20 Questions with Joe Chapman
May 14, 2020

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

Drawing, listening to podcasts and working out.

2. What would you have done as a career if ballet hadn't come your way?

Maybe journalism or likely something else to do with communications and storytelling.
3. Have you ever had an embarrassing moment performance-wise?

On a recent tour of The Sleeping Beauty in Washington, D.C., I performed one of the suitors in Act 1. The heel of my shoe got stuck in the costume and I tripped in the middle of the stage. I hit the ground hard but was so embarrassed I almost bounced back up. Luckily a fellow suitor collected my hat which I had left behind. I have had many other situations where I have lost a shoe onstage or been entangled in the set. Luckily most things go unnoticed because there are other things happening onstage or that is what I like to tell myself.

4. What is your work philosophy?

My work philosophy used to be to work as hard as I can. Be the first to arrive, the first to leave and always remain a student. However, this can be a demanding philosophy. A lot of my motivations were external. My philosophy now is to dance in a way that keeps me mentally and physically healthy. I try to work in a way that I believe in. I have always believed that technique is the foundation on which artistic freedom is built, especially in classical art forms.
5. How do you handle criticism?

Criticism can be the most useful tool to help a dancer improve. As with all information it is important to assess where the criticism is coming from, if it is constructive and if it is given with the dancer’s improvement in mind. Criticism can be used to demoralize or to push an irrelevant agenda. It is important for me to take on only what will help me improve.
6. Favorite colour and least favorite colour?

My favourite colour at the moment is ‘British racing green’. My least favourite colour is ‘fake tan orange’!

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

Success and ballet are subjective, both to the person attaining it and to an audience. In sports, success can be measured by medals and personal bests. In the arts, success is visceral and ephemeral. A dancer may feel for a moment that they have performed at their best. However, an observer may not like the way the dancer moves or looks. At the end of a career, there are many undefined ways a dancer may have been successful. At this time, my definition of success would be that I am happy enough with how I serve the art form and hopefully will be satisfied enough with my contribution that I can let it go when the time is right.
8. What’s the worst thing about being a dancer and what’s the best?

The worst thing about being a dancer are mirrors, all day every day you are analyzing yourself on a purely physical level. The best part of being a dancer is the rare moment where months of preparation means that you can allow yourself to let go and connect with the feeling or emotion of the style or character you are interpreting.

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

Come on Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners.

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

I love musicals, sports and nature.

11. What was the last thing you changed your mind about?

Posting a video of myself dancing on social media.
12. What cheers you up on an off day?

Talking to childhood friends in Australia.

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

Sugar addiction and procrastination. I’ll start working on them soon.
14. What is your favorite memory of being onstage?

There are so many. The best moments are of standing on the side of the stage as a minor character, with no pressure, but being a part of someone else’s performance. My memories are of small details: Marianela Nuñez making meaningful but fleeting eye contact; Madeleine Eastoe rolling through her point shoe as if suspended; Adam Bull sweeping past in a variation; David Hallberg looking at a pas de deux partner as if she is the only person in the universe; and Alexander Campbell saying so much with the flourish of a hand. Lots of turns and big jumps are impressive for a moment but details like these are the human touches that will stay with me forever.

15. Favorite ballet?

Can’t have one answer for this one!
  • Favourite traditional ballet is Swan Lake, for its incredible music. 
  • Favourite 20th century ballet is Onegin by John Cranko for its drama and pas de deux. 
  • Favourite 21st century ballets for what they have done for the art from are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Winter’s Tale by Christopher Wheeldon
  • Favourite one act ballet is Dances at a Gathering by Jerome Robbins for its structure and style.
  • Favourite contemporary piece made on a classical company is Angels’ Atlas by Crystal Pite for its humanity.
16. What's the biggest risk you've taken, either personally or in your career?

Moving from Melbourne, Australia to Toronto, Canada was both a massive risk personally and professionally. I am grateful for what it has taught me about where I come from and who I am, for better and for worse.

17. When are you most proud of yourself?

When I make the people around me happy.

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

Frontline workers around the world who continue to serve the community even in the face of a deadly virus and misinformation.
19. Do you have a favourite quote?

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars | But in ourselves.” This quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is quite relevant at this time. Spiritual belief systems like astrology or religion will not help us fight a pandemic or prevent the implications of climate change. The responsibility lies with us. Spirituality alone will not save us but it can give us strength to be proactive in using science to save ourselves.
20. Finally, what is the top item on your bucket list?

At the moment, my top item is to design, build and live in a house surrounded by trees.

Learn More About Joe >

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