This South African beauty has just had a huge week debuting the quintessential ballerina role in Swan Lake! I am not sure if my readers are ballet aficionados or not, but this moment for any professional ballerina is HUGE! The feat of a 4 Act ballet along with mastering the illusion of both qualities and personas of the fragile Odette (white swan) and conniving Odile (black swan) and the technical aspects of each solo, pas de deux, coda tricks and on top of that the most important, story-telling of this traditional classical ballet is something that all ballerinas dream about and aspire to.
On saturday the 28th of May at the Festival Theatre stage in Adelaide, it was Robyn Hendricks turn to take centre stage and live her dreams in the most coveted role in the ballet world.
Robyn and I are ballet partners in crime, we seem to always be paired up with each other when it comes to partnerships. We share similar heights and quality in movement, also we pride ourselves with the gift to be able to read each other on stage! Our conversations after an entrance always seem to end in, "oh I did that too!"- our mistakes are even in sync! Basically we are the same sex versions of Nureyev and Fonteyn! lol 😉 In Swan Lake we would normally be dancing Big Swans together, but this season my Nureyev (yep I bags being Fonteyn, sorry Rob :P) is growing wings of her own, taking centre stage and flying solo!
I am super excited to be able to document her lead up to this momentous occasion! Also some how the stars were also aligned as we were still going to be dancing in each others side on this very show. After a last minute cast change I gained a new partnership with the gorgeous Rina Nemoto stepping in to be my other big swan to protect our new swan princess.
Here, I ask Robyn a few questions about the emotional and physical preparation in the lead up to her debut and of course her chic ballerina to street style.
1. How did you feel when you were told you were going to be given the opportunity to dance the principle role in Swan Lake?
I was so excited when I was spoken to about doing Odette/Odile. It's an amazing opportunity and I am so lucky that as a senior artist of the company I was getting this chance to dance this beautiful role.
2. Has this role Odette/Odile been something you have always wanted to do? Also what else is on your list?
I've always dreamed about doing this role since I was a young girl and often imagined how I might dance it. It's THE ballet for the ballerina and probably the most iconic ballet of all time. I think it's such a desirable role for me as I really got to show my diversity and the strength I've gained over the years. It was also such a great opportunity to work on my control and dig deeper artistically.
I've got so much on my list- Juliet, Manon, Nikiya to name a few.
3. Tell me about the rehearsal process in the lead up?
Well it was quite a different process to the norm. I rehearsed solos for a few hours here and there but only really started rehearsing the pas de deuxs a week before I did a dress rehearsal. It wasn't really how I thought I would build up for such a big ballet. I did do a lot of my own work in my spare time and I think that was a big help. I have an amazing partner (Ty King Wall) who really looked after me every step of the way and was always there for me. He is so beautiful to work with. Gives so much on stage as well as in the studio.
4. What did you need to do physically and mentally to prepare for this debut?
Physically I just pushed everyday in class and tried to do bits of the ballet each day. I do a lot of Pilates too and made sure I was getting calf flushes as often as I could. A lot of my mental prep was watching other great ballerinas doing Swan Lake on YouTube as well as watching the other principle ladies in our company. You can learn so much from watching others.
5. How did you feel when you were about to step on the stage?
I was really calm and just ready to dive into the story. I just thought to myself- "you are living your dream today"! I just let go and trusted in all the hard work I put in. I had so much support and belief from so many people which really helped me through.
6. What is the most challenging aspect of this role?
Besides the short rehearsal time, I really found act 2 very challenging. It requires so much control and it is very exposed. The movement is so pure and fluid but it requires so much strength and stamina to achieve it! It's so deceiving!
7. How do you feel now, the aftermath of such an amazing debut?
I'm really proud of myself. I worked so hard to do this and I felt the hard work really paid off. Looking forward to the shows ahead!
8. When is your next show? And what are the things you would want to do differently or think about for the next performance?
I'll be performing in Melbourne Wednesday 15 June and Friday 17 June. There is always something to work on and fine tune. I'd love to dig deeper in the story and work on the finer details.
9. What would best describe your street style?
10. What do you feel most comfortable in?
Jeans and t-shirt
11. What is the biggest fashion faux pas for you? (What would you not be caught dead in?)
Wearing socks with sandals!?!?!???
12. Describe your studio style?
Minimal. I don't really like to wear "junk" when I'm dancing. It's important to be able to see your body and the shapes you create.
13. What is one item of clothing you have worn to death? studio/street clothing.
Studio- any black leotard I own
Street- black skinny jeans
14. What are your touring necessities?
I always have to have a large variety of shoes to choose from.
15. If you could pick anyone in the world, who would you love to dance with? And what ballet?
This is a hard question, as there is so many great artists to choose from... I have always loved David Halberg. He is so beautiful technically but it's his artistry that I love more. I'd love to dance any of the big classical works with him!
16. Any wise words that you think has resonated with you in regards to your career?
At the end of the day hard work pays off!
And it sure did!!
Hendricks owns the most exquisite lines and shapes in the business! Along with her perfectly defined worked physique, her technique and quality are just breath-taking in Acts 2 & 4 as Odette and she embodies an enthralling huntress Odile in Act 3. Her hypnotic demeanour as Odile not only charmed the prince but I was blown away just watching her slither as she enters and exits the stage like a snake that was content with the prey she was about to hunt. I knew at that moment all those endless hours and hard work she had put into the preparation was going to pay off.... she was going to 'kill it' - that's the expression we use when dancers slays the sh*t (excuse my french) out of a performance. With every accentuated and carefully placed limb in the game, Robyn seduces her prince (Ty King-Wall) under her alluring spell with those provocative eyes that make your knees go weak. It was a treat to watch her win the heart of her prey.
Black beauty in all sense. Her Act 3 Odile was just a standout.
Go watch this beauty blossom as she spreads her wings and soars through the stage for yourselves! Robyn's next performance of Swan Lake is happening in Melbourne on the 15th and 17th of June. Click here for tickets.
The last stage rehearsal- Some details of her costume.
THE DEBUT- Precious moments before the transformation into the white swan, Odette for the first time!
BLOCHS parachute overall
BLOCHS warm up booties
PINK SHAWL hand knitted by a Patron of the Australian Ballet
Photographed by yours truly.
LANVIN leather brogues
OTTO black high-waisted jeans
CUE silk shirt
COAT tailor-made from the Shanghai material markets
Photographed by yours truly.