20 Questions with Alexander Skinner
April 24, 2020

Hannah Fischer. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
1. What are the top three activities you have been doing during social distancing?

  • Reconnecting with friends around the globe.
  • Yoga.
  • Exploring new platforms on which to get creative.
2. What would you have done as a career if ballet hadn't come your way?

I think I would have gone into journalism or editing. As a teenager, I was a journalist for my high school’s newspaper, which I believe led toward a passion for writing.
 
3. Have you ever had an embarrassing moment performance-wise?

A funny one that comes to mind would be splitting my costume pants (badly) moments before stepping onstage. It happened right before my first entrance in Nijinsky and there wasn’t enough time to change into a new pair. I was an Apprentice at the time and as you can imagine, I was mortified. Luckily, the top part of my costume consisted of a long tuxedo jacket and I was reassured by fellow dancers that it just about covered the enormous hole. Thankfully, it did the trick. I was so embarrassed handing the pants in to the Wardrobe team but they were great about it. The craziest part is that I accidentally split a second pair later on in the same performance. What a night!

4. What is your work philosophy?

A career in dance is much shorter than in other professions. I try to invest myself in my work every day as I really want to soak in every moment. I also try to remain present. As dancers, we tend to always be looking ahead, at upcoming performances, the next ballets, etc., so I try to appreciate the time spent with my colleagues and mentors in the studio. It’s often there that great interactions take place and the best memories are made.
 
5. How do you handle criticism?

One of two ways. In my experience, if the feedback is constructive, it’s most likely being expressed with good intention and with my best interest in mind. I think it’s important to acknowledge critiques and if appropriate, see where they can be applied. On the other hand, if the criticism doesn’t seem to be coming from a place of betterment, I tend to brush it off and look elsewhere for ways to improve.


6. Favorite colour and least favorite colour?

Orange is my favourite colour. It’s warm and bright – the way sunshine feels on your skin. It’s also my least favourite though, because unfortunately, I can’t pull it off when it comes to clothing. It’s a love-hate relationship.

7. What's your definition of a successful ballet dancer?

A dancer who makes you feel something when you witness their art. I find I am the most moved when I can see the artist shine through the choreography or the character.
 
8. What’s the worst thing about being a dancer and what’s the best?

Merce Cunningham famously said, “You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.” I think that’s the whole answer. As a dancer, you are constantly hungry for that feeling, that euphoria, where it feels like you are more alive than you have ever been before. I once heard someone describe it as a spiritual experience. But it is forever fleeting. The moment passes and so does the feeling. The hardest part is being left solely with the memory of it until the search recommences and you strive to reach it once again.


9. What's your guilty pleasure song that'll make you rock out no matter where you are?

I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston. Anytime, anyplace, I’m getting up and dancing.

 10. What are three random things most people don't know about you?
  • I have a deep interest in languages. I speak three currently including French and Italian and am learning Korean.
  • Dance wasn’t my first love. I grew up playing soccer and hockey before trying on ballet slippers.
  • In the winter months, my go-to pastime is trying to find the best hot chocolate in the city.
11. What was the last thing you changed your mind about?

Getting a haircut. I’m glad I did, as non-essential businesses were asked to close just a few days later.
 
12. What cheers you up on an off day?

A good playlist, a funny TV show and a FaceTime call with a good friend or loved one.

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

Definitely. I’m more of a night owl naturally so I’m working on going to bed earlier. It’s a work-in-progress.
 
14. What is your favorite memory of being onstage?

My favourite onstage memory would have to be from last season when I was fortunate enough to learn and perform the role of Seryozha, Anna’s son, in Anna Karenina. There are few words to describe what the opportunity meant to me. To work alongside and learn from artists I had looked up to since a young age, to dive into a character and story so rich and touching and to be guided by John Neumeier himself, it was one of the most special experiences of my life. Those performances will remain dear to me forever.
 
15. Favorite ballet?

To watch, Giselle. The story is so touching and the dancing, so strong and impactful. Adolphe Adam’s musical score gives me goosebumps every time, especially at the end of Act I.

To perform, Chroma by Wayne McGregor. There’s no mold to fit, no character to portray. I get to be myself onstage and that is such a freeing experience.
 

16. What's the biggest risk you've taken, either personally or in your career?

I think I would say moving to Toronto to attend Canada’s National Ballet School. I had only recently begun training more seriously at my home dance school and at the time I didn’t know if dance was a viable option for me. Looking back now, I’m so glad to have taken the chance. It changed my life in ways I never could’ve imagined.


17. When are you most proud of yourself?

I am proudest when achieving a goal I had set for myself. No matter how big or small, that feeling is so rewarding.

18. Tell us about an awe-inspiring thing you've seen or experienced.

In light of current events, I absolutely have to mention the efforts of frontline and essential workers in Canada and across the globe, tirelessly working and putting themselves at risk to help keep us all healthy and safe. If that isn’t awe-inspiring, I don’t know what is.
 
19. Do you have a favourite quote?

“Believe in fate but lean forward where fate can see you.” - Quentin Crisp, English Writer and Actor
 
20. Finally, what is the top item on your bucket list?

I have a dream of living abroad for a year.

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