Interview with April Ball of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo
Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo is an international company of 50 talented dancers. American April Ball will return to the United States for the company's performance of Romeo and Juliet at Northrop Feb 27-28. We asked her about life as a dancer.
How did you become a dancer and how long have you been with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo? I was born in Pennsylvania, started dancing when I was 4 years old and have never stopped since. After winning a gold medal in the International Ballet Competition in honor of Rudolf Nureyev (Budapest, Hungary) and a silver medal in the International Ballet Competition (Jackson, Mississippi), I became a professional dancer at the age of 16 as a freelancer. The following year, I joined Boston Ballet where I stayed from 1995-2003. There I rose through the ranks from corps de ballet to principal. I joined Suzanne Farrell in 2003. In 2004, I joined Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo and have been with the company for the last 13 years.
What role do you dance in Romeo and Juliet? I have danced Juliet and Lady Capulet.
Describe a typical day in your life with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. My one-and-half year old usually wakes me up around 7:30 am. Since we are often on the road or performing late into the night, I take advantage of a little time with her before I leave for work. Every work day starts with a 90-minute ballet class.
If we are just rehearsing, I normally will work from 10:30 am until 6:30 pm with a one-hour break for lunch and two 15-minute breaks. In my breaks, I may squeeze in a costume fitting or a quick shower. If we have a show in the evening, we will have easier rehearsals and a longer break in the afternoon and then have our show in the evening, which often lasts around two hours. Even if what I am doing is hard, the people I work with at Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo are great to be around, so a lot of my day is spent smiling.
On most rehearsal days, I get home around 7:30 pm. I eat, get the baby to bed, and try to fit in some school work since I am trying to get my college degree in business online. On a performance day, I may get home at 11 pm and I usually just try to decompress from the adrenaline and relax so I can sleep and do it all again the next day.
Do you have any specific routines that you follow to prepare for a show? I love to take a nap before each show. Most of the time it is just a 20-minute power nap. I feel like I start a new day where all my energy is completely dedicated to the show. I think it is important to have rituals that separate a performance from “everyday” life. Live performances can be magical and I like to treat them that way.
What are your biggest challenges in performing each piece? Sometimes it is hard to overcome my fears of not being good enough. The best way I have found to get over that is by letting my role take over and using my character’s strengths as my own. This way I can take myself out of the way. For example, in Maillot’s Romeo and Juliet, Lady Capulet is very self-assured and domineering. She has the strength of a father and the femininity of a mother. I may feel afraid on stage, but she never would. So I channel her to find my strength and self-assurance on stage. Afterwards is another story!
If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be? I absolutely love using the arts to communicate with other human beings. If I wasn’t a dancer, I would still like to be involved in the arts. I would love to direct a ballet company and connect audiences with choreographers and dancers that have something to say.
Who inspires you? My director, Jean-Christophe Maillot, inspires me every day with his energy and passion. I love the way he is always gathering ideas from everything around him and then using those ideas to create ballets that he molds and develops around each individual dancer from the corps de ballet to the leading principals.
Where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been? I am in awe of the inside of the Garnier Theater in Monaco. Being inside is like being in a tiny jewelry box lined with gold and red velvet. It was built inside of the famous casino in 1879 and is uniquely beautiful. It even has windows with a stunning sea view. It is a truly magical place where a beautiful designed space meets living art.
Why do you dance? It is hard to explain but dancing is not a choice for me--it is a necessity. From the first moment I saw a ballet I was in love. I tried some other kinds of dance too, but ballet just clicked for me and it quickly took over my life. It was never easy, but I love a good challenge. When I realized at 16 that other people could be touched and changed by what I presented on stage, it was a revelation. I still love exploring, performing and pushing my limits. I believe all people need to share something of themselves with others. I do it with dance.