Cupcakes & Conversation with Melissa Hough, Soloist, Houston Ballet
What prompted your move to Houston Ballet ?
I have been with Boston Ballet for seven years and I've been feeling the need to change for quite some time. I've always liked Boston Ballet's size and Houston Ballet has about the same number of dancers. I'm very interested in improving my acting skills and Houston does a lot of work that involve major theatrical skills. I'm hoping the company will push me harder to reach my goal. They also have amazing facilities for dance. The company is moving to a new (approximately 53 million dollar) building in the downtown area in the spring of 2011 and the theatre is fantastic.
What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
I've always enjoyed the first day after a break. My body tends to hurt much less and I feel a bit fresher, generally.
What are you looking forward to dancing this year ?
I attempt to begin each season with reasonable expectations, regarding casting. I don't find out what I'm going to dance until the season begins, so it's difficult to say what I'm looking forward to. I will say that I am looking forward to throwing myself into more acting roles, small or large :).
How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?
I'm a bit lazy when it comes to preparing my shoes. At the moment, I jet glue the tips and a little up the sides of the shank (on the inside) before anything. Then I hammer the vamp to soften the glue in order to have flexibility to roll through the foot and I hammer the shank a little at the ball of the foot to help the shoe to bend with my short toes. I also take some of the nails out of the shank, so they're not digging into my foot at an inopportune moment.
What is your daily routine at the moment ?
I'm in Spain touring with Boston Ballet right now, so I don't have a routine. Usually my routine in the morning must include coffee. I can make everything else work after that.
Who inspired you to dance ?
I think perhaps music and movement itself have inspired me to dance. Throughout my life I had teachers I looked up to and wanted to emulate, but in the end my inspiration doesn't come from a person.
What is your best piece of advice ?
Never stop discovering new things about what you might contribute to the art and never limit yourself mentally as to what you can and can't do.
How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I make sure I eat well and early enough before curtain. I take a shower just to warm up my body and put my warm ups on immediately after the shower. Then, I begin to work on my hair, then part of my makeup. I usually give myself a barre, finish after fondus and then head back up to the dressing room to finish my makeup and get dressed. I don't have anything that I MUST do before the show. It always varies a lot depending on what the role is I'm about to dance, but generally I do these things prior to a performance.
Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Every time I dance a major role it is a test, I guess. The test is with myself though. It's to see if all the work in the studio has paid off enough for me to enjoy the performance and be in the moment.
What do you look for in a dance partner ?
Coordination, musicality, and an ability to let go and be in the moment on stage.
Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?
A phrase I use far too often is ... ?
Oh my God, you're killing me (in a sarcastic tone, always).
What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?
Define moment :).
Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?
If I were to tell, it wouldn't be a secret.
In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now and what do you hope to achieve with your new company ?
I hope to be a little more at peace with the work I am a part of. Personally, I feel fulfilled at the end of a season if I know I've improved the level of my dancing and artistry.