some stability to have a work/life balance even in the smaller C company.
My point is at this time of isolation research is invaluable.
Meet Three INYB Dancers
This is my 5th year with INYB and I have always loved coming to dance house every saturday for class and rehearsals. INYB is one of the things I will miss most when I go away in September.
Most memorable comment a ballet teacher ever made:
I always our remember INYB’s choreographer Killian O’Callaghan, saying that a dancer was like a set of drawers:
- The bottom drawer is the technique, it is the most used drawer but the least acknowledged yet without it the other drawers would fall apart.
- The middle drawer is your knowledge of dance, it can be changed into so many different things and can be constantly added to.
- The top drawer is your performance, you know that you always have your bottom drawers to support you.
This allows you to experiment with your performance and make the character your own.
My ballet teacher Nicola Farcas says that every ballet dancer has one thing in common and it is the strive for perfection, she taught me that there is always opportunity for improvement no matter where you are in your dance career.
What has dancing taught you?
Dancing has taught me that nothing is easy in this business, you have to work for everything.
I also learned that your performance is key to telling the story of a ballet, because you can't use words you have to tell the story and show the emotions with your body and your face. Audiences get more from the ballet than just the steps when watching a performance they get the story and the emotions of each person.
I have always been told that if you don’t believe you are the character you are dancing, neither will the audience.
I have been in INYB for 4 years.
Most inspiring performance you have ever seen?
I watched video recording of Manon at the Paris Opera Ballet and it is definitely one of the best performances I have ever seen.
Watching the dancers on stage made me realize that dance is what I want to do for the rest of my life and it inspired me to want to work hard to achieve my goals.
Most memorable time in INYB?
The memory that stands out the most for me is performing as Snow White in 2019.
That performance meant alot to me as it was dedicated to Katherine Lewis, who had recently passed. I was able to dance it for her friends and family who came to watch and I also got to perform for Michael D. Higgins and his Wife, Sabina who is a Patron of INYB.
What was the best correction you ever got that changed the way you approached an aspect of your dancing?
I have always been hard on myself and I would often get very annoyed or frustrated with myself in rehearsal or classes to where I couldn't even focus.
My teacher would notice and always say 'no sad faces' or 'happy faces!' and at first I thought it was silly but after I kept hearing it almost every class, I started relaxing and not holding tension in the wrong places.
This resulted in my dancing improving because I was learning from my mistakes instead of getting frustrated and giving up.
My artistry also improved because I wasn't holding tension in my face or neck.
I have been in INYB for 3 years.
What is your most memorable time with INYB?
The most memorable time in INYB was Christmas 2018 when I performed Cinderella on Gala night. It was the best performance I had ever done, everything just seemed to work. Afterwards Katherine Lewis told me how proud she was of me and that meant the world to me.
What was the best correction?
The best correction to date was give to me last summer while I was at English National Ballet School.
My teacher there, Josephine Holling, told me that what will make you stand out you from the rest is your eyeline. The placement of your eyeline determines how you come across as a dancer.
What has dancing taught you?
Dancing has taught me not to give up as when you are in the right place for you, you will succeed with sheer determination. Also that talent only gets you so far, hard work brings you further.