How I started to dance and first memories of dancing
I do not have a specific first memory of dancing, because all my early childhood memories involve dancing ballet in one way or another.
When I was four, I was on pointe in my living room practicing the “Rose Adagio” from Sleeping Beauty, using the door handle as my partner and wearing my sister’s tutu tied in knots in my back, since it was far too big for me.
My two elder sisters were dancing. My grandmother took the oldest to watch a performance once and she fell in love with ballet that night. She first started dancing and then my other sister followed. They are a few years older than I am, so by the time I was born, they were already fully into ballet. We went to a local ballet school situated within a theater, where we performed full-scale ballets from a young age. Our training focused more on performing than technique; it was quite different to taking classes in a studio. Pointe shoes, tutus, sets, music and everything that goes with a dance performance were all part of my universe as a child.
Striking stage memories
I have so many wonderful stage memories. The première of a Bournonville ballet, “A Folktale”, choreographed by Nikolaj Hübbe, is one of them. I was dancing a character called Fruken Birthe. It is more a dramatic role than a technical one, and those are my favorites. It was an incredibly special evening as I could fully connect with the role. Therefore, I felt very confident and could totally immerse myself in the performance. I got the extra joy of receiving a positive reaction from the audience. It is quite rare for me to be this confident and, knowing that a role truly fits you. I could totally indulge myself in it, not trying to be something I am not. I felt the exhilarating freedom that I had nothing to prove. To dare to experiment in the middle of a première is very rare. There, it was a free stage. It was very special every time I performed it.
What I wish the audience would feel
I wish for people in the audience to relax and follow me on my journey. I try to give them an experience of a journey throughout the evening, rather than display my physical strengths, techniques or steps; those should come second. For this to happen, a narrative is not a requirement, it can also be an abstract piece. I wish people would experience me, rather than watch me. That they just enjoy the moment without understanding or analyzing every step. More than anything, that they let me engulf them.
Will ballet still exist in 500 years
What a difficult a question!
I want to be optimistic and say it will, because ballet is one of the loves of my life. I want to believe that the strength of people, who love it, will keep it going. Ballet has increasingly become an athletic performance. Nowadays, it has slowly become about how high one can jump or how many pirouettes one can do. However, ballet is not about an athletic performance, as much as it is about dancing. And dancing has existed since the beginning of times. If I look at it from that angle, it is not even a question: people will still dance in 500 years. We humans differentiate ourselves from other mammals as we move our body to music for enjoyment and spiritual purposes. Therefore, dancing should exist as long as humans do.
How I feel on stage
This depends on what piece I dance. I aim to feel present in every moment. For me a good performance is when I feel completely present, both physically and mentally, even if technical perfection is not there. Earlier in my career, I was more concerned about the physical execution of a performance. Now, it is more about losing myself in the moment. There is nothing more exhilarating than lose oneself in the moment.
Responsibility towards society as an artist
Life is hard and people face challenges of many different kinds. For me it is about giving them moments of inner peace. If I manage to give to people in the audience a few minutes of inner silence and the opportunity to regenerate, the performance will be a success. When I am part of the audience, watching a show and realizing the artist gave me this silence, this to me is the sign of a great artist.
The opposite of dancing
Going to the supermarket. Purely practical and mundane. Boring. Meaningless routine.
I would say to someone who never went to watch ballet
Ballet is not something you need to be educated on to enjoy. Don’t go into it thinking you have to know about it. It is not only for cultured people. Ballet is a personal experience. It exists in the moment and can be many different things to different people. For each member of the audience and for each artist, ballet can be something else. It is beautiful to watch people dance. Just let the dancers take you along!
There are many preconceived ideas about who should or should not be in a ballet audience. We should break free from such stereotypes”.
Kizzy Matiakis is Principal Dancer at the Royal Danish Ballet, Copenhagen