Bucks dancers take to water with Amy Drew in EYB’s Swan Lake

Virtuoso Swan Lake

English Youth Ballet brings Swan Lake to the Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, this Friday/Saturday for a charity production that will raise funds for the Children’s Ward at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

The company is made up of eight professional principals and 100 local dancers, aged eight to 18, from around Buckinghamshire and the surrounding areas.

Principal ballerina Amy Drew, 29, will be dancing both the White Swan – Odette and the Black Swan – Odile.

Here Amy, Perth, Western Australia, she talks to Stage Review about her career.

She has been a principal ballerina with English Youth Ballet since 2011. Prior to joining EYB she danced with the Tasmanian Classical Ballet Company, Ballet Ireland and the Royal Opera Company.

Amy also coaches and choreographs for the young dancers and she is a great role model and inspiration to them.

Amy Drew outside Waterside Theatre (photo Richard Read)

What is it like being a principal dancer with English Youth Ballet?

Life as a principal dancer with English Youth Ballet is very full-on. We teach and choreograph for the young dancers in the company and then dance the principal roles in the ballets.

I have found a real love for teaching since dancing with EYB – its come as a good surprise how much I have enjoyed working with the children.

What roles will you be dancing in Swan Lake in Aylesbury?

I am dancing both the White Swan, Odette, and the Black Swan, Odile. Normally the same dancer plays both roles but in our version of Swan Lake the two characters actually meet so I alternate the roles with the other principals.

The roles are very iconic in the world of ballet so its a real honour for me to be able to dance both of them.

How different are the roles you will be dancing?

The White Swan and the Black Swan are very different characters with very different styles of choreography. The White Swan is very modest and soft in her dance style. Her movements have a very melancholic feel as she is very sad. The Black Swan is very fiery – she is a nasty character and deceptive. The choreography is stronger, energetic and spiky.

What are the biggest challenges and some of the things you enjoy about dancing the role of the White Swan?

The biggest challenge for me in performing the White Swan is making the movements very long, slow and filling out the music. That is quite hard for smaller dancers like me.

The movements never stop and need to go right to the ends of the musical phrases. I think the thing I enjoy most about her is the fragility of her character.

And what about dancing the role of the Black Swan?

With the Black Swan the biggest challenge is the strength and stamina required. It is like a burst of energy and its like dancing from 0 – 60mph in a split second and then maintaining it for the 6-minutes Pas de Deux in Act III.

You have to be ready to come on and be explosive. It is such a contrast to the White Swan. The Black Swan is such an iconic role – the audience is waiting for certain aspects of the choreography like the 32 fouettes at the very end.

A fouette is a turn on one leg using the other leg to whip you around. The fouettes come at the end when you are pretty tired and many of the audience count them and expect to see 32. There’s even pressure in rehearsals as the young dancers in the cast sit at the sides and count them too!

What is the main thing you would like to teach the young dancers?

I think the main thing I want to teach the young dancers in the cast is to have hunger, passion and excitement for what they do. Also to develop the drive and motivation within themselves to make it happen.

I think it is really important that dancers are not pushed too much from external forces. I like them to find a way for them to do it for themselves.

All the dancers are at EYB because they are good and because they perhaps could go on and become a professional dancer. But it is a tough profession and they need passion and a love of dance to succeed.

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