On Saturday 30 May, Vienna Festival Ballet come to Birmingham to play the Old Rep as part of their 35th anniversary celebrations. In the second and final instalment, we speak to Emily-Joy Smith, principal dancer at the Vienna Festival Ballet.
LMT: How does it feel to be part of the 35th anniversary performance?
EJS: It's a great privilege to be able to celebrate 35 years of Vienna Festival Ballet as one of the company's principal dancers. To be chosen to be Odette (the White Swan) from Swan Lake as well as the other roles I am performing in the Gala is a real honour. With 35 years behind them, I am following in the footsteps of some amazing dancers! VFB have given wonderful opportunities to so many aspiring dancers from all over the world. I feel extremely proud to be part of such a nurturing organisation.
LMT: How long have you been a part of Vienna Festival Ballet?
EJS: This is now my 3rd year with VFB which means I have been part of 6 tours and 7 ballets.
LMT: What have been some of your career highlights?
EJS: VFB have given me so many amazing opportunities over my time here. Off the top of my head I would have to say having a role choreographed on me was really special. In 2013 Vienna brought in choreographer Barry McGrath to stage a brand new version of Snow White; for this I was cast as the Evil Queen. It was the most fun I have had on stage, being able to develop the character and having the role set on me was such a privilege.... And being evil is always fun! My two favourite classics have to be The Sugarplum Fairy from The Nutcracker and The White Swan in Swan Lake, two roles that I never dreamed I would be able to do, but with the amazing guidance from our director and ballet mistress I have gained the confidence to go from a dancer to a ballerina.
LMT: Are you looking forward to performing in The Old Rep, which is such an intimate venue?
EJS: I am very excited to be performing at The Old Rep as it will be my first time dancing at the theatre. It is a new venue for us this tour, but from what we have seen it looks like a very nice theatre. I hope the audience enjoys our performance as much as we enjoy dancing it.
LMT: As a dancer, what challenges do you face performing on various sized stages?
EJS: Every stage is completely different to the one we were at the night before and with 78 different venues you face many challenges every performance. This is one reason why I really enjoy working for a touring company. Some days we have a stage that is huge so you have to really travel every step. Some days we can be in a tiny theatre which means you have to be really aware of who is around you otherwise you could easily kick someone. The main challenge for me is raked stages. This is when the stage is not flat but built on an angle so that the audience can see the whole stage. Although it is visually very effective from the audience’s point of view, for a dancer your whole technique and weight placement has to change so that you don't fall down the stage into the orchestra pit!
LMT: If you could use 3 words to describe this performance what would they be?
EJS: Energetic, because it's a full packed performance! The gala is the best of the best of VFB's repertoire so it's go, go, go, for us dancers. Diverse, because the gala includes 6 different ballets from VFBs repertoire. I have a great challenge of swapping from completely different characters throughout the performance and it means I can really get my teeth into my acting skills. Memorable, as there is something in this performance that will appeal to all. Whether it's a specific dancer, choreographer or costume, there is something that will stay in the audience’s mind long after our performance.
LMT: What would you say to the people of Birmingham who haven't yet booked a ticket?
EJS: What are you waiting for? The dancers and staff at Vienna Festival Ballet are so passionate about what we do. All we want is to entertain and inspire our audiences. With film and television making less and less people go to theatre we really try to bring the magic of stage back to all. If you've never seen ballet before, our gala is great as you get small snippets from ballets to see what takes your fancy. If you’re a ballet lover then you get the classics that everyone knows and loves (with a few new things as a surprise). Once you've been to see a performance of Vienna Festival Ballet you will be hooked!
For more information and to book for the Vienna Festival Ballet 35th anniversary celebrations on Saturday 30 May, click here or call the Old Rep's box office on 0121 359 9444.