Promoted to First Soloist of the Royal Ballet at the end of the 2015/16 season, Claire Calvert makes her début as the Sugar Plum Fairy this New Year’s Eve on the Royal Opera House stage. And what will she be wearing you ask? A tutu and ‘blob’s of course.
What were your first thoughts when you found out you would be debuting as the Sugar Plum Fairy this season?
I was extremely excited as of course it’s a dream role for any ballerina to do but with that comes with a great challenge as it’s a role that requires a strong technique along with that sugary performance on top.
Why are you looking forward to performing the role?
It’s always been a dream to dance this role having watched it from a very young age. The music is incredible and the challenge of doing such a highly demanding role really pushes me.
What do you hope to bring to the role?
As it’s my first big classical role with a grand pad de deux, solos and coda I really hope to show my experience and what I have learnt in my career so far and that I can hold the stage as a principal ballerina.
What makes The Nutcracker special for you?
It’s a ballet I have been involved in since I was 11 at the Royal Ballet School and have practically done every role from a ginger bread, mouse and party child at the school through to a snowflake as student at the upper school and now worked my way through to finally get to perform the main role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
How long did it take for you to learn the initial choreography and what were some challenges it posed?
It didn’t take long having watched many other people rehearse and perform the role although it’s amazing how many times you can see something and still not know what comes next or which way to go. I guess it was when things happened musically that I had to check the most, but it very quickly settled in my body.
Who have been your coaches for the role and have you had any memorable moments?
I have been extremely fortunate to get the chance to be coached by Darcy Bussell along with Christoper Saunders who make a great team. Not only is Darcey a huge inspiration to me but it’s wonderful getting to work with someone new that can get a fresh look on you and your technique and performance, it has made the process even more exciting.
What is your favourite part of the role’s choreography and why?
I couldn’t say I have a favourite part but getting to dance to such wonderful music really is a very special experience.
What brand of pointe shoes do you wear and do you do anything to them to prepare them for a performance?
I actually wear a shoe that was designed by Bob Martin and when he retired he very kindly taught Bloch how to make my shoes, which in the Royal Ballet Company are now know as ‘blobs’.
I do a lot to my shoes darning, cutting, breaking but will wear them in class before I would wear them on stage to feel how they feel in my foot and break them into the type of shoe I want for the particular part.
Who is your partner for the role? Why is it important to develop a rapport offstage with them?
My partner is Reece Clarke who is also debuting in the role so it’s been a wonderful experience to work together on and I hope we will get to work together on a lot more things. It always helps to get a long with everyone you dance with as I think it makes it easier to show your partnership on stage.
What should audiences look out for in particular when they come to see The Nutcracker?
The transformation scene is a very special moment, watching the tree grow and everything become bigger with it is very magical.
What are your ‘words to live by’?
I like to think that I live by the theory that ‘everything happens for a reason’. However, I do have to wonder what the reasons are sometimes.
A good steak or a burger
Ha! That’s very difficult – lots of good movies out there!
I’m not a big animal fan but I was obsessed with dolphins when I was younger!
[Featured image: Claire Calvert as Myrtha in rehearsal for Giselle, The Royal Ballet © 2016 ROH. Photo by Andrej Uspenski]