INTERVIEW: Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers Miki Mizutani and César Morales Talk THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Miki Mizutani and César Morales rehearse THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. Photo: Gabriel Anderson

Miki Mizutani and César Morales rehearse THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. Photo: Gabriel Anderson

Miki Mizutani and César Morales talk about their lead roles as Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

Birmingham Royal Ballet make a welcome return to Salford’s The Lowry next week with their critically acclaimed production of THE SLEEPING BEAUTY.

Based on the famous fairytale, THE SLEEPING BEAUTY tells the story of a beautiful princess who falls into a deep, enchanted sleep at the curse of a wicked fairy which can only be broken by a kiss from a prince.

Ahead of their four-night run, Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers Miki Mizutani and César Morales talk about their lead roles as Princess Aurora and Prince Florimund in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY and tackling the most difficult ballet ever created.

To start, tell us a little about yourself:

CM: My name is César Morales, I’m from Chile and I’ve been with Birmingham Royal Ballet as principal dancer since 2008.

MM: I’m Miki Mizutani, I’m from Japan and I joined Birmingham Royal Ballet six years ago, in 2012.

Why did you start dancing?

MM: I first started dancing when I was three years old, but I didn’t start classical ballet until I was ten. My parents took me to a local ballet school because I had always liked to move and dance. I went to the English National Ballet School in London when I was fifteen years old.

CM: I had a completely different experience. I wanted to go to a ballet school in Chile when I was eleven years old, but my parents did not approve of the idea. I asked my older sister to come to the audition with me, and sign the forms pretending to be my mother. I got into the school and, as there weren’t many boys doing ballet in South America at the time, I was offered a scholarship so my parents wouldn’t need to pay. I loved ballet straightaway, first at the school in Chile, and then at the Houston Ballet Academy on a one year scholarship. At sixteen years old, I received my first contract with the Ballet de Santiago, Chile.

Miki, how does it feel to be dancing Princess Aurora for the first time?

MM: It feels so special for me because it has been my dream to dance Aurora ever since I was really young. I danced one of the solos from THE SLEEPING BEAUTY at a ballet competition in Japan and whilst I was a student at the English National Ballet School, so I’ve always wanted to dance the full ballet. The first Birmingham Royal Ballet performance I ever watched was actually THE SLEEPING BEAUTY at the London Coliseum, with BRB principals Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao dancing the lead roles. It was so inspiring, especially now that Nao Sakuma is coaching me in the role of Princess Aurora.

César, how does it feel to return to the role of the Prince Florimund?

CM: I have good memories of dancing in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. It’s feels different every time I return the role, especially because I’ve performed in different productions of the ballet with English National Ballet and Ballet de Santiago, as well as BRB. THE SLEEPING BEAUTY is difficult because it’s very demanding for the dancers, not just for the principal couple but for the whole company. However, even though it’s so difficult, I love it because it’s absolute, pure ballet.

Miki Mizutani and César Morales rehearse THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. Photo: Gabriel Anderson

Miki Mizutani and César Morales rehearse THE SLEEPING BEAUTY. Photo: Gabriel Anderson

What in particular makes THE SLEEPING BEAUTY such a difficult ballet?

MM: THE SLEEPING BEAUTY is so hard because it’s pure classical ballet. The audience can see every single step, so you need to keep everything clear and clean.

CM: The ballet is called THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, so the main role is Princess Aurora – Miki in this case. It’s very demanding, not only because of the technique, but also because of the dramatic interpretation. Aurora starts the ballet as a young sixteen year old and she has to look very fresh, despite the technical steps. The second act is a dream, so the movement has to be completely different. Then, after she has fallen asleep for one hundred years, in the last act Aurora is a woman at her wedding. It’s important that the audience see the difference in every act, and I think that is more challenging than the steps. In the ballet world there are many dancers that have very strong technique, but it’s difficult to find dancers that can meet both the artistic and technical demands.

How do you prepare yourself for a big role like this?

CM: For me, it’s a lot about muscle memory. My body will remember things that I did before so that helps a little bit. I will always have a look around at what other dancers, either at BRB or in other companies, are doing; maybe I’ll see something good and want to try it out. It’s so easy now with You Tube, you can really do a lot of research. You can get information from everywhere but in the end you need to find your own interpretation.

MM: For me personally I have to practice a lot. I’ll repeat the same thing again and again, building up the length and complexity. It’s been great to worth with Nao Sakuma. She’s so experienced and she’s given me a lot of helpful corrections.

Are there any other ballet roles you would love to dance?

MM: I have always wanted to dance Juliet in ROMEO AND JULIET. Also, I would love to dance Odette/Odile in SWAN LAKE. I didn’t get to dance this last time because of an injury, so hopefully I will have another opportunity.

CM: I would like to do the lead in ONEGIN – I love that ballet. Also, I’d like to try any of John Neumeier’s works, which are really beautiful. I’ve also always liked FIREBIRD; it’s a great male role.

Finally, what are you most looking forward to about THE SLEEPING BEAUTY tour?

MM: I’m really looking forward to going on tour to Japan in May.

CM: It can be difficult travelling on such a long tour, so I just hope it goes well and we do the best we can in all of the venues. I’m looking forward to it.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s THE SLEEPING BEAUTY runs at Salford’s The Lowry from 28 February to 3 March 2018.