An Interview with Royal Ballet First Artist Claire Calvert

We have been busy guest blogging again this month: we interviewed Royal Ballet First Artist Claire Calvert for the Royal Opera House blog. The 23-year-old has recently landed such plum roles as Lescaut’s mistress in Manon and Winter Fairy in Ashton’s Cinderella. Claire also told us about playing the Lilac Fairy in the current revival of The Sleeping Beauty.

Here is an extract of the interview:

The Ballet Bag: You have been getting a lot of Principal roles over the last seasons and right now you’re cast as the Lilac Fairy. How do you see your career evolving?

Claire Calvert: I have got particularly difficult roles since I joined the company, above my rank obviously. I hope this will continue, that I’ll get more and more. I almost missed out a little bit on the basic soloist roles, like the other fairies in The Sleeping Beauty.

TBB: Would you have liked to dance these roles?

CC: I feel I would, but at the same time, I’m happy with what I do: this is my fifth year in the company and I’ve danced a few roles that some dancers will never get to do in their whole careers.

TBB: How do you deal with all this pressure?

CC: I like it. I like dancing big roles. Tonight is the opening night of The Sleeping Beauty and I’m the Lilac Fairy. When we were on tour two years ago in Barcelona, I also danced it on opening night, which to me was an amazing achievement. After that I did Winter Fairy in Cinderella and then Lescaut’s Mistress and a courtesan – both debuts during the same run of Manon. I actually danced Lescaut’s mistress before courtesan!

I also have a part in Enigma Variations coming, which is quite nice. Maybe because I might look quite mature on stage, some roles, for instance, those other fairies from The Sleeping Beauty, just wouldn’t really suit me. (…)

Read the full interview in the Royal Opera House’s blog.

Claire Calvert in Manon. Photo: Johan Persson / ROH ©

And some outtakes from our chat:

On preparing for Lilac Fairy this season

Claire: I did three performances last time, and I have six this time. I rehearse a lot. I work in the studio and do it again and again… This time it feels so much easier because ‘I know that I know’ the steps. I have done it in full before, so there’s not as much to take in. And I’ve last danced the role in a foreign country. It feels more comfortable now.

I still have to think a lot with Lilac Fairy because the prologue is so technical and you spend it dancing, whereas in the other acts you have all the mime, which I love doing. I feel that when I come to the stage and do the mime, everyone is watching: it is great to be in a role that conveys such authority.

On Lescaut’s Mistress

Claire: This time I want to go a bit deeper on the acting side. There are other things that I want to work on, even those that don’t necessarily register when people are watching, which are still important. Even when I’m just sat at the side, I want to know what I am going to be thinking and doing, how I want to be seen, because all of that makes the character richer.

On life outside the theatre

Claire: It is difficult, since we are super busy. Sometimes in the evenings the last thing you want to do is just to sit in the dark and see someone else dance, though when the Mariinsky was here this summer, [ex-Royal Ballet] Xander Parish was with them. He was just two years older than me when I was in school, so we were all “team Xander” watching from the wings! They were incredible.

I like socialising, I can talk to people for hours and my sister lives down in London as well, so I like seeing her. Whether it is at home or just meeting up with friends and ‘feeling normal’, I think it’s what I enjoy the most. I’m not a big party animal, I prefer just chilling out. Being able to sit and talk over dinner, coffee or whatever is very nice, especially since we spend so much time just running around and passing through that we never really have a chance to sit down and talk to people properly!

We started The Ballet Bag in April 2009 with the mission to prove that ballet is not stuffy, old fashioned and inaccessible; that it is quite the opposite: relevant, fresh and topical. With the aim to Give Ballet a New Spin we try to show it under a different light. When writing our capsule biographies, ballet fact cards, review roundups and commentary on social media, we cross it over with other art forms and cultural references (pop culture, cinema, rock music – ie. other things we love!).