Francesca Velicu is a first dancer at the English National Ballet which she joined in 2016. An interview by Mathilde Menusier.
I grew up in Bucharest Romania and my first encounter with ballet was probably going to the Opera House with my mom to watch The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty: the classics.
I started taking ballet lessons at the age of 4. Of course it was my parents’ idea. They gave me the opportunity to try different activities like painting lessons, piano and guitar lessons, tennis, swimming. I consider myself very fortunate, even to this day, to have been able to explore different territories, learn from each one, and eventually choose the path that attracted me the most. I started piano and painting lessons at the age of 6 but ballet was always at the top.
Art is very appreciated in my family, so they all supported me through my journey, I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I’ve always been grateful for being able to learn so many things as a child because in time I realised what a big role they played in my career and life in general.
And they still do️.
Playing the piano had a big part in shaping me as a dancer and gave me a deeper understanding of music. Knowing how to count in different ways, how to hear the melody and understand it was a really important thing especially as a young dancer. I love the feeling that I get on stage or in the studio, when you are able to connect with the music and let yourself get lost in it . That’s when the real magic happens.
When I first started ballet, for sure I was intrigued by the costumes, the stage, the live music just like any other kid, but even more than this, the way all the little girls were sitting very disciplined at the barre, doing exercises to classical music every day, was creating such a beautiful atmosphere that attracted me. Waiting to go to ballet class was like waiting for Christmas to arrive, and I find it interesting how that didn’t change over time, even after it became my job.
In the beginning I didn’t like how much work and pain was put into it especially as I never considered myself having a body suited for ballet, but I’ve grown to push myself more and more, accept it and work hard but wisely with what I have.
I still remember the moment right before my first performance. The orchestra warming up. I love that sound, it always puts me in the right mindset before a show and helps me to connect with myself.
I have a lot of memories that come into my mind when I try to think of the best one on stage, what I love the most about a good performance or rehearsal is the feeling of pushing myself to the maximum and the satisfaction that comes with it afterwards. I’m not happy with just doing something good because it’s easy, I have to prove to myself that I achieved something first. It’s such an addiction, I always strive for more and more of that high. The lead couple in Theme and Variations by Balanchine is definitely the first piece that triggered that feeling.
Personally, both life experiences and hard work are fundamental to my career. For example, if there is a storyline and I have to portray someone, I always try to find even the smallest way to relate to that character. Our own experiences make us who we are and I like to think that when I step on stage, I leave a little piece of myself for the audience.
When I get cute messages from little ballerinas after a show, it makes me happy as I remember being one of them not so long ago. Now I work next to artists that have inspired me from a young age, adding motivation everyday to keep going️.
A few years ago, I sent a few clothes and shoes to a ballet school in Nairobi through a colleague of mine from English National Ballet. I remember it particularly touched my heart when she sent me a photo of one of the girls wearing my first ballet skirt. (See photo below.)
I think bringing arts to unprivileged children is vital, as it plays a big role in developing one’s personal growth. Each part of the world has its own tradition, mentality, history, I think everyone has something particular to offer and there are so many ways of expressing that. If we all contribute in bringing to art that little quality that makes each of us different, we could take it to even further places.
On stage, there’s a real exchange of energies between artists and the audience. Dance can do endless things. I don’t mean you have to be a professional, purely as a way of expressing one self. I think everyone should dance! Dance has the power to make people happy, can make them inspired, nostalgic, creative. In my opinion, we artists have the responsibility to keep the art growing and introduce it to as many as we can. It’s a language without any limitations that everybody can understand. I’ve always thought that art is different from any other activities because feelings and emotions are the foundation of it. To me, there’s nothing that touches the human soul or connects on such a deep level with it, in the same way as art does. And when that happens we start to think and act from the heart. I suppose that’s the best thing art can do to the world.