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Blood, sweat and sheers

Blood, sweat and sheers


Abigail Boyle, a dancer with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, has received recognitions for both her classical and contemporary roles and has inspired choreographers to create roles especially for her. Speaking with Victoria Tait, Abigail provides an insight into the world of a ballerina.

It’s almost every little girl’s dream to become a ballerina, however, the reality is long days of intense physical and mental exhaustion. With the intensity of each role it is not hard to admire Abigail Boyle’s determination to perfect every role she assumes. Initially training in Christchurch at the since-closed International Ballet Academy, Abigail joined the RNZB in 2005. Her principal roles have included Didy Veldman’s Carmen, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora, George Balanchine’s Who Cares? She has toured with the RNZB to China, USA, UK and Italy. In 2013, she featured on the reality television show The Secret Lives of Dancers.

Could you describe a typical day in the studio, when preparing for a performance such as Speed of Light?
Class starts at 9.30am after a personal warm-up. Class is an hour and a half long and it’s a chance for us to warm-up get our bodies and minds ready for the day’s rehearsal. At 11am we rehearse the upcoming show – in this case, it’s an amazing show called Speed of Light – I’m in all three of the dance works so it’s a full and busy day. We have one hour for lunch break and then continue working until 6pm. I usually ice my lower legs and stretch at the end of the day and sew a new pair of shoes to prepare for the next day. Most weeks we work Monday through and including Saturday.

What was the first solo role you performed? Can you tell us you how felt during this performance?
I was given solo roles in my first year working for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, but my first title role was Carmen in 2010. I knew I suited the role and the contemporary choreography sat well on my body. It’s a role that needed a lot of confidence and enthusiasm so I was focusing on that rather than my nerves. I thoroughly enjoyed every performance and would love to revisit it before I retire.

With having danced major roles in both contemporary and classical ballet, can you describe the major differences? And, do you have a preference?
I find classical ballet takes more out of you in a shorter amount of time than contemporary. Contemporary is more extreme on the body, but it can be more forgiving in the sense you can adapt slightly. Classical is strict in making perfect positions and you feel fatigue more quickly. Personally, I have more long-term injuries during a classical season than during a contemporary one. I can’t pick a favourite as I see equal beauty in both.

What advice would you give to your younger self or someone embarking on a career in dance?
You’ve gotta love it. If you don’t you won’t want to live and work in the studio, therefore you won’t improve. I have always stood by the quote: “The will to win is never as important as the will to prepare to win.”

‘What can people expect from Speed of Light?’
Speed of Light is a such an exciting programme. For audiences to be able to see these three internationally acclaimed works by some of the world’s leading choreographers all in one night is amazing. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated is iconic and has been danced by some of the world’s best ballerinas – I’m honoured to be dancing in their footsteps. Selon desir is fast and powerful set to the most moving music by Bach – the RNZB first performed this work during our international tour to the UK and Italy at the end of the year so It’s great to be performing it for NZ audiences now. Cacti is so much fun, it’s really witty with split second timing and it’s such an entertaining work with the bonus of having the New Zealand String Quarter performing on stage with us. All I can say to Cantabrians is don’t miss Speed of Light. It’s a world class show.