Hayley Forskitt & Brian Maloney
First Artist & retired Soloist, The Royal Ballet
interviewed by David Bain
Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church,
London, 1 February 2008.
HAYLEY STARTED DANCING at about three or four with her sister who was two years older. She did everything: tap, jazz, modern, ballet. It was a local school with about 30 pupils in the girls-only class. She went three times a week and ballet was her least favourite and she even refused to do it at one point. Then at festivals she won quite a few medals, she loved performing and it grew from there. Hayley showed promise so her mother took her to audition for monthly Junior Associates (JAs) at Birmingham where they wanted her to attend weekly. She was eight or nine and had already missed a couple of years. She really enjoyed being there and performed in BRB Nutcracker. Peter Wright auditioned her and was still giving the same corrections at the Royal Ballet this year – be excited, smile.
She dreaded Friday nights before JAs, but by Saturday on the train she was looking forward to it and to seeing her friends and the Company. She appeared in BRB’s Coppélia. There were 20-30 in the girls’ JA classes. She auditioned for White Lodge over two days on a weekend. Her mother asked if she wanted to go and Hayley knew it was what she wanted. She loved White Lodge, had a great time in the building, and loved being with other people who loved ballet. She loved music, moving and dance, and was always making up dances with her sister in the house.
Brian also performed in front of the family. His older sister danced which is probably how he started. To start with tap and jazz maybe once a week until twelve when he was first exposed to classical ballet at the San Francisco Ballet summer school and he saw the type of training involved. The following summer he went to the Kirov Academy in Washington DC. It was very intensive and he knew he wanted to do ballet because he enjoyed perfecting technique and performing. He knew he was on the right path. The Kirov Academy was a six hour flight from California. Initially he went as a try and see. Ballet attracts perfectionists to detail, sometimes without knowing the broader picture. Brian enjoyed the school.
Hayley absolutely loved White Lodge even if a few people did not. She loved the connection with people, your friends became your family. She loved ballet. Also in her year was Lauren Cuthbertson (best friend at school) Nathalie Harrison, Leanne Cope, Paul Kay, Jonathan Watkins and Zachary Farouk. Later Ludovic Ondiviela, Matthew Golding and Olivia Cowley joined in the Upper School. Theirs was known as the golden year – so many good dancers.
Both the Kirov Academy and Royal Ballet schools are Russian training based, all in one building, both had academics and an intense ballet atmosphere based on the Vaganova. Hayley’s teachers in Upper School included Jackie Barrett whom she had also had in White Lodge, together with Patricia Linton who was old school and strict. When in the 5th year Jackie Barrett appeared, she was young, a big personality and did things very differently. Hayley performed in the Brown Couple in Concerto at the end of year performance at the Opera House. They rehearsed for a whole year with Mr Peden. She performed Snowflakes for BRB, Swan Lake with Francesca Filpi and walk-on parts in Don Quixote and Firebird.
Brian’s earliest experience of the Royal Ballet was in 1998 in New York as an extra in Prince of Pagodas carrying a spear at the side. Cinderella was also in the repertoire for that tour. He also performed at school when 13 with Kirov Principals who came over to the US, such as Altynai Asylmuratova, Faruk Ruzimatov and Andrei Batalov. They would be children and flowers.
At the end of school Hayley went auditioning and enjoyed the experience. The Royal Ballet School is very enclosed, you only see Royal Ballet dancers and pupils, during auditions you see other dancers. She got to the final stages at a lot of places but either there were no places or they needed experienced dancers. Olga Evreinoff recommended Norwegian Ballet to Hayley. She and two others from the school were going to auditions there but she had an ear infection and could not go. One of her friends got a place, then Hayley went a couple of weeks later and got a contract for the Swan Lake run. They really wanted her but did not have a contract available. Espen Giljane was the director, just before she joined. It was the dream to get to Royal Ballet, so it was upsetting not to be offered a contract but she is so glad to have had the experience from going to a new country and meeting new people.
Audio clip - Norwegian Ballet and Le Jeune Ballet de France:
Norwegian Ballet gives out permanent contracts as it is very wealthy. These guarantee a job to 41, which is the retirement age; it is ideal to bring up family and to settle there. The contract allows a period up to three years away from the company which is great for the dancer, but some go away and lose shape but are still entitled to their job back when they return. Then there are no spare contracts available for younger dancers. The company has no ranks, which is a good thing. Dancers are cast because they are good for the role. There is a set salary on top of which the dancers are paid for the role they perform. Hayley joined while the company was still in the old opera house which was a bit run down. The new house opened in 2008, it is stunning, beautiful, huge, modern, Scandinavian, and overlooks the sea. However, the Royal Ballet was still a dream and she had been away from home a long time so why not try? She auditioned and got the job.
Brian’s first job was in France with Le Jeune Ballet de France which does not exist anymore but consisted then of about 20 dancers. A friend at the Kirov Academy had joined, he came back and said it was good. Brian auditioned in 1998 and had a wonderful time there. Often in a new company you do not get the chance to dance, but this company toured France and the world and he did all sorts of dancing. It was great exposure and experience. Previous members included Tamara Rojo briefly, Hikaru Kobayashi both before he arrived, plus Juan Boada who joined San Francisco the year before Brian arrived. In the second year Anette Delgado joined but she hated it.
Hayley’s first ballet in Norway was Swan Lake, the Anne Marie Holmes version. Her first solo was in Cinderella. She did more nice roles such as Rose Fairy and Snow Queen (both Nutcracker), Polyhymnia (Apollo), Queen of the Dryads (Don Quixote). She did a lot starting in the second year. She did Queen of the Dryads recently in the new Royal Ballet production by Carlos Acosta, in Norway the version is Nureyev’s, Carlos’s has a beautiful solo and scene but it is tough and very heavy and Carlos has inserted pirouettes where there had been a rest break. Brian in Young Dancers danced La Fille mal gardée pas de deux, the Bluebird pas de deux, a small version of Don Quixote, Suite en Blanc and loads of contemporary work. In Norway they did Forsythe, Kylián (a quadruple bill featuring Polonaise and Falling Angels) and Duato, a good mixture of classical and modern. Forsythe’s Second Detail was her best time on stage. The Forsythe team is incredible to work with, extreme movement and taking risks which Hayley likes. Forsythe goes to Norway for two weeks because they have enough money to afford him. His team is very inspiring, they give a workshop before starting work where you get into the groove, dancing to hip hop, anything, so they can see how everyone moves, their personalities and there is improvisation too, it’s a whole different world of thinking. When you get the hang of it, it’s brilliant to be that free on stage.
Brian did Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, again the Forsythe team was amazing but Forsythe did not come to Royal, Noah Gelber rehearsed it. The cast included Ed Watson, Miyako Yoshida, Alina Cojocaru and Zenaida Yanowsky. It was just fantastic, but he was young and stupid enough not to comprehend the opportunity. There has been no Forsythe at the Royal since. Hayley commented that they need time to rehearse Forsythe and the Royal Ballet do not have the time. Maybe Vertiginous was chosen because it has a small cast.
After two years in France Brian went for a Royal Ballet audition. He came to London after he had sent his CV and picture to Monica who was the Assistant Director at the time. He came to class, on Thursday and Friday, but the first class must have been on a Company day off because there were only Principals in class, he lined up with Carlos, Irek Mukhamedov, Darcey Bussell, then someone came in and said “can you wait for Sylvie”. Betty Anderton took class, she was hysterical, very fast, did not show specific steps, but everyone else knew what they were doing. Monica Mason came at the end of class. Anthony Dowell and Monica watched the following day. They spoke to Brian afterwards, Monica would be there the next day, they were interested but financial meetings were coming up. Next day, they still needed to talk and would let him know in three to four weeks. This was the beginning of 2000 just after the House had reopened.
Brian did a class with David Howard for the Ballet Association a few years ago, with Tamara Rojo and Tim Matiakis. Sadly David died this summer. He was one of original Sadler’s Wells dancers and worked under Ninette de Valois, he really was a man of the theatre. Work was not full time in those days, there were more exposure to theatre. He retired quite early at 23 or 24 and wanted to be a hairdresser but somehow Rebekah Harkness got him to the US to teach. He was very generous with his time, he did not tell you to put your arm here or leg there, more it was that he told you what needed to happen internally to achieve the desired shape. He is missed very sorely. Brian was honoured to have met him and spend time with him. Hopefully he absorbed something for him. He returned to the Royal when Gelsey Kirkland came, she brought him.
In Norway, they had the money to bring in who they wanted. A great Cuban teacher Svetlana Ballester and Olga Evreinoff taught class. They would come for a month at a time. Hayley emailed Monica saying she was interested in the company and now had lots of experience. She was invited to class for a week and stayed with Lauren Cuthbertson and Jonathan Watkins. There were a lot of Nutcrackers scheduled at the time. A few people watched at the window, Monica, Jeanetta Laurence and Ursula Hageli. At the time Monica said she would watch properly on Saturday, it would be Olga’s class, which was good as Hayley knew the format from Norway. Monica said she would like to give Hayley a contract but none were available. In May she came off stage after Christening Suite (Christopher Wheeldon) and the phone was ringing, “Monica here”, she told Hayley over the phone that she had a job for the following 2009 season. It was a long wait which was not very nice. The Director in Norway, Espen Giljane was a little upset when she told him, he liked her and had given her opportunities. But she has no regrets. She still has her job in Norway, they have kept her contract open. Although she has been away longer than three years the new Director Ingrid Lorentzen, who was a dancer when Hayley was there, has kept the contract open because she likes Hayley.
A lot of good opportunities came early in Brian’s career, perhaps the second year. Working with Mats Ek and Sylvie Guillem on Carmen was a highlight, but it grows in his imagination. Ek looks into your soul and tells you what you need to hear. He knows people instantly and knows what to tell them and how to get the best out of them. There is a neverending stream of detail, the fact that something was not good enough just inspired you to do more. After working with Sylvie as her husband in Carmen, she asked for him to be her Lescaut in Manon. He enjoyed working with the team, but Carmen had been new to the company, while Manon was established with lots of expectation. At the time, David Wall was at the Coliseum, so Brian stopped him at stage door, introduced himself and said it would be wonderful if he would come and teach Brian. This ruffled a few feathers (perhaps because he was American or was it from Sylvie), but eventually Monica brought David in. It was invaluable to work with the creator of role; for his appreciation, just the little things, there was something inside him that Kenneth had extracted from him. Sylvie wanted the best out of everything so ruffled feathers, it was needed to get the best for the end product on stage.
At the end of his career Brian danced Colas in La Fille mal gardée. A lot of your career depends on riding a wave of exposure on stage, but Brian’s career had been interrupted by a lot by injury. Over the years Monica often mentioned that Colas would suit him. Although he had a semi fractured right foot before the show, he still had a ball. He was coached by Lesley Collier and Alexander Agadzhanov, and Yuhui Choe was Lise. It is just really fun to rehearse, churning butter, sitting on a bench. Enjoyable, the essence of it is pure joy. Wonderful to dance, rehearse, the music is great. Also, you know that it is effective as a ballet.
Hayley found being back in corps tough in some ways. She joined the Royal Ballet as an artist and it felt like starting from scratch after being a soloist for six years. However, she was covering good parts, but then hurt her knee at the end of the first year and was off for a season, it was devastating. She felt she had just got going then it all came to a halt. It took a whole season to get back, but now things are finally picking up again. Mayerling was the first ballet when she returned. It was embarrassing rehearsing being a whore in the first week. Christopher Saunders does these rehearsals. It was good to be back in the building, back with friends, performing the ballets she had grown up watching. It was nice to go back to the original, best versions. In Norway, they did Swan Lake, Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty but the Royal versions are MacMillan and Ashton, you cannot get better than these, the musicality, the sets, the costumes. She fell in class one day. had a scan and they found a stress fracture. She rested for five months, then another scan showed it was healed but the cartilage had worn away and it needed an operation. She was in a leg brace and on crutches for a long time. She watched a lot of TV. She and Brian nursed each other a lot. The relationship started when she was off with her knee injury, after the operation. Brian was good at nursing, a wonderful carer. Then when she was better, he was injured.
Brian’s first injury was thought to be a stress fracture but was a benign tumour, the removal of which led to subsequent fractures. There were tendon tears, and he did a mini version of the right foot fracture, before he obliterated it in the Swan Lake pas de trois. It’s amazing what they can do these days with screws, plates and wires. After the surgery he worked with various people. In the ballet world there is a culture of going to people that others have been to. Tamara and Carlos go to Capote in Cuba. It is physical work, stretching with a deep understanding of the body and what a dancer needs. Lots of strength training. He used a Spanish guy in Madrid used by Tamara and most recently Patrick Rump who he is now working in the House.
Hayley’s first three seasons in the Royal were affected by injury. Her first soloist roles were in Carlos’ Don Quixote. She had an idea in advance but you cannot really know until it goes up in black and white on cast sheets. It was an exciting time, a new ballet, by a star everyone looked up too. Rehearsals started a whole season before it went on. Carlos has so much love, passion for his ballet, so much energy. Rehearsing knowing it was not on for a year could be tedious but he got them going. In Queen of Dryads, Carlos added bits in the middle ‘rest’ section. It is a different production, a different coach, a different time in your life so cannot compare with doing the version in Norway. She enjoyed dancing with the men which was a lot more in Carlos’ version. She enjoyed Mercedes, the Spanish flair. She prefers acting and a role you can get into.
The Arabian in Nutcracker was a debut on Monday, she really enjoyed it, but it is a little bit scary. It is strange being up in the lift for the entrance – it is very high – entering the stage, with feet off the ground. While getting ready you are grounded then one, two, three and you are up and out of control. Eric Underwood was her partner, and again she is high up when he took her off. He is a great partner, very strong. She is also doing Arabian with Ryo Hirano who is another strong partner. She does not know of anything else in the rest of the season but doing the Diamonds rehearsal tomorrow morning with Elyse Borne. Pat Neary is also around and she makes it known. Brian worked with Pat on Agon and also on Theme and Variations, Serenade and Symphony in C. Pat is full of stories and hugely entertaining.
Brian had been in Royal Ballet for 13 years and decided to retire while he could still walk and while he still loved it. He has had a lot of injuries which has led to his next career. The option to transition arose and he thought it was the right time. Sports scientist Patrick Rump, with whom he spent a lot of time with on his foot injury and who first came to the House for Alina’s neck surgery, has been here five years. He wanted Brian, and Brian wanted to contribute with what dancers do and how they do it. One of benefactresses gave financial help to make it happen. Patrick approached Brian, then they told Kevin what they were thinking, Kevin was very much for it.
It involves a couple of things, teaching classes, a normal class and one that finishes with special plyometric exercises for jumping. It is quite hard with a dancer’s schedule, it takes energy to be there. The rest of his day is in the healthcare suite, in the gym working with injured dancers, doing coaching. When injured, your sense of yourself changes and you tend to pull away from the injury. You need help to overcome this. Brian understands what a dancer needs to get back based on his own experience. In the distant past, Monica had done all this on her own. Exactly what is done depends on the phase of the injury and how acute it is. As soon as the dancer can weight bear, they increase the weight load. A big jump off one leg for example is equal to six times your body weight. So they build and start at back of barre, Brian checks good alignment, he works on certain weaknesses in gym, it is back and forth between barre and gym to build back up. This fits in with other approaches such as pilates but is more motor control, less severe. Different people prefer different things. A physio may work on soft tissue with manipulation. Dancers choose who they work with. To laughter Hayley pointed out that Brian is very popular.
Hayley feels it was a good move to go to Norway. You grow as a person and she met new people, a new culture, learnt a new language, danced rep she would not have otherwise. Coming back, she can offer something from that experience which others cannot. It is good for everyone. Some work in four to five different companies. But once in the Royal Ballet, in a great city like London it’s hard to leave. Dancers from overseas possibly develop quicker because they have more confidence and self assurance. Going overseas builds this. Brian feels dancers from outside have less reverence in a situation, have confidence, have been exposed to different dancers and ways of working. All companies work in a similar way. You learn how to make it work for you, you have a shallower understanding when you have only been in one company. You learn how to push yourself forward in the right way.
Next Hayley would like to be challenged and to do as much as she can. She likes the Queen of Wilis, Lilac Fairy, she could have fun with the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She covered Lilac Fairy before the injury. But it is changing with a new director. Brian is happy where he is now, nice to be in the same place, with friends and colleagues but doing a different role, but no plans are set in stone. He will see where it takes him. A lot of injury potential is down to the schedule which, for dancers, is out of their control. Therefore they are reactive to the situation. It is difficult to be proactive as takes time and energy.
Hayley enjoyed Draft Work pieces with Kristen McNally, as she is a dream to work with, lots of fun, she brings a lot out of you. It is about having fun on stage, a big personality, and it is a great way to be seen. It is good to be seen in different ways. She hopes to be in the next Kristen new work.
Brian feels his body just was not made for dance. It is a very difficult place to be as a soloist, doing soloist work, occasional principal work and corps work. But he had inherent weaknesses from the beginning. Less work would help reduce injuries. The other week, the Royal were rehearsing 10 different ballets and performing three. Going from Balanchine to Ashton, from McGregor to Wheeldon. It takes a lot from the body. There is the consistency of work, from September there are six days off in March, then after the season there is the tour which is a different type of demand. Some people survive well others do not. At Paris Opera Ballet there is a similar workload, big classics and contemporary too but they have 160 dancers, nearly twice the size. So a cast doing Swan Lake does not also do McGregor at the same time. So they can focus on the work more.
There is a Sports Science degree in Germany which does not exist here in the same form in England. Post cold war, the motivation was to get “über” athletes. Brian is like a personal trainer, he will do an Exercise Physiology degree in the Open University next year. He wanted to bring to sports science what he learnt as a dancer.
Asked about Bratfisch in Mayerling Brian said it is a difficult role, it is on the periphery, observing, one of the few characters aware of what is going on throughout the whole ballet. He has to inject some humour, sometimes you feel a bit silly trying to inject this happiness. Not one of his favourite parts to dance, although he is nominated alongside Nicholas Le Riche for a National Dance Award.
Hayley and Brian were engaged in Japan this summer 2013, on tour. The wedding is next summer.
In thanking them, David said Brian had been a good supporter of the Association over the years. It is great to have Hayley in the Company now and actually dancing roles. We are looking forward to the rest of her career and it is good to have such a nice couple to talk to us.
Report written by Chris Scott, corrected by Hayley Forskitt, Brian Maloney and David Bain. ©The Ballet Association 2014