20 Questions with Brenna Flaherty
August 23, 2021
Brenna Flaherty. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Outside of dancing, I am pursuing a degree in Business and Accounting from Northeastern University in Boston. I have always loved academics and when the pandemic hit, I thought it would be a great time to start chipping away at some university courses.
Other than school, I am trying to enjoy the weather while it is still warm and take advantage of Toronto’s many fabulous restaurants and patios with friends (now that we are finally allowed to see each other).
What would you have done as a career if you hadn’t pursued ballet?
I think if I hadn’t pursued ballet as a career, I would be doing something to help others, whether that be nursing, therapy or charity work. Now that I am pursuing a business degree however, I am thinking of starting a non-profit to help those who are less fortunate, as there is so much poverty and inequality in the world that needs to be addressed.
Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage?
In my first ever Nutcracker performance with Boston Ballet when I was around 13 years old, I was cast as a “tea” girl. We danced behind the company members and had parasols as dancing props. My parasol closed by accident and I couldn’t re-open it. For the final pose, we were supposed to be hidden behind the parasol, but I couldn’t since mine was shut. Completely exposed, I mouthed the words “Oh My God” in utter embarrassment that this had happened. My teacher came up to me after the show and scolded me saying “Brenna, we don’t mouth the words ‘Oh My God’ on stage.” I was mortified in the moment but looking back it just really makes me laugh.
What is your work philosophy?
I have a running list of advice in my mind that I’ve accumulated over the years from teachers and mentors who have helped shape the way I work. I am constantly reminding myself of these things:
- 1 Don’t aim to impress the coach, your peers, or even the audience. Aim to impress the material.
- 2Don’t be afraid to get tired. Why hold back and save energy for tomorrow when you have it today?
- 3Never, never, never give up.
How do you handle criticism?
Like most dancers, I encourage constructive criticism because it helps me improve my technique and artistry. Sometimes though, depending on the source, I need to filter out what is helpful and what is just uncalled for.
Brenna Flaherty. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
What is your definition of a successful ballet dancer?
My definition of a successful ballet dancer is somebody who takes pride and works hard in any role they are cast in, no matter how big or small. When you know you have worked your hardest and aimed to make your part the best it can be, you will always be satisfied. And oftentimes, hard work does not go unnoticed.
What’s the best thing about being a dancer?
The best aspect of being a dancer is getting to do something you’re passionate about as your job! How many people can say that?!
What’s the worst?
The worst part of being a dancer is the competition and comparisons. It can be draining to feel like you are competing or comparing yourself to other dancers. This is something I think all dancers struggle with whether you are a student or professional.
What music are you listening to right now?
My go-to music will always be something along the lines of Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, or Vampire Weekend. I can always count on these artists to never disappoint me. Right now however, I am currently obsessed with and can sing every word to the Hamilton soundtrack.
What are three random things most people don't know about you?
- 1I love rollercoasters. I often have dreams of being on them.
- 2I hate scary movies/scary anything!
- 3When I was 11, I had appendicitis on an airplane and had to emergency land to have my appendix removed at a hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Thankfully two doctors were on the plane to help me out and ask for an emergency landing. That definitely put a damper on our family vacation to Arizona, but it’s a great story to tell.
Brenna Flaherty in The Dreamers Ever Leave You. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
What was the last thing you changed your mind about?
I have been debating forever on whether or not to get a dog! I would love a corgi, but they are a big responsibility. Maybe one day...
What cheers you up on an off day?
I can always count on my mom to cheer me up on an off day. I am glad to know she is only a FaceTime call away.
Do you have any bad habits that you're working on breaking?
I am trying to be more relaxed and let the small stuff go. I tend to be hard on myself when everything doesn’t go exactly to plan, but I am learning to go with the flow and adapt when things aren’t perfect. This applies to life and dance!
What is your favourite onstage memory?
Dancing “pink flowers” in James Kudelka’s The Nutcracker. I am the first pink flower to lead the group onstage for our first entrance. Running out of the wings with the open stage in front of me feels like being shot out of a cannon. I have been doing this role since I was an Apprentice but somehow it is always exhilarating and never gets old.
What is your favourite ballet?
The Merry Widow. Everything about that ballet just puts a smile on my face. I hope it comes back soon! Other favourites include Onegin and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (dream role)!
Adage or Allegro?
This might be an unpopular opinion but I am such an adagio lover!
Brenna Flaherty during Company Class on Stage. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
Do you have any performance rituals or superstitions?
No superstitions, but I do have a checklist of things I like to do pre-show. Grabbing a coffee and a bite to eat a few hours before curtain up, chatting with the girls in the dressing room while doing hair and makeup, and warming up my body with a full barre before getting into costume. These activities help me relax and get into the zone.
What is your perfect meal?
My perfect meal would have to be a good old American barbeque! Pulled pork, cornbread, mac and cheese, veggies, and s’mores or apple pie to finish. Not the healthiest, but pretty delicious every now and then.
What sport would you compete in if you could go to the Olympics?
I would 100% go to the Olympics for table tennis (ping pong). I used to play almost every day as I was growing up with my dad and ended up getting pretty good!
What’s the top item on your bucket list?
To make it through this season without any lockdowns and be able to get back on stage! After that, plan a trip to Japan to visit my boyfriend’s family and enjoy the food, culture, and beauty.
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