The Artistic Director of English National Ballet answers ten of Prospect's questionsby Prospect Team / July 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
First news event you can recall?
A volcanic eruption that produced a landslide in Colombia in 1985. I saw my parents crying looking at the television. I remember seeing a little girl who was trapped in the mud and they tried to save her for days, but they couldn’t. It was devastating.
The book you are most embarrassed you have never yet read?
There are many books I wish I had read, not out of embarrassment but genuine interest. One of them is War and Peace—it is supposed to be one of those books that marks people, and explains the workings of society.
One bit of advice you’d give to your younger self?
You are trying hard enough, try and enjoy the journey more. I think I never felt good enough, and I didn’t want to regret not trying hard enough, but I think there should be time for everything in life.
Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with?
Sergei Diaghilev and Ninette de Valois. They both transformed the history of ballet, and left an indelible legacy for the future of the art form. I hope Diaghilev would have understood what I’m trying to do at the English National Ballet as it’s very much inspired by what he did with Ballet Russes.
What was your most uncomfortable on-stage moment?
Whenever I didn’t believe in what I was doing. I have never been able to pretend.
If you were given £1m to spend on other people, what would you spend it on and why?
Right now, I would put it towards the new premises being built for English National Ballet. Not only will it be a place where the art form of dance will be transformed, but it will help guarantee the future of the company for a hundred years.
The talent you wish you had?
Rhetoric, the ability to inspire through words. Writing. I love how a good speech can change the world. When you hear the speech of “I have a dream” (Martin Luther King), or some of Shakespeare’s speeches like the “Honourable Man” (Antony in Julius Caesar) you realise the power of the word to convey ideas and move people.
The best and worst presents you’ve ever received?
The best a ring and a painting because of who they came from and the meaning they have. The worst are always home trinkets. I detest clutter.
What is the biggest problem of all?
Understanding the meaning and purpose of life.
Are things getting better or worse?
Depends who you ask. I want to believe better. I am an eternal optimist, I always think things are going to get better. I think despite the headlines life for most people is better—there is less hunger, vaccines save millions of lives every year, women’s position in the world seems to be getting stronger, and people like Malala Yousafzai make you feel like the fight for education has a voice. All those things make me feel better.