We are delighted to welcome back Ballet Ireland to The Civic again this December for their annual Christmas production. We chatted to the ballet dancers Kesi Olley-Dorey and James Loffler who are both performing the lead roles in the production of Coppelia at The Civic.

What was your first job out of college, and how did you land it?
Kesi –  Whilst in my 3rd year at school I worked with Ballet Theatre UK as an apprentice, but my first full contract was with English National Ballet in London.

James – My first job was actually with Ballet Ireland, I was in my last year at college and went to an audition in London and got the job!!! I started in March 2006 so its been almost a decade dancing with the company.

How old were you when you took your first ballet class? Who introduced you to it? Did you immediately feel passionate about it?
– I was 2, it was in a church hall in London. I wanted to be like my friend who did ballet so I went along with her and I actually hated it!! I sat in the corner the whole lesson sulking and wouldn’t go back! I then re-started again at 12 after having seen the ballet live at the Opera House in London.

James – I was 7 when I started ballet and it was through my sister. I used to wait outside while she did ballet classes but she would always end up in tears, the teacher suggested I come in and keep her company and haven’t looked back since. Initially it was more for fun but I grew more serious about ballet when I started full time training, I think my passion has grown over the years to be honest.

At what age did you realise ballet was what you wanted to do with your life? Was it a slow progression or can you recall a particular moment?
Kesi – I was 13 I think, I clearly remember being on stage in a production of English Youth Ballet’s Nutcracker and thinking this is it … this is what I want to do.

James – I think I was around 9 or 10 and it was after I performed with the Royal Ballet as an extra, being in a professional environment with all the dancers was really inspiring. I got to be a monkey in Prince of the Pagodas and I spent half an hour messing around on stage – it was great!! I’m involved with a lot of the educational work at Ballet Ireland which includes the annual summer school – I think its really important to give young people an opportunity to be on stage, like the ones I had.

What qualities do you think are required to be in this industry? In what ways was your childhood different from your friends?
– You have to be very dedicated and hard working, its tough pushing yourself everyday to achieve more. Also you not only have to be physically strong but mentally, its a really hard industry to work in. I guess my childhood was different in a sense that when my friends went for sleepovers and went out to play in the park, I had to go to class and practise. It was tough at the time but all worth it in the end.

James – I would agree with Kesi on this one – you need a lot of self motivation, especially after you leave school, to push yourself every day. I think you need to be passionate about dance because it becomes a way of life. Physical attributes and a thick skin are always helpful as well. I guess the main difference in my childhood was going to a performing arts boarding school at age 11. It was hard work because we spent half our day dancing as well as fitting in academics, but we had a great time and I wouldn’t change it.

Where do you see yourself five years from now? Any major goals you’re still working towards in your career?
– Wow 5 years from now…thats a tough question. To be honest I have no idea, hopefully still dancing in some shape or form whether its ballet, contemporary or just dance on the Wii haha!! I was lucky enough to have been an artist (member of the company) with the English National Ballet, which is where I had always wanted to dance having watched them while at school.

James – Haha thats a good question!! But a hard one to answer. I’m 28 now so I’m just enjoying all the dancing I’m doing, I’ve seen a lot of my friends give up so I appreciate it a lot more these days and hope to keep going as long as possible. I have a couple of my own small dance pieces that I would like create before I stop dancing but apart from that I will just keep riding the wave.

What can audiences expect from the upcoming Ballet Ireland production ‘Coppelia’?
– Well its not your traditional version of the show thats for sure! There will be some laughs and gasps throughout. It’s set in the 1950’s so there are great costumes and lots of colour. The choreographer Morgann  Runacre-Temple has put her own twist on the story so there are exciting and fun new characters in act 2.

James – I will second that, its a very fun interpretation of Coppelia with lots of original ideas. It has a lot of action and humour and I think it will engage a wide audience – its been getting a great reaction so far!!

And finally, what was the last TV show you binge-watched? How many episodes did you see in a sitting?
–  Ooh… it has to be Homeland, I was obsessed!! This is going to sound mad but I think I watched 6 episodes in one go… barmy eh! Think it was the day I got back from a hard week of shows.

James – I think mine was Homeland as well and it was around 5 episodes in a day… I need to get out more haha. More recently Daredevil and Bloodline were close but I didn’t top 5!!

Coppelia comes to at The Civic from 3 – 5 December 2016. Tickets are €20 & €16 conc & €12 for under 12’s and are on sale from our box office – 01 4627477 or online here.