20 Questions with Corps de Ballet Member Emma Ouellet
January 13, 2023

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Emma Ouellet. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

Canadian-born Emma Ouellet is one of 15 new dancers to join the Corps de Ballet this season, following her success as a member of the RBC Apprentice Programme. Get acquainted with this promising artist as she answers 20 questions about her hobbies, work ethic, onstage experiences and more!

What inspired you to join The National Ballet of Canada?

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the audience at the Four Seasons Centre. I have always been inspired by the dancers of the National Ballet and seeing them perform is what made me realize that I wanted nothing more than to be up there too. This company is close to my heart, and it has always made me feel at home.

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

Maybe psychology? The brain and mind are so beautifully complex (and difficult at times), but I am fascinated by it all and would love to help people in the field of mental illness or sports psychology one day.

What is your work philosophy?

My work philosophy is to always be present in the moment and work hard in that moment, whether it be during ballet class or a performance. I love to set new intentions and goals for myself with each new day and challenge because, for me, the always evolving “work” is also my passion and brings me great joy.

How do you handle criticism?

I am very grateful for constructive criticism in our art form, as I truly appreciate that there is someone invested in helping me grow as a dancer (and person) so that I can be one step closer to reaching my goals. When it comes to unhelpful criticism, I am learning to know my own value and heart. Working to remind myself of this in the harder moments has been a game changer in terms of my confidence.

What's your definition of a successful ballet dancer?

A successful ballet dancer is someone who has discovered and nurtured whatever it is that makes them special. That is where I believe you find true happiness in your dancing, and you can accomplish incredible things.

What’s the best thing about being a dancer?

Getting to tell stories and express emotions through movement in a profound and meaningful way is an incredible gift. For me, dancing allows me to feel both vulnerable and brave at the same time. It also feels so special to include an audience in this experience, sharing the journey with them. The physical and mental challenges of dance, pushing yourself to the limits of what your body and mind can do, is both humbling and exhilarating. When I am dancing, I feel the most in tune with the full spectrum of my emotions and sense of self. Every day I go to work and do what I love, and for that I am so grateful.

What’s the worst?

The worst part about being a dancer is having to overcome mental barriers and insecurities. The quest for perfection is endless and never achieved and yet it drives all dancers. Being comfortable with imperfection is difficult and challenging and must be conquered daily in dance.

What music are you listening to right now?

I am currently loving Taylor Swift’s new album, Midnights.

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Emma Ouellet. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My hobbies including crafting, baking and visiting coffee shops. But my favourite thing to do in my free time is spend it with family and friends – whether it be a cozy games and charcuterie girls’ night or a fun activity and adventure in Toronto or in my hometown of London, Ontario.

What are three things most people don't know about you?

  • I have a twin brother. And yes, we are occasionally telepathic. P.S. I’m older by two full minutes.
  • I really love to downhill ski.
  • I LOVE roller coasters and tubing on the lake.

What cheers you up on an off day?

Spending time with the people I love most. My puppy. Starbucks. Sweatpants. And Starbucks…

What is your favourite onstage memory?

My first performance with The National Ballet of Canada in the fall of 2021 dancing Serenade. I felt like all my dreams were coming true in that moment!

What is your favourite ballet?

John Cranko’s Onegin is my absolute favourite ballet because of its dramatic power and vivid pas de deux.

Could you name someone who has mentored or inspired you?

I am going to name three, haha! Former Principal Dancer and Artist-in-Residence Greta Hodgkinson has been the most caring, supportive and inspiring mentor to me and I truly admire her unmatched versatility and artistry as a dancer. I have also always aspired to be like Principal Dancer Heather Ogden someday. Watching her passion onstage has always reminded me of why I love to dance and why I will never stop chasing my dreams. Lastly, I am forever inspired by my sister Sarah who demonstrates the most gracious resilience and passion-fuelled determination.

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

Greece! To live out my Mamma Mia dreams of course!

Do you have any performance rituals or superstitions?

I try not to get too hung up on superstitions but my favourite pre-performance ritual is putting on my makeup in a dressing room full of some of my very best friends.

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

Hmm… Can I say ball-gowns from the 18th century? (Minus the corsets!)

Adage or Allegro?

I love, love, love all the big jumps in Grand Allegro.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I hope to be remembered for loving to dance and for being someone people can lean on. I hope that I can show people what I am feeling in my heart when I am up on that stage and to forever be the biggest cheerleader for my friends and colleagues.

Have you fallen in love with any of your costumes? 

I was once a pansy flower for a ballet dance at my studio when I was little. It will always hold a special place in heart and pansies are my favourite flower because they remind me of where I first fell in love with ballet.

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Jeannine Haller, Antonella Martinelli, Emma Ouellet and Clare Peterson in rehearsal for Swan Lake. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

Learn more about Emma

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