20 Questions with Corps de Ballet Member Emerson Dayton
November 2, 2022

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Emerson Dayton. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

The National Ballet of Canada is proud to introduce Emerson Dayton, one of several new dancers joining the Corps de Ballet this season. Born in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, Dayton trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and San Francisco Ballet School before performing with Charlotte Ballet from 2020 to 2022. Learn more about her life and career in dance in our “20 Questions” series!

What inspired you to come to The National Ballet of Canada?

I really loved working with Hope Muir at Charlotte Ballet, so I’m thrilled that I was able to follow her here!

What would you have done as a career if you hadn’t pursued ballet?

I’d like to think that I would stick to something artistic just because I can’t imagine anything else would fulfill me. But it’s hard to say something specific. If I had to guess, maybe a musician?

Have you ever had an embarrassing moment on stage?

Yes, absolutely. When I was about 15 years old I tripped and fell during the easiest part of a piece that I was dancing. I happened to be quite near the edge of the stage, so I almost slid into the orchestra pit full of live musicians but managed to stop in time. Luckily it was a dress rehearsal and not a show, but the memory is still branded in my mind.

How do you handle criticism?

Criticism at work is something dancers expect just because we need it in order to grow in our career. The hardest part is if we are only receiving criticism without positive feedback to balance it out. I think in those times it’s important to know your own strengths and be able to give yourself some amount of positive feedback if you can. It’s a lot easier said than done, but it helps.

What's your definition of a successful ballet dancer?

Anyone who can make a living from it and is artistically satisfied. I don’t consider rank within the company to be defining as long as the dancer is fulfilled.

What’s the best thing about being a dancer?

I’d say the teamwork that is so necessary between the dancers. It feels special to be part of something that everyone has put so much time and work into and I appreciate it every time we get to perform together.

What’s the worst?

Honestly, the foot pain. Sometimes a blister or corn can keep me from concentrating and I get frustrated with that very quickly.

What music are you listening to right now?

A lot of 1970s music and classic rock. I grew up listening to it and never stopped.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to read, cook and watch TV shows if I have extra time! Generally, I prefer to stay in than go out.

What cheers you up on an off day?

Good food will always cheer me up. I have a lot of specific snacks that I’ll buy if I’m feeling down.

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Emerson Dayton. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

Do you have any bad habits that you're working on breaking?

Yes, I’m really bad at drinking enough water and I’m constantly dehydrated. I’m getting better at drinking throughout the day but it’s a lot of work for me for some reason.

What is your favourite ballet?

I think Giselle is my favourite classic and Allegro Brillante is my favourite shorter piece.

Where would you like to travel, but haven’t yet?

I haven’t been to Niagara Falls yet and would love to go!

What are you reading right now?

I like to read any fantasy series I can get my hands on. My current favourite is Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

Do you have any performance rituals or superstitions?

Yes, I have specific lucky earrings that I have to wear. Luckily I go through phases with them so it’s not always the same pair.

If you could bring back any fashion trend, what would it be?

1950s style dresses! They’re so cute but you can’t really wear one unless there’s an event.

Adage or Allegro?

Definitely not adage. Extensions and lines are not one of my strengths, so I much prefer allegro.

What is your perfect meal?

Cincinnati chili. It’s a beef chili that’s served over pasta with some cheese and beans. I grew up eating it every “trick or treat” night and it always tastes amazing coming in from the cold.

Have you fallen in love with any of your costumes?

When I was in school at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet we performed Balanchine’s Emeralds and I loved the costumes. The combination of the long skirt, dark green colour and crown really did it for me.

What sport would you compete in if you could go to the Olympics?

I’d love to be good at figure skating! That’s my favourite thing to watch so I’d definitely pick it.

Learn more about Emerson

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