Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Cupcakes & Conversation with Russell Ducker, Corp de Ballet, Corella Ballet

Cupcakes & Conversation with Russell Ducker, Corp de Ballet, Corella Ballet

Today I had completely the scariest experience of my life; at least on a par with nearly drowning as a child.  So the calming influence of 'Cupcakes & Conversation' has never been more essential.  I'm delighted to bring you the charming, talented and witty Russell Ducker, who recently created his first ballet - 'Epimetheus'. Like me, I'm sure you'd like to see his ballet danced in the UK (and around the world - though you lucky New Yorkers already had that chance !), but we may have to start a campaign to make it happen... we've done it before.  Enjoy !

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ?
The ‘right’ answer is; “a new week, with all the possibilities to better myself as an artist”. To my disgrace, I am certainly not a morning person. In fact, I am barely myself until about 10 o’clock. Before that time I am a grumpy, slow moving mass - who should be avoided at all costs. It verges on the Jekyll and Hyde.

So what motivates me at 8am...very little. I have started yoga in order to earnestly conquer this shaming quality. It seems to really be helping. Focusing on breath control and slow, increasing stretches, it helps me focus for the day ahead and also prepares my body for class.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?
There are so many fantastic female dancers out there at the moment, it would be unfair to choose. Maybe my mum...she can’t dance to save her life but it would hilarious to see her try. As a role, Romeo is probably the ultimate challenge for a male artist. The plot line is so beautifully painful, that it never tires me. I would relish the exploration of interpreting such a legendary character.

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?
Anywhere and everywhere. I am very happy dancing in Spain, but perhaps in the future I would like to come home to the UK. Hopefully again in the US. The audiences were insane, I could definitely get used to that.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?
Our days tend to vary quite a lot, depending on whether we are in the studios, on the road or performing. At the moment we are rehearsing a compilation of company repertoire. The reason being, we are scheduled in approaching performances to present a combination of ballets from 2008/09 and this year's season. So a lot is going on. Plus we are performing Swan Lake again very soon. After a day of heavy rehearsal, I am roping people in to help me hone my choreographic skills. My latest work, ‘Sospiri’ a variation for my colleague Tracy Jones will hopefully be featured on my website very soon. Secretly that is the highlight of my day. Discovering the elements needed to perfect the choreographic process.

Russell in the studio with Carla Lopez, rehearsing Christopher Wheeldon's 'VIII'
Photograph : Fernando Bufala

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?
I've learned to stay as calm as possible. I have a lot of nervous energy so its important for me to manage that. I encourage myself to maintain a creative frame of mind. I might read a book, or if I’m playing a role I will specify to myself the details of who I am about to become. I start my make up an hour before, then I warm up for 1/2 hour onstage, and practice various steps by myself or with my partner. I like to familiarize myself with the space. Dancing on new stages all the time, new surroundings can be distracting.

What are you looking forward to dancing in 2010 ?
The company has a great, diverse repertoire, from world class choreographers. This season we are scheduled to perform ‘Raymonda’ and ‘For Four’ as part of our triple bill, alongside DGV. Which I have adored dancing. So I am looking forward to continue working on that. I have always been a big fan of
Christopher Wheeldon’s so it is a privilege to dance in such a special piece. In Swan Lake I have been cast to learn the Neapolitan dance and Benno. So the opportunity to have a crack at either of those would be a great challenge. Fingers crossed.

You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite ?
Kenneth MacMillan, Fred Astaire, Dawn French, Forsythe, Barack Obama, and Meryl Streep.

Tracy Jones in Russell Ducker's Epimetheus

What would surprise people about you ?
How stubborn I can be.

Who inspired you to dance ?
It wasn't really a particular person, although I grew up fascinated by old Hollywood movies and the likes of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. I would describe it as just a simple magnetic attraction to the stage. Anything I was ever good at steered me in that direction. I was always a fan of Angel (ed : Angel Corella, dancer with American Ballet Theatre and Corella Ballet, and Artistic Director of Corella Ballet), so it is fitting that I should end up in his company.

How would someone else describe you ?
Probably ease going, loyal, at times paranoid. I tend to surprise people.

What is your best piece of advice ?
Follow your gut. never be swayed by other people and have faith that it will come together at the end. Also to make yourself heard and seen. I have to remind myself of this often.

Russell Ducker (centre) in Stanton Welch's Clear

Which role has tested you the most & how ?
Defiantly Twyla Tharp’s “In The Upper Room”. The ballet consists of nine movements. It’s just non stop. Many times the choreography repeats itself, sometimes at double speed. It chops and changes constantly, jumping between sequences. It is also full to the brim with many lifts and challenging steps. It is a fight from start to finish, both physically and mentally. I have never sweated so much in my entire life, but the end result is totally worth the calories.

What is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you ?
I studied at The Royal Ballet School for seven years, so you can imagine I have many anecdotes about that time, especially concerning White Lodge. It is a melting pot of diverse people brought together by one common purpose, in the centre of a national park. The School has many traditions. Some commonly
known amongst staff...others strictly for pupils. I love that whenever I meet ex White Lodger’s we all have a shared sense of each other, purely because we have all spent our childhoods in those same classrooms and dormitories. In some cases taught, disciplined, comforted by the same staff.  Although rarely the instigator, I relished the destructive plots hatched by my peers. I remember setting and hiding all the alarms in the science lab to go off at the same time after we left the classroom. You can imagine the chaos. We would create obstacle courses in the dorms. Sneak out of the grounds at night (that’s defiantly a rite of passage). The obvious water/pillow fights. The list goes on.

If you designed your own stage costume, what would you create ?
For a contemporary ballet, something exaggerating the line of the body. For classical work, something very refined. I love putting on costumes for the first time. It brings everything you have been working towards to life.

A phrase I use far too often is ...
...probably a word I can’t say.

Russell Ducker's Epimetheus

Who would play you in the film of your life ?
People tell me I have a resemblance to Elijah Wood. (Is that a compliment?) So I guess him.

What is your favourite quote?
I don't really have one, but for the sake of this interview; “Learn by practice” Martha Graham.

What’s on your iPod ?
So much classical music, I'm always searching for my next subject matter.

What makes you a good dance partner ?
Communication and honesty. It is so important to always be asking questions.

Do you have a secret skill which no one knows about ?
I sing, but people know...

Russell takes a curtain call after Twyla Tharp's In The Upper Room

Describe yourself in just three words.
Sensitive, outgoing and thankful.

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be this time next year ?
Choreographing. I hope to have created another full ballet. Of course I am focused to be dancing better and more. We are touring more internationally, with performances in Los Angeles and Mexico so I am also really looking forward to that.


  1. Another fabulous interview, darling!
    Love these pics too!


  2. this is great and those cupcakes are very enticing :)

    Hope xx

  3. You know, I couldn't put my finger on it, but he DOES look like a red headed Elijah Wood :) I'm not sure why, but it's comforting to know that someone so disciplined and talented has just as hard of a time getting out of bed every morning as I do. Great interview!

  4. he is fascinating......and absolutely gorgeous!! i love the words he chose to describe himself..... and i admire his willingness to admit that he can be stubborn and grumpy at times! what authenticity!! xox, :))

    p.s. i'm off to send you an e-mail.....

  5. these pics just take my breath away every time...

  6. He is such an interesting person and he even sings...Wow:) So great and the cupcakes:))))
    Each time I am looking at those photos I cant stop thinking how magical it looks:)

    Kisses darling and enjoy your day!

  7. Oh great interview, wonderful sense of humor, great sense of direction, thanks so much for sharing. Hugs

  8. Wonderful interview.. Thanks for taking us to the world of a young dancer..

  9. He created his first ballet? But he only looks like he is 16. HA HA.

  10. This is such a lovely, lively and entertaining interview. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Elise - I would like to add your picture link on my Blog. Please advise if it is all right to use the Ballet Shoes picture that you have on your profile. Do you have the code for the picture and link or have I your permission to make one?

    My best regards.

  11. Couture Carrie - thank you

    Hope Chella - thank you

    AlyGatr - thank you, I agree

    Audrey Allure - you're very kind, thank you

    lori vliegen - I'm always striving for authenticity when I choose my interviewees

    C'est La Vie - that's the idea !

    Diana Mieczan - thank you

    CelticWoman - thank you

    Turquoise Diaries - thank you !

    balletomane1 - watch this space !


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