Becoming Bottom 
by Giorgio Galli
November 15, 2018

Greta Hodgkinson in Being and Nothingness

The Dream is known as the ballet where men dance on pointe. How have you had to prepare for the role of Bottom?

While I’ve never danced with pointe shoes before, as a dancer, I already had a good understanding of what was required to do it. That being said, putting them on was a shock! It wasn’t easy – the ladies make it look effortless and pain free, but it’s rather challenging. To prepare to dance on pointe, I strengthened my feet while actually wearing my pointe shoes. I started at the barre going through very easy and simple exercises such as relev├ęs – going up and down many times so that my body, feet and shoes got used to the movement. Throughout the process, I found myself looking at my female colleagues’ feet and was able to learn from their years of experience. First Soloist Chelsy Meiss taught me some pointe shoe tricks such as using an exacto knife to cut the shank and shave the bottom of the shoe, darning the box of the shoe with cotton thread and taping my toes to avoid blisters and bruises. I also learned that while going on pointe is a lot about foot strength, a big portion of power also comes from the top of the legs including hamstrings and glutes. Once I was able to make that connection and not rely solely on my feet to do all the work, things started getting easier!

Sir Frederick Ashton is a quintessentially British choreographer. Did your time at The Royal Ballet School prepare you for this particular style?

For three years I attended The Royal Ballet School - Upper School, which is right across from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. During my time there I was able to watch The Royal Ballet in many rehearsals, see them perform a variety of Ashton and MacMillan works and was lucky enough to understudy for the company in Ashton’s Ondine. This allowed me to observe their style of dance in depth. For my graduating year, I performed in The Dream and I already knew that the work was very musical, tidy and emphasized the use of the upper body. In school, I was coached by Christopher Carr who also set the production on the National Ballet earlier this year. I find Mr. Carr to be one of the most inspiring ballet masters today, particularly for Ashton's works. He pushes the dancers to be extremely precise and musical, executing the steps as originally choreographed. He speaks about becoming the steps instead of just doing them and he strives for clarity and again, musicality. I am excited to be revisiting the role of Demetrius, one of the Lovers, which I first performed as a student and to debut the role of Bottom in the upcoming performances of The Dream.

This season, in addition to your responsibilities in the Corps de Ballet, you’ve been guest teaching company class. Tell us about this experience.

Teaching has been a passion of mine for a long time and now being able to teach the company and lead my co-workers through daily class, is a privilege and an honour. Teaching pushes me to think about what dancers may need to start their day successfully and the fact that I’m still dancing gives me a useful perspective from both sides. I structure my classes around musicality as, in my opinion, music is movement. It’s like breathing and I find it so beautiful when the dancer becomes that breath. I also like to bring focus into the room in a joyful way, encouraging the dancers to warm up their bodies as well as their minds with exercises and combinations that stimulate their brain and bring focus to the present moment.

You’ve also been teaching with In Studio since 2014, almost 10 years into your professional career –where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I aspire to become a ballet master and teacher in the future but, for the moment, dancing is still my priority. I consider myself really fortunate to be able to experience and practice this passion I have for teaching and to be given the opportunity to do so by the Company. Also being able to learn from my coaches here at National Ballet and observe their work, is a very formative opportunity for my future.

The Dream and Being and Nothingness is onstage November 21 – 25, 2018.

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