We chat with Naomi Solomon (NS), William Brooke (WB) and Grace Hume (GH) about their careers in ballet.
Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
NS: My name is Naomi Solomon I am 26 years old and from Cornwall. I have been with Vienna Festival Ballet for 3 and a half years.
WB: My name is William Brooke, but everyone calls me Billy. I come from Leicester and live in London. I am a classical ballet dancer and have danced professionally for just over a year.
GH: My name is Grace Hume, I am 23 years old and I have been dancing with Vienna Festival Ballet for three years now. I was born in Sevenoaks, Kent and at the age of 11 I began my training at Elmhurst Ballet School where I remained until I joined Vienna Festival Ballet.
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
NS: My job involves one month of rehearsing from 10am-6pm Monday to Saturday, where we usually put together 2 ballets per season. Once the rehearsal process is done we then go ‘on tour’ where we pretty much live on our coach for the next three months performing in a different venue every day across the UK.
Our average daily routine would consist of meeting in Hammersmith at the designated time and travelling to the venue whether it’s 2 hour journey or 4. We then have a couple of hours once we have arrived to do our hair and make-up and relax a little. Then we do a ballet class on the stage for approximately an hour and a half. We will then space the show on the stage and make sure everyone knows where they need to be; this is important when going to different venues all the time as the size of the stage can vary a lot.
What’s great about your job?
WB: Since I was young I’ve always said that I didn’t want a desk job. I love dancing, and in this job I get to go around the country with some great people, dance for an audience and get paid for it.
GH: The best part of my job is saying that I do something I love every single day. Every day is different and live theatre means that you always have to be prepared for every eventuality. Dancing on stage with my friends brings me such joy and it’s an honour to call it my job!
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
NS: I find travelling most challenging. We could be up and back to Manchester in a day and then the next day be somewhere down south, so before you can even consider how you will feel after a full show you have to factor in the exhaustion from travelling.
GH: There’s not much I don’t like about my job, but I will say the most challenging aspect would be late nights. We often have to travel many hours after a show. However we do have a lovely comfortable coach which makes it much more manageable.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
NS: One of the highlights in my career was last season I was dancing two very technically difficult parts in Giselle - it was the most I had ever done as a soloist. But I think this season will definitely be the biggest highlight as I am currently in rehearsal for my first principal role in Snow White as the Evil Queen.
WB: The highlights of my career so far are performing as Dr Coppelius in the ballet Coppelia. In this character role I had to portray an old man, so it was a different challenge to just dancing because I also had to find and develop a character. Also this season I have been given the opportunity to dance the Sugar Plum Cavalier in the Nutcracker. This is a great role as it is the pinnacle of the ballet - I’m excited by the technical challenge it will hold.
GH: The highlight of my career so far would have to be performing the role of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. It’s a demanding yet rewarding role that most female dancers long to dance, so I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to perform this on tour.
How did you get into an arts job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
NS: My career path into this job was slightly different to most of my colleagues as I trained at a predominantly musical theatre school in London (London Studio Centre). This meant when I first got the job at Vienna Festival Ballet I received a lot of ballet training, but just not to the same level as those who went to a purely ballet school. In between seasons with Vienna Festival Ballet I do a lot of hospitality work.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
WB: The biggest challenge of my career so far has been actually auditioning. I spent a little over a year spending each weekend travelling to different companies to audition for a job.
I found this a huge challenge mentally as it so competitive and there will always be better dancers than you. But as dance is a subjective art form, you could be the best dancer in the room, but maybe the company director doesn’t like the way you dance, or you’re too short, or too young.
It was pretty demoralising receiving rejection upon rejection, on some occasions I even considered if it was worth it. But I decided to set a date and work hard and carry on trying until then, and luckily a few months later I got this job. I am so grateful to be in it as I really can’t imagine what else I’d do if I couldn’t dance professionally.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so what?
NS: I have noticed that the lines between ballet and contemporary are merging quite significantly more than before. Companies are modernising their works a lot requiring dancers to be more versatile.
GH: The biggest change I have noticed in the industry would be the introduction of modern works. Over the years it has become more common for classical companies to perform new work with a very contemporary style.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
GH: If I could advice my 16-year-old self it would be to take any negative criticism and use it to your advantage. You’re not always going to be liked by every choreographer so use it to help you grow as a dancer.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
NS: My advice would be to do everything, don’t just limit yourself to one genre. Take up any opportunity to do ballet, tap, commercial, singing, acting, anything. The industry is so competitive - the more strings you have on your bow, the more employable you are.
WB: My advice to a young person would be to work hard every day. Things won’t always go well but they will improve if you persevere. Always listen to your teachers but remember to listen to your body too. Most importantly enjoy it, some days you’ll get frustrated but remember why you are doing it - you’re meant to be enjoying it.
GH: My advice to any inspiring young dancers would be to pursue a career if it is what you love. So long as it makes you happy, it’s very rewarding to have all your hard work pay off!
The Vienna Festival Ballet are performing Snow White on 8th October and The Nutcrakcer on 9th October at the Theatre Royal Winchester.