Saturday, 30 January 2010

Clara Barbera interviewed for "Cupcakes & conversation ..."

I last saw Clara Barbera dance at the Royal Opera House last year, in Kim Brandstrup's new work (Goldberg Variations) for Tamara Rojo. I've just had the chance to catch up with her & to interview her; here it is !

Cupcakes & conversation with Clara Barbera, Professional dancer

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
A good coffee, good tunes and thinking about the week ahead… These days every week is different from the one before!

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
I’m looking forward to choreographing new work, to be able to develop my skills as a choreographer with both classical and contemporary dancers. Also, I’m looking forward to dancing for young choreographers, whose work inspires me and pushes me places I wouldn’t have thought I could go. I have a real sense of belonging to a “new generation“ and such feeling excites me and motivates me every day.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
There’s a couple of male dancers: Anthony Missen and Kevin Turner who are based in Manchester and have just started their own company (Company Chameleon). I would love to have the chance to dance with them one day. What would I dance? Anything they ask me! I have complete faith in them and their work.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
This summer I got the chance to dance on an open-air stage by the Mediterranean sea. The sea was my backdrop, the sun was setting behind me and the audience were all clapping to the music of my piece whilst chilling in the sand. MAGICAL!!

Photograph :  James Ostrer

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
The last time I was on pointe, I was dancing next to Tamara at the Linbury in Kim Brandstrup’s Goldberg Variations. Before that, it had been Dark Elegies with Rambert the year I joined the company, that is: 2004!!! It felt a little bit like a déjà-vu preparing my pointe shoes for Kim’s shows, but it was like “being home”. I don’t wear ribbons anymore, so I just sew two elastics across the arch of the foot to keep it tight within the shoe and off I go!!

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
At the moment, I’m back in Spain working on a project with a French choreographer. We work in the afternoon-evenings so in the mornings I normally stay home and do my homework: I’m doing an MA in Arts Management and that is A LOT of hard work. By the time the afternoon comes I’m dying to get physical! We do a short but intense warm up, and we go straight into the creative process. Evenings tend to be quiet these days.

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Barack Obama, Nina Simone, Johann Sebastian Bach, Pina Bausch, Jacqueline du Pré and Wayne McGregor.

What would surprise people about you ?
I absolutely adore tennis but I’m particularly bad at it!

Who inspired you to dance ?
A teacher I used to have when I was little: Ana Maria Campos, the director of my first ballet school: Mari Cruz Alcalá and my Mum, who always encouraged me to follow my dream and to believe that nothing is impossible.

What is your best piece of advice?
Keep pushing and believe in yourself.

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
The two hours before a show I try to keep myself to myself, rest a little, have a shower, put my iPod on, and think about my role whilst I put my make up on. When all that is done, I try to make it on stage to feel the space just before the curtain goes up. (It depends on the role though… if it's not too challenging I like to have a laugh with the silly banter that comes up often in girls’ dressing rooms... it can be a lot of fun!)

Photograph :  Monica Garcia Alcala

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Probably doing Calliope in Balanchine’s Apollo at the Royal Opera House. I was very young (in my head!) when I got to do it (English National Ballet got to do a triple bill at the ROH back in 2002) and looking back I don’t think I understood properly what I was meant to portray. If I had the chance to do it again, it would be a very different Calliope!

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?
I hate feeling restricted by a costume on stage. I think it’s very important that what you wear is not only flattering from the spectator’s point of view, but also makes you feel good about yourself. So much of a good performance is about how you feel before you go on stage that I think a good costume is essential.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Chemistry. There’s nothing like looking at someone on stage and feeling like they’re THERE with you in every single level. Nothing else matters: just the two of you and your characters. It’s incredible.

What is your favourite quote ?
Treat others as you want to be treated yourself.

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
I’m a bit of a jack of all trades and master of none! It used to annoy me when I was younger: yes, I could turn a little, jump a little and lift my legs a little, but nothing remarkably different from the rest. With age, I have found that this is actually not a bad quality to have, and that maybe THAT is what makes me different!

A phrase I use far too often is?
It’s all good!

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
I will never, ever forget dancing the “Chosen One” in MacMillan’s Rite of Spring when I was still with ENB. The feeling you get “dancing to death” whilst the whole company is there on stage watching you is absolutely unbelievable. I have done many things before and after that, but nothing quite like it.

Photograph :  James Ostrer

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
Not really!! Perhaps, what people may not know is that all through my time at Rambert and my last year in ENB I studied a BA (Hons) in Business Studies through The Open University and landed myself a degree about three months ago! I’m super proud of that!

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?
I would love to have developed further a project I started at the end of 2009: a show I called WORK1. I would like to create a sustainable platform where talented young choreographers/artists (the new generation I was talking about earlier!) who don’t often have the chance to show their work outside their companies, came together at least once or twice a year and showed their work both in the UK and in Spain. I have spent 15 years of my life in the UK and all through these years I have met incredible people that have motivated and inspired me daily to keep dancing and choreographing… I am now in Spain, close to my family and to the life I left behind, and my dream would be to try and keep having the best of both worlds for as long as I can!


  1. Wonderful interview, and such a delicious cupcake!!

  2. Oh no, it was a really long one. She is so beautiful. I realized that I don't know allot about ballet. Thought that their lives sound so exciting with travel. I mentioned how great dancing is for their body and how I wished I had wanted to be a dancer. There was more but I don't have time right now.

  3. still dont know much about ballet,but still love reading your blog.

  4. My gosh that cupcake looks divine!!

    I'll have to point out this blog to my sister, she adores cupcakes and does ballet!

    Thank you for your lovely comment on your blog.

  5. wow, you can feel the energy and commitment in this piece, Clara all the best to you, may all your goals be obtained. Sandi

  6. Hello Everyone. Blogger went a bit haywire last night and I lost a couple of comments, so have copied them here :

    Just Breathe
    It is always so interesting to read these. I also realize that I know so little about ballet.
    Their lives always feel beautiful to me, so different then being a wife and SAH mother. Now my kids are grown but you know what I mean. Look at the travel. Also I wish that my parents would have pushed me alittle into something. Well I guess they did but I was never interested. It would have been nice to be a dancer. I think it tones your body so beautifully. I took my daughter to dance classes and she never cared about it either. Maybe I will have a grandchild someday who will love it! My sons best girl was a ballet dancer and had to leave because of injury, so maybe their is hope if they have a child someday. I would think she would push dance to her children, although she really doesn't like to talk about it. Maybe because it's only been a few years and it hurts. She was actually in one of those schools training in NY.
    Why am I telling all of this, I haven't got a clue! Okay down from my soapbox. Have a great weekend. Clara is so pretty.

    Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET SCOOPS PRESTIGIOUS THE SOU...":

    Nope, he certainly couldn't have slept through the manhattan project, but nor would he have wanted to. He *loved* the very futuristic music, being something of a leftfield fan, he was in awe of the dancers' ability to move to the music yet still be graceful (he even asked, at one point, manhattan project excluded, if it was leftfield...!). I may be a little biased though, as I love the BRB, they have always captured for me the technical and narrative beauty of classical ballet, and it's great to see that applied to a more contemporary piece.

    Aside from that - thank you Elise, I love your blog and devour it each time there's something new. I'm always excited to check it: and look forward to it like a favourite magazine!

    Hannah x
    (PS - I tried to add my name to the 'anon' post before but the website wouldn't let me, so I'm adding my name now, but accept ownership of the previous 'anon' comment!)

  7. To Anon - I'm not sure what your first comment was - I'm afraid I never received it ! Would be good to hear the first part...

  8. I found that very interesting, Thanks!

  9. I have an award for you today. Stop on over.

  10. What a lovely interview, about a lifestyle that I know nothing about! Blogs really are fabulous in how they can expand one's world.

    Poppy xox

  11. Laura Trevey - thank you. I think the two go well together !

    Just Breathe - thank you for your lovely long comments ! And thank you for the award !

    CelticWoman I know what you mean !

    ЯANdOM ЯAWR ◊ - thank you !

    Pierrot le Fou - lovely of you to say so, thank you

    Audrey Allure - thank you

    Poppy Gets a Life - thank you ! Do let me know if there is anything in particular ballet-wise that you'd like to read about.


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