Star dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, Evan Mckie in the extended interview for La Personne. He has told us about his creative journey, self-search while preparing roles, writing career and many other interesting things. The famous Canadian photographer Karolina Kuras has shot an amazing photo story specially for this issue.Evan McKie - The National Ballet of CanadaAuthor: Katerina Bornovitskaya

“A very intelligent dancer that has a spirit of a true artist”…that is how famous Canadian Ballerina and Artistic Director, Karen Kain describes you. Evan, from your perspective, how is intelligence in dance eloquently expressed onstage and what does it mean to be a true artist?

I’m slowly smartening up over the years through the act of engaging in dance itself to be honest. Like solve and coagulation, I needed to understand the sum of my parts and reconfigure them. Depending on environment the same particles can be either led or gold. It’s the only way for me answer such question. Physical eloquence has great value onstage and also in many parts of a private intimate life and so I know, the more I train my body and mind, the more I think and speak with my body, the more I hear and sense others and their bodies, the more I enjoy the possibilities and benefits that emerge from my profession. I just had the most interesting conversation with a dancer colleague about this the other day. The question was how far can you synthesize while dancing with someone… how “in tune” can you get onstage…

Your current Artistic Director, Karen Kain, has recently announced her retirement from National Ballet of Canada effective one year from now. Could you speak about your experience working with her? 

Karen has made so many of my dreams come true. She invited me here to be a guest artist in roles like Rudolf Nureyev’s “The Sleeping Beauty” and then allowing me to join full-time when I requested to come and learn from her and dive right in to the repertoire of the company here in my hometown of Toronto. Karen engaged outstanding choreographers like Wayne McGregor, John Neumeier, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon and Crystal Pite and allowed them to cast me in their ballets. I am so grateful for this. Not every director would allow this. 

When I asked her for guidance as I was trying to learn new ways to study for creative leadership roles for much later in life, she pleasantly surprised me by allowing for me to participate in a directors retreat in the UK and allowed me to take a short period of time off to shadow Mikko Nissinen at the Boston Ballet. I thought it was extraordinary that she allowed space for me to join at the rank of Principal dancer and engaged major ballerinas like Svetlana Lunkina and Jurgita Dronina as well. This sends the message that artists can and SHOULD have second, third, fourth lives and so on. This was a bold move in terms of changing the balance of the company and it allowed me to spend 6 years so far experiencing first-hand how she leads in relation to other notably successful directors like Reid Anderson (Stuttgart Ballet) or Brigitte Lefevre (Paris Opera Ballet) who I had been lucky enough to work with previously quite frequently. I came with the goal to learn new things, and I did. 

Karen also took my passion for commissioning new short works for ballet-galas seriously and even permitted us to bring in choreographers like Juliano Nunes to our annual gala and allowed us to bring our own commissions from fellow company members like Nicholas Rose to galas outside in other countries. When I felt like I needed mentorship, she introduced me to mentors and when I asked to dance with a few dancers who I may normally not get to dance with in the company, she gave me the chance! 

As I continue to use life’s many experiences to push my work further for this valuable part of a dancer’s career, I must remember to ask her how she felt as a 36 year old dancer who likely wanted to try new things and enjoy our art form to it’s fullest without losing all that has been invested so far. It’s a beautiful balance, I guess, that requires constant motion. 

Do you consider yourself a leader who would like to apply for such positions of responsibility in the Arts sector?

I am always asking questions… a different perspective maybe than many of the more traditional leaders I’ve respected in the past and I am very young with no executive management experience, don’t forget. 

I am decisive and I care very much about potential creative investments being developed to their capacities however, I have spent more time trying to connect artists with other emerging leaders and supporting both massive institutions and start-ups as much as I possibly can from right inside them. 

I couldn’t be any luckier in that regard. I’ve seen problems actually be fixed and I have been a part of choreographers and directors making sure their visions become reality. I have never applied for a leadership role in a ballet company and I have never expressed any outward interest in leading this ballet company though many people joke with me and say they know I “want it.”. 

I have always found that sort of absurd and amusing as if they think directing a massive body of amazing humans is the same as getting a new toy or winning the lottery. I am still learning so much. I am honestly not at the position in life where I want to leave the potential of being a dancer behind.

You started your studying journey at Canada’s National Ballet School, followed by the Kirov Academy in Washington and finally you entered John Cranko School in Germany. You lived in different countries, you learned different styles, languages and traditions – how did all this influence your unique style and which tradition anyhow prevails in your dance and your creativity?

It’s such a question… you’re right. It’s never over. I like sailing boats because you can chart a precise course but also feel the winds and undercurrents and rely on developing instincts needed to steer and enjoy the quest. Dance is like that for me. The relationships I build through each era of this profession mean so much to me. I take some of them with me. There’s something exciting and valuable and strong in everyone. I was lucky to have outstanding teachers all the way through. Once in a while a teacher wouldn’t have their heart in it and they would say horrible or misleading things to us, mostly because of their own insecurities and our vulnerability as youth, and those were the moments when I was made aware that not everyone is in a position to teach and develop those of us who want to learn. Maybe it was annoying for some having me in the class, I don’t know, but at a certain point I felt certain dance opportunities being withheld. Sure, I was probably too weak and gangly to do a lead role back then and my jump wasn’t high enough – and it may never be –  but my will was strong and I applied every correction. I asked myself “what IS dance?” …”how do I want to dance this role and see it be performed?”

Evan McKie - The National Ballet of Canada

Evan McKie - The National Ballet of CanadaI felt, that it was important to try to understand where everyone was coming from and why such decisions were being made but inside, I felt that, the only way to improve a dancer’s dancing is to let them dance. I was told that we could worship the icons who were dancing in all the best companies but we were told not to get there the same way they did; like challenging the system and trying to develop it. I knew that if I didn’t fight for my journey and my integrity as a dancer and person, nobody would. I was pretty hands-on about asking questions to some of my great mentors who came into my life and they gave me so much in return. They helped with understanding pedagogy…it you want development in your dancers, don’t whine and complain at them. Sometimes I’m shocked that this still happens. There are specific methods that are very important, similar to how a gardener takes care of the most diverse and pristine gardens. The traditions at the three schools were different and each moved at different paces. I also went to summer intensives and private schools to develop myself because my brain was racing ahead of my body and they both needed discipline and balance! They always do. I learned then to not ever be afraid to show yourself; You don’t need to fit into somebody else’s spot. I’m pretty sure each person has their own best way of giving and getting from the group. I think if you give something you get something back in the most beautiful ways. It is a very positive artform in that regard.

When and why did you decide to become a ballet dancer? Did you imagine that one day, you would become a Principal with the world-known companies, that you would become a ballet star?

I am here, wherever I am now, because of the contemporary and ballet dancers who paved the way! I know most of them and talk with them often if they are alive and well. Many are and are full of vivacity and vigour!!! 

I don’t really have linear ideas of success and I never have. I understand and admire ballet’s hierarchies and hyper-mannered dialogue in and out of our corridors just like it was in Versailles perhaps with Louis 14th…The more you understand, the more interesting it is. However, the bold truth is that I appreciate contemporary and expressionistic dance long before I started taking ballet. 

Civil discourse is important to me. Dance is a good way to break issues down and re-synthesize sometimes. 

Now I am part of an archival organization that catalogues and studies Canadian dance and dancers through history. 

Canada is constantly building and is, after all, substantially younger than the Art of ballet itself!! Before I was 10, I saw a ballet called “Onegin” and it opened my eyes and heart to what ballet could be!!! Embodied literature or embodied concepts for hours each night! My parents saw I was starting to take it very seriously and I kind of let the commercial dancing go and moved to the ballet school. My grandmother was a theatre director and my grandfather was an engineer who focused on some lighting design. I have been obsessed with light and stage concepts ever since.

In Stuttgart you were trained under the guidance of one of the best ballet teachers of the previous century – Pyotr Pestov. Among his students are Vladimir Malakhov, Alexander Vetrov, Nickolai Tsiskaridze, Alexei Ratmansky … Do you remember the most important things he taught you?

Yes, I absolutely do. He was a thinker. Most of his class was about musicality and counterpoint. It was a philosophy. He stimulated camaraderie between students too. I liked that. He was fanatic and also so friendly. He liked specific composers for certain exercises and told us to learn to play an instrument if we “really” wanted to supplement our chosen art of dance. There are books in which Mr. Pestov explains his technique. I interviewed him once for Dance Magazine…he said it was his first time. I think he was 80 by then. I have to thank my exceptional Director at John Cranko School, Tadeusz Matacz for facilitating and translating the tough words when I wanted to interview Mr. Pestov. Mr. Matacz was supportive in so many ways too…he really built momentum for each of our growing career paths. 

At the age of 14 you had a very serious knee-ligament injury jumping into waves of water you thought had more depth. There was a major chance you could never dance again, but you persevered. The doctors have called it a “miraculous recovery” that you healed without the (invasive at the time) surgery. Was it really a miracle? And how could you overcome it?

I was ready for anything. I did my work and it was strange and painful for awhile. We all have something broken or overstretched inside so we much go forth and be strong and adapt. My teacher Pestov helped me a lot by working the other muscles I needed with excruciating repetition. By the time a year had passed… the doctors said it was miraculous. They understood the science behind it but understood it has a lot to do with will-power and mind over matter. Now this is a big part of my studies; learning how the brain and body do the most unbelievable things when they are dancing and healing. I constantly talk about Japanese “Kintsugi” art of repairing broken porcelain with golden glue to highlight the broken spots and the objects re-emergence with greater value. I am just coming back from my first injury in three years because of a car accident and I had to remind myself to be strong. It is the missing a performance that is the tough part. Especially if I was only scheduled to dance one performance in that time period, it is still a major let-down to me and I have to just suck that feeling up and move on.

Evan McKie - The National Ballet of Canada

From the age of 15 to 30, you danced in Stuttgart and for six years you were a principal dancer with the Stuttgart Ballet. In 2014 you moved to Canada and joined the National Ballet of Canada. Why have you decided to take a new route and to change the theatre? And was it difficult to leave a place where you grew up as an artist, place that you gave so much to and has given you so much?

It was terribly difficult, yes, to prune that branch of my tree of life. But the roots stayed intact and I tried to stay practical about it and learn from it. I had put in all the work to embark on a wonderful career in Stuttgart and been very patient …and their wonderful management had given me so much of their time and passion, but very important people around me got sick at that time including my Mother, in Canada, who needed assistance right away. I wanted to be there for my family. I had also been through a sudden divorce that made me turn deep inside to deal with my own disappointment and embarrassment. I know most people don’t move because of a broken heart but I’m not going to say it wasn’t part of my decision. I guess I had been so focused on my company and career at that point to notice things failing in my personal life. Stuttgart was a hard place to say “auf wiedersehen” too and I would like to be back-and-forth more to make the most of all of the coaching and exciting young generation of co-actors. I’d worked hard to learn and all of the great role-possibilities were there too. A lot of people didn’t understand… they said “your Mom’s health must be really bad and your divorce must be really horrible in order for you to pick up all of your things and go home just as Stuttgart Ballet was about to tour Onegin all over Asia and the company was about to make a DVD of the same ballet that had been in discussions for months. (I had just danced Onegin in Stuttgart, Paris, Tokyo and Bolshoi ballet and really wanted to work on developing my portrayal further, especially after the pain of losing someone I loved. I wanted to do it better!) But the reality is, the family-matters and divorce were really THAT bad and I felt it’s what I had to do. Beautiful dancers in Stuttgart were instantly given opportunities to slot in, which is great because they are so talented, and The National Ballet of Canada (where I had been guesting) had embarked on a new campaign to radically develop their repertoire, and their new mission to “attract, nurture and retain” experienced global dancers really spoke to me. The seasons are not long, so we aren’t onstage as much as the majority of big ballet companies are yet but the repertoire is a very strong mix. I’ve danced around 22 new roles since joining The National Ballet of Canada 6 years ago. That includes small commissions I’ve been able to organize to supplement my own dancing and develop myself with the work of young choreographers and composers who I really believe in. I’m grateful to our director, Karen Kain for seeing how much more I want to get out of my career and artistry because I was such a late bloomer in Stuttgart and also because I’ve seen some of the dancers in Toronto do some of their best, most vital work after the age of 40!!! This is deeply inspiring because it really is some of their best work and audiences deserve seeing that alongside the exciting soloists of tomorrow being onstage at the same time! I think it takes an aficionado to understand how to run a cultivated multi-generational company and create enough genuinely exciting performance opportunities for them. It is almost impossible but there have been a few, like John Neumeier, who I’ve seen do it in incredible ways. I know I’m not even close to satisfied with where I’m at as an artist and dancer yet and so the journey is exciting. The work is more exciting the more I feel my body and mind opening up.

How do you feel about being in Canada again knowing that you are an insider there but also knowing what it feels like living as an outsider? Is it your responsibility to share and stimulate for the next generation and the people around you? 

It’s a special spot to be in for sure & I didn’t plan it like that; Half my life in and half my life in European culture. In general, It’s a pact I have with myself to search for the “innermost” and the “outermost” thoughts, feelings, places and ideas in our Art of Theatre. That is my responsibility to myself and that is what balances me. The next generations inspire ME and, yes, my career is very unusual and full of impactful moments that a few ask me about in great detail because of how wild it’s been. But I’ve got so much process I’m still looking for right now that I haven’t really come up for air… Each step must be important…in training, onstage, while performing, with friends, with family.

You are highly acclaimed in both classical and contemporary ballet. What direction is closer to your soul and your physicality?

I’m not aware of that … I just I think they are different mindsets. Ballet is molded upon you from the outside and contemporary dance often originates from inside, I think. It’s not easy or comfortable to learn new languages therein and that is why I love to try.

You are known for interpreting roles from literature almost the way actors do and you have cited actors as some of your inspirations for wanting to tell stories with your body. It has really become your specialization over your outstanding career so far. Do you see yourself this way too and does this shape what kind of work you look for?

John Neumeier has allowed me to test a wide range of personalities such as Karenin in “Anna Karenina”, Iago in “Othello”, Petruschka and Diaghilev, in “Nijinsky”, Mitch in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and this type of process learning about such characters gives me the deepest most exciting challenges as a dancer and person. Shakespeare’s roles mean a great deal to me because it was Hamlet choreographed by Kevin O’Day that first helped me push my own limits inside of another character’s thinking and Leontes in Christopher Wheeldon’s “A Winter’s Tale” and Romeo, Paris and Tybalt (Cranko and Ratmansky) gave me opportunities to let these characters inhabit my blood and challenge myself. These moments and opportunities are gifts that choreographers and directors give and I’m so thankful and surprised every time I am cast in a role.

Evan McKie - The National Ballet of CanadaDo you have favourite roles?

Onegin is near and dear because it’s how I fell in love with both ballet and literature as a kid and it’s how I got to started building relationships with the world. There have been many turning point roles that changed my course, my livelihood, my friendships my empathy for others…. All roles I’ve danced in Neumeier’s ballets and Wayne McGregor ballets have developed me as a person in this world, no doubt. I owe them eternal gratitude. I love Rudolph Nureyev’s “Sleeping Beauty” as well. Marcia Haydee’s was wonderful too; she had the brilliant idea in some ballets to give the villain, as much dancing as the prince which I think anchored the story and developed all of the characters in a more believable way then one often sees. There was also some genderplay in that role and I liked the conversation of what it even means to dance in a feminine or masculine way and how often these “villain” characters are just blurry enough in old story-books and even in Hollywood movies, that certain new things can be tried onstage as far as their physicality and philosophies are concerned. There are so many roles that I’d still like to try…with Mats Ek, with William Forsythe, with anyone who wants to put their belief in me. But it really feels good if it’s about dancing to learn, philosophize and even teach. The great choreographers and leaders I know have no drawbacks in that regard.

Besides dancing you work as a choreographer/movement director too. When did you first feel the desire to create?

I don’t really see myself as a choreographer and I am still trying to direct my own movements each day as a dancer. There are people who are just totally born to make steps and they blow my mind! Sure, I DO like concepts, creations, execution, movement direction, lighting, dramaturgy and even designing steps sometimes but… that is not choreography to me. I’m reticent to name myself a choreographer because I think that job can be done so well when it is pin-point specific about steps and movement vocabulary. It’s like engineering. I like designing and developing and archiving and referencing dance but I’m hesitant to call myself “choreographer”. There are others who dream of being choreographers and I’m joyful to see them in their element … I have only choreographed out of necessity of for special commission once or twice. Maybe I need to create a new term for what I’m interested in and let the choreographers do their thing!

I think there comes a point when content creation is important either way. The light just hasn’t gone on for me yet…but I do get inspired by either extremely great or extremely bad choreography to be honest! Everything in between can become a blur.

You created a piece for Olga Smirnova and you were her partner for performances in New York. Your work together was highly praised by critics and audiences. Tell us a little about your work with Olga?

With Olga, we are both always discovering. There are different stages of a dancer’s career that people accidentally impose on us and I feel that it’s most beneficial to constantly redefine how completely unique each career can be. Many people feel she’s in her golden era because she dances so well already but with Olga, the immense future potential that I see is still hidden and is invigorating. As dancers we are puzzles that we have to put together ourselves and once in awhile you get lucky and find the people who collaborate on that! I have been very luck with some of my partners in this regard. They have made my world more fruitful and shown me things that make me a very grateful man each new day.

You commission work from young choreographers frequently. How do you feel about equalizing the opportunities for choreographers in terms of gender and ethnic backgrounds? 

Each choreographer was researched and approached based on their merits and the type of process we thought we could give each other. Having said that, I would like to work with as many people of different genders, ethnicities and ideological backgrounds as I can. It is very important to me to try something that has not been categorically pre-scripted by another person in another era and another economy. Let’s not limit ourselves… and if we DO consciously choose to limit ourselves sometimes then let’s step outside of that every once in awhile to see if it is actually working well for us. There’s room for vast improvement, and some exciting discoveries I’d say.

Evan McKie - The National Ballet of Canada

Let’s talk about your professional writing career. You are a contributor and Advisory Board member for Dance Magazine US and Japan. How did you find the desire and ability to be a writer?

It is a hobby. An incredibly generous woman named Wendy Perron was editor-in-chief of Dance Magazine and I had read all the international magazines religiously over the years. She had seen that a small group of dancers had come together to write online about experiences in our areas of the world and support each other and engage in dialogue. She liked my style she said and asked me to write for Dance Magazine and eventually be on the advisory board. She’s really cool and mentors me still on occasion depending on the question. Writing is expression and I like writing about the sheer magic of my profession. I write poetry sometimes and I read a lot. New chapters are my favourite chapters.

How do you usually choose the subjects for your interviews?

Promoting great talent makes me very happy. I also photograph artists in portrait form but not all of the time…it has to come naturally.

Are there people you would love to interview with?

I’d love to be interviewed by Frederik Nietzsche and then I’d love to interview the entire Kardashian family…maybe even through interpretive dance movement haha! THAT would be a great party.

Why do you like writing and archiving so much? 

Facts are important and I owe much of my inspiration in this art form to a love of history and discussions about history, which, if we’re lucky, involve personal accounts from the artists themselves. I also document my own corrections and musings so they stay fresh and I can draw on them to improve later. Sometimes I look back and smile about nice feelings I recorded if I think that feeling may never happen again. Other times, I document patterns that I feel are not working so that I can make a positive change. Mostly, people would be surprised to learn that my diaries are full of stolen glances when I may have seen a colleague dance something extraordinary and I often describe just exactly how the light hit them in the moment and how it made me feel. I am inspired by so much that is around me and so I write it down.

And what do you think about interviewing someone else for La Personne Magazine? We have a special heading “Face to face” where ballet people interview other ballet people! 

That sounds cool! I have done something similar! It reminds me of Andy Warhol’s “Interview” magazine. I have a few candidates in mind already.

Evan McKie - The National Ballet of CanadaTell me about throwing parties and events… When and why did you start organizing costume balls?

In Stuttgart I felt like it was important to keep the common purpose alive because everyone I knew was totally immersed in it with their own perspectives. Everyone was thrilled to dance for their own reasons and thrilled to engage in the strong philosophies of the company which meant dancing with passion and heart. I thought that asking people to come in elaborate costumes would give them creative ownership over their own ideas for a couple of hours and let us all see different sides of each other. People started a little shy but by the 6th party, the amount of creativity had reached new heights and it came from each individual of the collective group. It was perhaps a bit of a selfish way for me to experience each of these colleagues in a more relaxed, silly and intimate way than what I was used to. The ideas that I saw come to life in those parties were very powerful and expressionistic. It became a ritual. I don’t know if everyone felt this way, but it made me enjoy our daily work more because we had newfound glimpses into each person’s creative stake in the company and what they were prepared to offer. It was really just about having fun though and seeing if I could pull it off from start to finish of each event.

You are involved in other different social programs too– in researching the use of Dance as part of rehabilitation from depression and drug addiction. You are a volunteer contributor to the recreational-therapy program at Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and for independent research focusing on neuro-plasticity training. Please tell us a little about these programs and what do you do for them? And why does this sphere generate interest for you?

I’ve seen what mental health disorders and drugs can do to people and I saw the effect music and dance had on some of these people. I created a kind of “make your own choreography” class which turned out to be quite advanced but it was a positive and exciting project that took a long time to get up and running. You can learn a lot about people when they are dancing. Studying neuroplasticity findings with experts in that field is also a voluntary part of my job as a dancer that also feels necessary because I’m so determined to understand those who move with accidental grace and ease and even those who are barely able to walk! I will continue following teachers in this ever-developing study. I am also part of an anti-Bullying group.

At the present time what are you mainly focused on? What are your desires and goals at this prime time of your ballet career?

My life is rich and full but I have much work ahead of me if I want to achieve the kind of unity and goals that I feel to be most rewarding. I have had so many people tell me I “can’t do this” or I “can’t do that” over the years and it lights a constant fire under me. It is a fire that motivates me, not to repeat the same patterns every day and eat the same porridge but, instead, to meet new people, take new avenues, vigorously study my art form with more passion and purpose from as many angles as I can with the help of each generation around me that is feeling the same way! I have had a handful of people who have given me extreme and wondrous opportunities to legitimately succeed and work with purpose and direction. The rest somehow could either not find ways to support me for who I truly am, or have not wanted to for personal reasons of their own. Either way, each chapter of life, it is a blessing to find those few incredible believers who thoroughly commit to something and learn how to become one of those people myself, for others. This is imperative and my life is wasted if I am not doing that. It is particularly gratifying to find these golden creative relationships in a stew of  “maybes” and “not sures”. Going back to your first question of this interview about what a “true artist” is… I think it is just about constantly deconstructing and developing the right synthesis of ingredients. The pure nature of such a process is very humbling and for that I am thankful.

Evan McKie - The National Ballet of Canada

 

Blitz 

First appearance on stage

I was three and I had to be a letter of the alphabet and recite it. I think I was Z! So I had to be very patient. But I took time to enjoy the feeling and the slow build. Looking out at the dark space and feeling all of the strong energy from it. Finally it was my turn to perform and I kind of never really stopped…

Your day starts with…

It doesn’t officially feel like it’s started until I’m dancing. Developing all the bends and balances.

I’ve never tried…

I’ve never tried being in outer space. But sometimes I totally feel alien and people look at me that way! Like I said earlier, I am always looking for my innermost point and my outermost point and the meaning and measuring of that through dance. That makes my life very rich.

3 things are always with me

Always with me:

Some type of humour. I have a lot of laugh-attacks with people and we’ve had to reign it in a few times in rehearsals or on an airplane or something…

On a superficial level, some element of basic black clothing maybe and the texture is important. Anything else on top of that is pure ornamentation but that basic black is how I start and end my day.

My body is always with me and it has been the greatest teacher about life so far!

Your favourite city

Paris because of how welcoming it has been to me and maybe Barcelona because of how hard to define it is. Both cities have a lot of thought stored in their buildings, planning and peoples. I’m also curious about some of the oldest and very newest cities in the world. I live in Toronto now and it is expanding rapidly.

I am proud of…

Anyone who lets dance be a part of their life in any way on a continuous basis and people who overcome extremely difficult circumstances. And I’m proud of anyone who refuses to be bullied whether it is the in your face kind used to humiliate or the most subversive behind-your-back kind used to undermine someone’s work and character. Growing up I remember losing respect for someone instantly when I saw or heard them bullying someone else. I remembering adoring those who didn’t need to bully because they built their strengths and empires in other ways. We often go into the theatre as youngsters or audience members in order to escape that horrible bullying that happens as teenagers and even beyond. I want to keep it that way.

Bright moments from childhood

This might sound campy or funny, but, have you ever tried to embody the precise nuances of Whitney Houston’s voice or the texture of Tina Turner’s voice or the cry of Michael Jackson’s voice? The task is endless!! I tried to do that as a kid over and over and over and, well, here I am still.

I am reading now

I’m reading an article about dance and human societies. But lately I have become immersed in the Opera and keep returning each week and being enlivened by that…. I have been learning more about Opera in books too subsequently and have a great Opera community around me including these wonderful historians who compare notes with me about our favourite artforms and craftsmanships over the last centuries.

In my playlist

Roisin Murphy, Lady Gaga and so much Chopin. J.S. Bach is my favourite classical composer but I have to be in the right mood to receive some of his music. I loved meeting Esa-Pekka Salonen and dancing Wayne McGregor’s YANTRA to his work! I’m always looking for young classical composers of course but I also like electro “hyperkinetic” producers like Sophie from the UK! And honestly, what would we do without Tchaikovsky and Prokoviev in our balletic lives?

I can’t live without…

Earth’s rhythms. Seriously…I don’t know if it is possible for our species to live without earth’s own little rhythm rituals that we take for granted so easily.… But there are scientists figuring that out!

The secret of success

The most widely kept secret of success is failure I think. It is inevitable and surmountable. Re-developing the parameters of what success can even be is kind of fun too.

The most difficult part of your profession…

The most difficult part is also the most fun for me; That is embodying and channeling all the harmonies! There is a kind of vulnerability to that and it can be overwhelming if it’s extremely beautiful. But there is a way to adapt and transmit with extreme discipline and ritual. I don’t mean like doing push ups or going to the gym, I mean like, “tuning in” to something or someone and being tuned. It’s the most valuable part of my process so far in this profession and it’s why I try to make conscious choices to work in a group.

Ballet in three words

Engineered, interactional, refined.

Your relationship towards social media

Social media platforms, to me, at this point are simply galleries or museums to be curated, modified maybe even studied. They construct views or discussions or ideas about reality but they are really not a full representation of reality itself. Millions of electronic friends and followers and likes are always a click away if you want and they do not, to me, represent something similar to human face-to-face relationships. It can be an echo chamber sometimes and it may eat itself one day but in the meantime it’s interesting to see how each person approaches it, artistically or not.

Any “epic fails” onstage

I guess it depends on how you look at it. Once, in the corps de ballet, a colleague pulled my dance-belt (suspensor) up so hard as a joke before I went onstage and the strap in the back broke and I had to do the whole first scene of Romeo and Juliet like that! My role was right in the front of the stage too and it was definitely a memorable experience trying to navigate that situation and do the choreography and not grab too much attention for the wrong reasons! In “The Sleeping Beauty” once my French-period wig Prince-pony-tail came undone during a split-jete menege and it is a really long ménage around the stage. By the end of it I had long luscious blond hair to my shoulders… My look changed from Versailles to Britney Spears in 10 seconds.

The ability you want to possess

Time travel…

Your state of mind and soul at the current moment

I’m in between very young emerging generation and more cultivated generation of dancers and thinkers at my job, which is also my passion…. I’ve faced and lived through periods of frustrating adversity at this job when I was about to quit but then major sudden opportunities to rise to the occasion appeared. Adversity like not fitting it, being mocked for asking too many questions, being teased for my ideas on gender and my unwillingness to accept certain norms fueled me and helped me along later…including overcoming injuries or wanting more development from myself or my community, or exercising extreme patience to prove myself…. I’ve prepared myself for other careers but don’t think I’m ready to accept some of those possibilities into my life entirely just yet. I will be…but I’m not now. I am returning from an injury this month and so I have been immersed in Opera, which has recently lifted my soul.

Evan McKie - The National Ballet of Canada