Cupcakes & Conversation with Tobias Batley, First Soloist, Northern Ballet Theatre
I really love my job so motivation isn’t usually a problem, but like anyone Monday mornings can be a struggle, depending on what sort of a weekend I have had. Monday mornings actually sometimes mean a lie-in, as that is usually our travel day when we are on tour.
If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
I love France, especially the south coast. So anywhere in the south of France would be great. I know Monte Carlo has an amazing theatre, plus my parents live there so it would be much easier for them to come and see me.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
Wake up, have some cereal for breakfast. Then get the bus either to West Park for rehearsals or walk to the theatre. Then I warm up and take company class. After that we either have rehearsals or a matinee show. Then I have some late lunch/early dinner and then it is time for the evening show. On evenings when I am not performing I like to just chill out at home, or go out with friends. The cinema is one of my favourite places. There are 2 old traditional cinemas in Leeds that have a great atmosphere, and are really nice places to go watch a film and relax.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
Music plays a big part in my pre show routine. The show we are doing dictates what music I listen to. If I have time, I like to have a power nap for about 30 minutes to an hour. Then I have a shower, put on my makeup and costume and go and warm up for the show. The music I listen to during this whole routine helps me get into the mood or character for that particular performance.
What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
I am looking forward to Romeo and Juliet because we have done a lot of work taking this ballet to a new level and improving on the work we did last year. I am also looking forward to Wuthering Heights as this is my favourite ballet; the music is amazing and I just love performing the role of Heathcliff.
You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Leonard Nimoy, Stephen Fry, Frank Sinatra, Caesar, Emily Bronte and Shakespeare.
What would surprise people about you ?
My real name is Vivienne……… only joking; sense of humour?
My sister, she was an incredible young dancer but later went into television.
How would someone else describe you ?
Humble, hot, honest. This is what the girls in marketing have just said anyway.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Work hard, play hard, so long as you do your personal best that is all that matters.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
David Nixon’s Wuthering Heights is physically extremely demanding for whoever is playing Heathcliff and when we first learnt it I had secret doubts as to whether I would be able to do it. But now that I have done this role quite a bit it has grown to become one of my favourites. I think that if any role is easy in every way then you aren’t doing it right!
What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
Well I have had quite a few falls on stage, all of which were not funny at the time but to look back on are hilarious. Just last year we were doing As time goes by in Cardiff, which is not the biggest stage in the world, and during the men’s trio which I did with Kenny and Ashley, there is one bit where we all do a split jeté in second and due to the lack of room I clipped feet with one of the others and went crashing off into the wings. It was like in the old cartoons when someone isn’t doing very well on stage and they get pulled off with a cane! I just disappeared. It was nearly the end anyway and by the time I recovered they had already finished so I just stayed off and came running on at the end.
If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
I would love to tackle the challenge of designing something for a company like Northern Ballet Theatre which not only enhances the story element of a ballet but allows the audience to see the dancer’s body and all the hard work they are doing. Sometimes we work so hard on a role and then we are inhibited by ‘realistic’ but bulky, uncomfortable costumes. I’m not even sure if it is possible, as in a narrative ballet the costume is dictated by the story but I would like to give it a go.
A phrase I use far too often is ...
‘I don’t know’. No, not that I don’t know what phrase I use, but that is the actual phrase. Usually it means I can’t be bothered answering or don’t want to talk about it.
What is your favourite quote?
‘What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger’. Basically look on the bright side and try to take the best out of a bad situation.
What’s on your iPod ?
Everything from Chopin (my favourite composer) to Muse (my favourite band) and usually the music from our current rep.
What makes you a good dance partner ?
I have a lot of patience and never get angry, because the technicalities of partnering are insignificant compared to feeling comfortable with your partner and generally being in harmony. The most important thing is co-ordination and timing so being able to talk and openly say if something is wrong is really important. I also hate blame and I think if something is wrong it is never one persons ‘fault’, it’s about comfort and compromise. What is the saying? “It takes two to tango”?
I’m a pretty good cook. My mum keeps saying she wants to open a restaurant and have me as her sous chef but I don’t think that would work; we are both too much control freaks.
Describe yourself in just three words.
Laid-back (that counts as one), modest, dry (sense of humour, nothing else)
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be this time next year ?
Still dancing! Probably in Northern Ballet Theatre for now, but I promise myself that as soon as I am bored and just going through the motions it is time for a change. But for now I love it here and cannot imagine myself anywhere else. NBT is a really special company and I would be hard pressed to find anywhere that does the kind of work we do with the amount of passion and commitment everybody here has!