Nancy Osbaldeston is a professional working ballerina at the English National Ballet Company. Here she talks about her role in ENB’s latest production of Romeo and Juliet, the future of ballet in the world of dance and the pros and cons of her chosen career.
Nancy, 21, started dancing at a very young age, attending ballet classes offered at her local nursery. After keeping up the hobby throughout her childhood years, she auditioned for the part of a little girl in the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker. It was this first real experience of the ballet world that inspired her to pursue a career in dance, after being “truly wowed” in playing just a tiny part of the production.
It was from this point that Nancy started to “get more serious” about her dance. She became an associate for both Northern Ballet Company and the Royal Ballet, taking extra lessons every week. At the age of 16, Nancy auditioned for seven different ballet schools up and down the country, finally settling in London with the English National Ballet school for three years.
After completing her training, Nancy was offered a contract with the English National Ballet, and has been dancing as an artist of the company for the past three years.
Nancy at 18 dancing her solo at the 2008 Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland
You are currently performing in Romeo and Juliet at the Milton Keynes Theatre. What is your role?
I am one of Juliet’s friends. We play with her at the beginning and dance at the ball with her as well. We have to act like young girls around 14 years old so it’s quite fun.
Romeo and Juliet is one of the ballet classics. How has ENB made it its own in this production?
Well, this production is Rudolf Nureyev‘s production which he choreographed on the company with himself as Romeo when he was still alive. The lady who was his Juliet , Patricia Ruanne, and her husband Ric Jaun (who was the original Tybalt in the same production) came in to teach it to us. They taught us exactly how Nureyev wanted it.
Which has been your favourite ballet to perform and why? Which venue?
My favourite ballet to perform was Elite Syncopations by Kenneth MacMillan – the costumes are fun and the music is jazzy. My favourite venue is the Royal Albert Hall because you’re literally surrounded by the audience and when you look up, they’re above you as well! You can also see the faces of everyone in the stalls! The Royal Opera House is a favourite as well, however I have yet to perform on this one.
Do you have a dance idol or anyone who has influenced you in your career?
Many people have influenced me, every single teacher that’s ever taught me, any person who ever gave me a correction or comment over the years. They all have helped me to improve. They help you believe in yourself,and that you will be able to achieve. It’s when you stop getting corrections that you know they’ve given up on you! There are so many different and amazing dancers out there – I have lots of idols, it’s hard to choose! Marianela Nunez and Alina Cojacaru would definitely be up there!
In your eyes, what makes a good principal dancer?
Someone who makes you go WOW…or makes you feel something inside. These days flexibility is a must but you have to have something on top of that as well. Musicality is very important too. In an average ballet audience about 80% won’t know anything about ballet technique, so if it’s a story ballet, a principal dancer needs to be able to act.
With the growing popularity of hip-hop and other new styles of dance, do you feel ballet is being pushed to the edge of the dance scene?
Yes and no… it’s true, ballet isn’t on the television as much as the other styles because of programmes like Strictly Come Dancing or So You Think You Can Dance. However before these programmes there generally wasn’t much of a dance scene, so the fact that they’re promoting dance is great for all the styles.
At the moment we are actually in the process of being filmed for a year for a two-part documentary about life with English National Ballet. I think this will be interesting for people to see the real life of a ballet company and what goes on backstage… or maybe not.. we’ll wait and see! But I do think ballet needs to be brought up to date – featured in music videos or something just to appeal to a younger generation.
Best part of your job? Worst part?
Best part is performing and wearing pretty costumes and make-up! It’s like playing dress-up and putting on a show for your parents when you were little, except now I’m 21 and get paid to do it! Worst part is I have bunions bigger than your grandmas!
Any advice for aspiring young dancers?
Believe in yourself because anything’s possible.