Jun 072013


When did you start dan­cing?
Maina Gielgud coachingI 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 :)

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 David Hall­berg 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…

Maina Gielgud in Serait ce la Mort with Jorge Donn

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 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 :)

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 :-)

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 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 Rome Opera 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 as guest artist.

Maina Gielgud 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)

Maina Giel­gud with David Gar­forth, Anais Chal­en­d­ard, Friedemann Vogel, 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

 Leave a Reply



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>