SMP 84: Burning Rubber & The Royal Ballet
Today we have an amazing guest who is a high-level athlete and gets thousands of people watching him work every night. Steve McRea is the Principal Dancer of The Royal Ballet in London. Steve works 12 hour days, 6 days a week and is talking to us on his lunch break. Steve is originally from Sydney, Australia, and today we chat about how ballet is an intense athletic endeavor.
Ballet dancers are true athletes and probably go through more pain and training than other athletes. Steve’s family was involved with motorsports and drag racing. Steve’s sister was a fantastic gymnast who danced on the side. When Steve was 7 years old, he told his parents he wanted to try dancing. He became addicted to it, and he was thrown on stage, almost immediately, at 8 years old. He became addicted to the feeling of being on stage and how it feels before going on. He was introduced to dance as a boy, but is still attracted to it as a man.
Today’s topics include:
- Steve lived practically next door to one of the most famous race tracks in Australia
- Steve loves both the worlds of drag racing and ballet, it’s dedication and passion that links the two together
- People’s perceptions of the ballet world must be a little behind, ballet is an intense sport that requires hours of class and hours of practice
- The work is incredibly hard, people become ballet dancers because they love it
- The lead roles are so physically demanding that lead performers rotate through nights that they perform, dancers need recovery time
- Dancers spend a lot of time stretching and trying to elongate muscles
- It’s a bit of a juggling act to keep in shape and allow time for recovery
- As a performer, Steve’s routine begins with getting to the studio at 10 am for a warmup, because ballet class starts at 10:30 and goes for an hour and 15 minutes
- Ballet class is like taking a daily vitamin for ballet dancers, it warms up and strengthens the body, it helps improve technique and it allows the dancer to focus on their body and alignment and simple ballet of turning and postures, it is super intense
- Then they have 15 minutes to freshen up before rehearsal. They could be working on several productions at once, running from studio to studio. Rehearsal is constantly trying things. They rehearse all day, until 5:30 then they eat and prepare to go to the performance in the evening. If the performance is particularly intense they may not rehearse all day long.
- They try to fit in massages, if they have time
- Ballet ranks consist of artist, first artist, a few ranks of soloists, and then the principal gets to play the lead roles like the prince, these roles are artistically challenging because you are telling a story, on top of the physical demands
- The body can cramp up because the demands are so high
- The stamina and endurance takes years to acquire, it’s like a 100 meter sprinter doing a marathon
Links and resources:
“The world of motorsport, It’s all about adrenaline, precision and dedication” Steven McRea
“The whole physicality of dancing and the demands you put on your body really appealed to me” Steven McRea
“When you combine an artistry and a physicality together, it is really quite incredible” Steven McRea
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