Jun 072013


When did you start dan­cing?
Maina Gielgud coaching 381x500 Maina Gielgud answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ EditionI took my first bal­let classes when I was about 6 years old. It was in Brus­sels, and with a Rus­sian teacher mar­ried to a Bel­gian. Her name was Mme de Zeum.

After my first class she asked my mother to get me some pointe shoes for the next one, “Her legs are strong.” Hence I got my first pair, black as I recall! Maybe because of that, pointe work never was the least bit scary to me; and she was right, I did have strong legs, and was none the worse for it icon smile Maina Gielgud answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition

And I can only thank Mme Nic­olaeva Legat for, later on, when I was 9 years old and in her board­ing school for a little while, intro­du­cing me to mul­tiple turns and fou­ettés at that age . Since then, I looked for­ward to the 32 fou­ettés when I danced Swan Lake, rather than fear them as many do. It did some­times go a little way too towards help­ing to save a less then sat­is­fact­ory performance!!!

Why did you start dan­cing?
I think it was music that made me want to dance to it in the first instance — but also, hav­ing had the good for­tune to be taken to see out­stand­ing per­form­ances, I wanted to dance those great roles. The mad scene was alway reen­acted in the bath­room afterwards.

The ambi­tion was not to be a prin­cipal, but to have the pos­sib­il­ity to dance and act Gis­elle, Swan Lake etc… not Aurora at the time, although it ended up the first full length I ever danced. It became a firm favour­ite when I dis­covered how much pos­sib­il­ity there is to act as well as dance it, and the vari­ety: from young shy prin­cess cel­eb­rat­ing her birth­day and being intro­duced to her suit­ors; fall­ing under Carabosse’s spell; being a vis­ion which seduces Prince Flor­imund; and finally reach­ing her wed­ding day and maturity.

The music is so glor­i­ous, the cho­reo­graphy helps speak it and tell the story — a great exper­i­ence — enhanced of course by per­form­ing it for the first time with Rudolf Nureyev, even with only two days rehearsal with him in the beau­ti­ful Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona.

Which dan­cer inspired you most as a child?
In no par­tic­u­lar order: Plis­et­skaya, Beriosova, Hightower. Most Rus­sian dan­cers of that time, Ulan­ova of course. But also Vyroubova, Chauviré and many more… All very dif­fer­ent, but all styl­ish and with enorm­ous personalities.

Which dan­cer do you most admire?
Of the present dan­cers: Osipova at the top of the list! I just love the guts, the determ­in­a­tion  but most of all that she has a POINT OF VIEW about everything she dances, and she 100% believes in it, and that is all too rare nowadays, where so many dan­cers are so care­ful and fear­ful of being ‘wrong’. It makes audi­ences sit up and care and cre­ates the health­i­est of controversies.

Nic­olas LeRiche as one of the great male artists of our time. I find fas­cin­at­ing, inter­est­ing and interested…

And then the very tal­en­ted dan­cers at any level who have yet to find the place where they can develop and flour­ish, and who are pre­pared to risk all to find it, rather than sink into self doubt. Wasted tal­ent is so sad to witness…

Serait ce la Mort with Jorge Donn 500x372 Maina Gielgud answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition

in Serait-ce la Mort with Jorge Donn

What’s your favour­ite role?
Well that‘s a hard one! I used to say, with truth, that it was the one I was dan­cing at the time. And I think it’s import­ant that it be that way. I don’t see how any dan­cer can per­form at their best, unless, through some means or other, they find a pas­sion for what and who they are portraying.

Now in hind­sight: Juliet, Gis­elle, Aurora, Odette-Odile, Béjart’s Serait-ce la Mort, Webern Opus 5, and Le Voy­age Pre­ludes, and Mazurka in Les Sylphides, Myrtha, and so many more… so I guess it is still the same, as I think of them, each trans­forms into a favourite!

There were only two I didn’t like… but I’ll only admit it to myself even now.

What role have you never played but would have liked to?
Manon - Tatiana - Shrew!

What’s your favour­ite bal­let to watch?
Any clas­sic with great artists who make me care about their characters.

Who is your favour­ite cho­reo­grapher?
So MANY! They are all so dif­fer­ent — it‘s like say­ing which is your favour­ite fruit — straw­ber­ries or rasp­ber­ries or peaches or man­goes! SO — here goes: Cranko, Mac­Mil­lan, Petipa, Bournon­ville, Bal­anchine (the older I get the more I appre­ci­ate), Fokine, Ashton, Rob­bins, but also cer­tain works of Massine, Kylian, Ek, and Béjart of course.

Of the present gen­er­a­tion, I‘m very inter­ested in Wheel­don, Rat­mansky, McGregor (whom I think I would have much enjoyed work­ing with as a dan­cer), Crys­tal Pite.

The list is very obvi­ous I’m afraid, but that’s because there is good reason for their cho­reo­graphy to have lasted.

Who is your favour­ite writer?
Lewis Car­roll, Mar­cel Proust, Iris Mur­doch, Win­ston Churchill, Dickens.

Who is your favour­ite dir­ector?
Peter Brook, Peter Hall.

Who is your favour­ite actor?
Mag­gie Smith, Glenda Jack­son, Judi Dench, Alec Guin­ness, Colin Firth, Ben Kings­ley, John Hurt, Peter O’Toole… and my uncle of course, Sir John icon smile Maina Gielgud answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition

Who is your favour­ite singer?

What is your favour­ite book?
The com­plete works of Lewis Car­roll — the con­trast between his schol­arly per­sona and the fantasy of some of his writ­ings. Mar­cel Proust, and then the list would go on and on.

What is your favour­ite film?
It was very, very dif­fi­cult to watch, but the recent Amour was one of the best films I have ever seen in every pos­sible way. Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire, Quar­tetBridge on the River Kwai.

Which is your favour­ite city?
Aaaaahhh — all these impossible ques­tions! Right — here we go: Venice (well any­where in Italy), Lon­don, Paris, New York, Sydney, Cape Town, Boston, San Francisco.

What do you like most about your­self?
My perseverance.

What do you dis­like about your­self?
Always feel­ing that I am run­ning after time.

What was your proudest moment?
Here we go again… I guess it is any time I feel I have said some­thing that trig­gers cre­ativ­ity in a dancer.

When and where were you hap­pi­est?
Well, I have been blessed in know­ing and work­ing with some extraordin­ar­ily inspir­ing people. And I think it was when I was in their orbit.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Great artists, whatever the art form, and… great food!

What is your greatest fear?
I am too super­sti­tious to spell it out…

If you could change one thing about your­self, what would it be?
My eye­brows. I plucked them when I was a teen­ager, and they never grew back, so I am obliged to draw them in every single day!

What do you con­sider your greatest achieve­ment?
Don’t really think about it.

What is your most treas­ured pos­ses­sion?
My mini iPad these days. Amaz­ing how much it does for me!

What is your greatest extra­vag­ance?
Food, shoes and bags. Oh, and electronics.

What do you con­sider the most over­rated vir­tue?
Well I don’t really know, but I used to think a good motto to live by was to do to oth­ers as you would be done by, but now I real­ize that how I would like to be done by, is not neces­sar­ily at all how oth­ers would like icon smile Maina Gielgud answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition

On what occa­sion do you lie?
Rarely I think, but if I feel telling the truth might be hurt­ful and det­ri­mental, then I might, but first I’d rather try to avoid say­ing anything.

If you hadn’t been a dan­cer what would you have liked to be?
A math­em­atician (I was really good at maths at school). A philo­sopher. Any­thing involving being with anim­als (prefer­ably wild).

What is your most marked char­ac­ter­istic?

What qual­ity do you most value in a friend?
Put­ting up with me!

What qual­ity do you most value in a col­league?
Work­ing towards the same goals, even if through dif­fer­ent means. Sense of humour.

Which his­tor­ical fig­ure do you most admire?

Which liv­ing per­son do you most admire?
Nel­son Mandela.

What do you most dis­like?
Mint and ani­seed. Misunderstanding.

What tal­ent would you most like to have?
Of the gab?

What’s your idea of per­fect hap­pi­ness?
Pretty close to what I have right now — the pos­sib­il­ity of assist­ing tal­en­ted dan­cers to find their way in the profession.

How would you like to die?
Without notice.

What is your motto?
Too much is bet­ter then not enough! (It’s easier to take away then to add…)


Maina Giel­gud — a biography

Trained by the great Rus­si­ans includ­ing Tamara Karsav­ina and Lubov Egorova, and later Rosella Hightower, Maina Giel­gud has had an incred­ibly diverse career cre­at­ing works with Maurice Bejart’s XXth Cen­tury Bal­let, and as a prin­cipal with Lon­don Fest­ival Bal­let and Sadler’s Wella , an inter­na­tional guest artist, and part­ner­ing Rudolf Nureyev. She then dir­ec­ted The (1983–1997) and the .

Free-lancing since 1999, she stages both clas­sical works such as her highly acclaimed The Sleep­ing Beauty and Gis­elle for The Aus­tralian Bal­let (staged also for Boston Bal­let, Bal­let du Rhin, and Hou­s­ton Bal­let), and vari­ous works cho­reo­graphed by Maurice Bejart, includ­ing Serait-ce la Mort, Bhakti, Webern opus 5, and Songs of a Way­farer.

Maina made a comeback in 2003 as a dan­cer and act­ress in Bejart’s L’Heure Exquise, and now guest teaches and coaches around the world. She had a spe­cial rela­tion­ship with Eng­lish National Bal­let under the dir­ect­or­ship of Wayne Eagling, with whose dan­cers she worked for sev­eral months each season.

In 2012, she staged Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quix­otte for , and Maurice Bejart’s Song of a Way­farer for the .

Janu­ary 2013 saw her sta­ging Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc for which will be per­formed by the com­pany in New York this October.

In May 2013 Maina revived Erik Bruhn’s La Sylphide for the Bal­let; it was the last pro­duc­tion he did for The Aus­tralian Bal­let, in 1984.

Next stop Milan at for guest coach­ing of Nureyev’s Swan Lake with Nat­alia Osipova as guest artist.

with David Garforth Anais Chalendard Freiedemann Vogel Lisa Bolte ex principal of The Australian Ballet and assisting me with this production and her daughter Olivia 700x466 Maina Gielgud answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition

Maina Giel­gud with David Gar­forth, Anais Chal­en­d­ard, , Lisa Bolte (ex prin­cipal of The Aus­tralian Bal­let and assist­ing me with La Sylphide, Rome 2013, and her daugh­ter Olivia)

  One Response to “Maina Gielgud answers the Gramilano Questionnaire… Dancers’ Edition”

  1. Thank you so much for mak­ing an inter­view on this won­der­ful baller­ina
    I had the pleas­ure of meet­ing her many times through­out my dance career and she has always been a true inspir­a­tion to many young dancers

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