20 Questions with Alexandra MacDonald
August 5, 2020
1. What are the top three activities you have been doing during social distancing?
Aside from trying to stay in shape (taking ballet class, Pilates and strengthening classes online), the activity that takes up most of my time would be taking care of my ten-month-old son Gus! It feels like I am back on maternity leave and while these are such stressful and odd times, I am glad to be at home and to be able to watch him achieve his little milestones. Outside of that, I am finally back to reading good fiction (no more baby/pregnancy books, woohoo!) and I’m also tending to my little balcony garden. I’m attempting to grow radishes, tomatoes and cucamelons this summer.
2. What would you have done as a career if ballet hadn't come your way?
When I graduated from high school, I was very tempted to apply to university. I had my sights set on becoming a physiotherapist. Ultimately, ballet won out but even now, after having received help from our company physiotherapists over the years, it still holds my interest.
3. Have you ever had an embarrassing moment performance-wise?
Definitely more than one! The moment that sticks out the most happened in my Apprentice year when our company was performing a live simulcast of The Nutcracker
to 80 theatres across Canada. It was my first year in the company and I was thrilled that everyone in my hometown was going to be able to see me dance. During the Snow Scene, I somehow managed to slip and fall directly on my butt. The perfect way to make my national debut with the company.
4. What is your work philosophy?
See the bigger picture and work towards it in smaller steps. I have found that the surest way to improvement is to focus on small goals.
5. How do you handle criticism?
I would say in general dancers have a very thick skin when it comes to handling criticism as we are constantly corrected and seeking improvement. It is important to me to stay open to all approaches and possibilities. In the end though, it all comes down to my vision of what I want for my dancing… after examining the criticism, I need to consider whether it takes me in the direction I want to go.
6. Do you have any habits or superstitions before you perform?
When I was younger it was so tempting for me to pick up superstitions when a show went really well. The next performance I would think, “How can I recreate my last show? What did I do that I can do again?” But alas, each performance is always different. Before a big show, I like to warm up well, have several pairs of back up pointe shoes at my fingertips and try a few things out on the stage before the curtain goes up. Oh and I always put on my left pointe shoe before my right but that’s not superstition, that’s common sense!
7. What's your definition of a successful ballet dancer?
A dancer who at the end of their career is proud of the art they have created and shared.
8. What’s the best thing about being a dancer and what’s the worst?
The worst thing would be all the aches and pains that pop up unexpectedly, bruised toenails, achy muscles, a funky knee, etc. The best part would be those moments, whether they be onstage, in class or in rehearsal, when something clicks and you discover a new part of yourself as a dancer. It could be a different way of moving, the awareness of an unused muscle or the feeling of an untouched emotion. I love having those “aha” moments that open up new possibilities within my body.
9. What's your guilty pleasure song that'll make you rock out no matter where you are?
Rock the Casbah
by The Clash!
10. What are three random things most people don't know about you?
- For a while now I have been on a quest to find my 'forever' pancake recipe. I have made a new pancake recipe every Saturday morning (give or take a few weekends after I gave birth) for about a year.
- I love having crafts on the go (probably too many at once) and right now I am really into punch needling. I’m thinking I might try embroidery next.
- My son and I share a birthday.
11. What was the last thing you changed your mind about?
Whether or not to have a nap. I want to say no but it is usually a yes.
12. What cheers you up on an off day?
My husband and his goofy sense of humour, my son’s slobbery kisses or a phone call home to my family.
13. Do you have any bad habits that you're working on breaking?
Not really. Though I am trying to gain and foster many good habits, both in ballet and in my daily life.
14. What is your favorite memory of being onstage?
My debut as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty
. I treasure everything about that day… the nerves, the thrill of my first entrance, the time shared onstage with my partner Brendan Saye
and the joy of my final bow. It was exhilarating.
15. Favorite ballet?
The Four Seasons
by James Kudelka
. Everything about this ballet is so perfectly crafted. I am in awe of the stunning music and how well matched the choreography is. I think I could watch the Summer pas de deux every day.
16. What's the biggest risk you've taken, either personally or in your career?
When I was 18, I moved to Boston to attend the trainee program
at Boston Ballet
(a program that bridges the gap between high school and an apprenticeship). I was such a homebody and choosing to leave my family and live on my own in a new city was the biggest step I have ever taken.
17. When are you most proud of yourself?
Stepping out onstage can take a lot of courage, overcoming nerves, tuning out your inner monologue and finding the space to enjoy yourself while you are out there. After a show, I have a sense of pride that I tackled those feelings and shared my art with the audience.
18. Tell us about an awe-inspiring thing you've seen or experienced.
Giving birth to Gus last year.
19. Do you have a favourite quote?
“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” - Kurt Vonnegut
20. Finally, what is the top item on your bucket list?
To see the Northern Lights.