Sunday, 26 July 2009

The Royal Ballet : Elizabeth Harrod interviewed

Cupcakes & conversation with Elizabeth Harrod, First Artist, The Royal Ballet

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
The thought of learning something new, there are very few days in which I never learn something new, whether it be trivial or profound, ballet related or not, it's always exciting to know there is always more to learn. I like a challenge, I always feel like I dance my best when I am being pushed.

Also breakfast! I am always hungry and it's my favourite meal of the day.

Who would you most like to dance with ?
I would love to experience sharing the stage and dancing with a truly great dance/actor. I enjoy all aspects of dance within the term “Ballet”, but dramatic and emotionally charged roles appeal far more to me.

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I wear Gaynor Mindens, which I think most people would agree are much harder to sew than a regular pair of Freeds, as the material and satin are much tougher, so I usually end up with cuts and blisters all over my fingers! I firstly unpick the drawstring on the heel, this stops it digging in and gives a flatter piece of material on the back of my heel. This is quite tricky and intricate and usually takes about an hour per pair. I then sew my ribbons followed by crossed elastic from where the ribbons are sewn to the back of my heels.

Thankfully Gaynors last for a long time, otherwise I'd have to come up with a much quicker method!

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I usually wake at 8.00 am, sometimes 8.30 if I put my alarm on snooze! I am at work by 9.00 am, class starts at 10.30, but I like plenty of time to prepare and do some Pilates.

Rehearsals run until 5.30 if there is a show, in which case I'll run out to M&S to grab some food. If we have no show we can finish at 6.30, I'll then go to the supermarket & prepare a good dinner, I find cooking very relaxing.

If I happen to finish early I'll go home and bake. I love trying out new things - usually sweet. I live with my boyfriend so he helps me out when it comes to eating my experiments, which is a good thing or I may be in the wrong profession!!!

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Johnny Depp, Brandon Flowers (the lead singer of the Killers), Julie Walters, Kim Cattrall, Anya Hindmarch (handbag designer) and Dita Von Teese.

What would surprise people about you ?
I am I complete Chocoholic!! I struggle to make it through a day without it!!!

Who inspired you to dance ?
I don't actually have a story of inspiration, I initially started dancing because I wanted the pink leotard with the pretty skirt! I just adored dressing up and would always perform, even if I was at home in the kitchen. Then I gradually developed a passion for classical ballet, I had wonderful teachers, Vanessa Hooper and her mother Vera Skelton who pointed me in the direction of The Royal Ballet School, things just gradually progressed. Obviously my love and determination grew, it's definitely not a job you could pursue if you didn't love it!

How would someone else describe you ?
I hate to say it but probably slightly neurotic!!! Although I have got much better and have taught myself not to sweat the small stuff - it makes life much easier!

I like to think I also have a good work/life balance and I'm very family orientated, they are extremely important to me.

What is your best piece of advice ?
If anyone is unfortunate enough to be injured - use every day as a learning experience. Being injured was one of the most educational periods of my life. I now have so much more knowledge to take with me in my career. I try to look at things in a positive way or it would just be wasted time in my career and in my life - I don't intend to waste a second.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
I performed Clara (from The Nutcracker) for the first time at Christmas which was my first experience of 'carrying' an entire ballet so to speak. To know that I was the one who had to play a major role in setting the scene and creating the atmosphere was initially quite daunting, but I soon found myself very at home and loved every second. I also found the pas de trois from Act 1 Swan Lake a challenge in terms of stamina - it's very deceiving.

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
My most recent would have to be falling off a stool in the Royal Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. They are small circular stools and we have to bourrée around en pointe, unfortunately I had a wobbly stool, fell off backwards and ended up in a heap with my partner, legs up in the air, dress over my head! I had to work very hard at composing myself!

There was a point when I'd frequently fall flat on my face on stage. I think my parents were really quite concerned that this was not the right career choice!

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
I love to feel feminine and like a woman when I am on stage, I think I would design a dress along the lines of Tatiana in 'Onegin' or Marguerite in 'Marguerite and Armand'.

What are you most proud of ?
Right now I am in love with the flat my boyfriend & I have just bought together. The buying process was stressful but it was absolutely worth it, we are over the moon.

Who would play you in the film of your life ?
Someone with a good sense of humour. I have learnt to laugh at myself & at life - it's much more fun that way.

What is your favourite quote ?
'Everything in moderation' - that was my great grandfathers philosophy for everything in his life, he died a month before his 100th birthday.


  1. Another fine interview Elise. Your questions extract the most interesting and thoughtful answers from your interviewees. Great journalism always does, but you don't often read it !

    This has been my favourite of all of your interviews (well, so far !!!).

  2. Elizabeth is certainly an eloquent speaker - well done for doing this interview Elise. It's an absolute pleasure to read an original and refreshing interview like your's - I'm off to read the others now. And I shall certanly look out for Elizabeth's performances in the coming season - and I hope you will be reporting on them here too.

  3. Another cracking interview - well done. Agree with the other comments; your interviews really are insightful, thoughtful and well written.

  4. I loved Elizabeth's comment about the pas de trois from Act 1 Swan Lake - i too find it really taxing and it takes much more practice than the public realise to get it realy good.

  5. How interesting to read such an original interview. I don't think I've read any of it anywhere else - and that's a first ! Well done Elise for writing it and to your interviewees. I've read a few of your interviews and am trying to keep up with all the dancers you feature - this is such a great place ! I hope you follow up with all of them. Elizabeth is eloquent and has the same passion for dance that you do - but in a different way of course !

  6. I wonder why some of your interviewees are so coy about who they'd most like to dance with. I see your question as an opportunity for them to state their intentions, as it were, something to work towards, a definable goal. But hardly any of them have seen it that way - they have been very vague - diplomatic maybe ! Also I have yet to read about anyone who is really keen on costume design - again, the answers are all quite woolly. But I do love the interviews - they are insightful in a way that you don't find anywhere else and thats great

  7. lovely dancer - i liked your intervew with her

  8. I love that she's a faller! I blogged about on stage falling today in my blog as a great fear for dancers but she absolutely takes it in stride. And her list of guests is so random and fun I love it.

    Seriously, I used to 3/4 my Grishkos with a razor blade but the "super hard" shank was actually made out of a thick plastic. They lasted forever and looked great on my feet but it was a ridiculous method. I switched to a different type of shank that don't look quite as good but much easier to prepare.

  9. So interesting to read! thank u

  10. I can particularly empathize with loving learning something new and always feeling hungry!


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