See Chelsy onstage in the 2015/16 season, national.ballet.ca
Born: Melbourne, Australia
Trained: Karen Curlis School of Dance, Thelma Williams School of Dance and Victorian College of the Arts in Australia and graduate of The Australian Ballet School
Could you tell us 3 random things we don’t know about you?
* I love murder mysteries (t.v/movies/books)
* I can read Hebrew
* I can dead lift 140 lbsHave you ever had an embarrassing moment performance-wise?
My second year in the company I was fortunate to be cast as the Diamond Lady in The Sleeping Beauty. This was a big moment as I was a Corps de Ballet member and all the other women cast were either First Soloists or Principals. In the 3rd act I make my entrance onto the stage with my partner down a grand staircase. It is a very elegant entrance and I am wearing a gorgeous tutu and feathered headdress. As the staircase curved down at the bottom to where it meets the stage the steps suddenly get narrow. I was projecting out to the audience soaking in this aristocratic moment when my pointe shoe missed the beginning of the step and I fell right on my backside. Ballerina down! I could hear the whole audience gasp but somehow I got up straight away, totally unscathed. The music didn’t stop and my partner and I continued with our dance. The whole time he was asking me if I was ok and we had an entire conversation unbeknownst to the audience of me explaining to him what had just happened!
What’s the last thing that brought tears to your eyes?
I would have to say when my fiancé Gabriel proposed to me this summer in Israel. I was completely surprised in the moment! It was just the two of us over-looking the Mediterranean Sea in a beautiful private courtyard in Old Jaffa, Tel Aviv. One of those moments that keeps you held in time, very special and emotional.What is your philosophy towards your work?
The one thing I know how to do is work hard. I think my training from Australia has a lot to do with my work ethic. We were taught from a young age to learn choreography quickly from different styles of dance and notice small details. There were many times where I had to learn a dance off a video, which I have also had to do a few times in my career. My teachers would also make us learn numerous roles in the group dances in case someone was sick or injured. All of these skills have transferred over to my professional life and I believe they have helped to distinguish me in the studio. Being a professional ballerina goes far beyond fortunate genetics and gifted abilities. When you are in a company like the National Ballet you realize straight away that everyone has those natural talents, otherwise they wouldn’t be there! A vigilant work ethic will set yourself above and beyond. Company class for me is a must. Continually working, improving and discovering my technique and movement coordination with the music is like a religious ritual. Aside from ballet I do a lot of pilates and cross training. Being in top aerobic condition gives me the strength and conditioning to let the muscle memory take over and to be free to explore artistry and communication in my body.What’s your definition of a successful ballet dancer?
I think a proud sense of individuality and respect for the art form equals a successful ballet dancer. When you are a student you really see the rank of a “Principal” as being the definition. Although this is a dream goal for most dancers it really goes beyond that. Someone with a strong work ethic and a real understanding of movement with music and dynamics. It’s important to be able to deal with disappointments in this industry, whether it be casting in a ballet or an injury set back. Everyone has their own insecurities and you need to be able to move past them and focus on what you and you alone can bring. Someone successful in my eyes is true and honest with their movement and delivery both everyday in the studio and then onstage. To top it off, being respectful to your colleagues no matter what rank is extremely important. Being able to appreciate other dancers and learn from them is not only a humble quality but also important to have as a person in order to keep yourself grounded and appreciative.
What’s the worst thing about being a dancer and what’s the best?
I think the worst thing about being a dancer is overcoming disappointment. This exists in any workforce but somehow because what we do is so close to our hearts, we have been working for it since we were children it seems to be very personal. Dance is subjective and sometimes not being cast in a role can feel like a terrible disappointment. Casting is an aspect of the job we have no control over. Accepting that this is part of the job and moving forward is the best step.The best thing about being a dancer is definitely those incredible moments dancing when you feel absolute joy. There is something about moving and performing that can truly unify your whole being. It can be absolutely amazing which for me outweighs any of the low moments.
What is your fashion style outside of work?
I would say my fashion style outside of work is very feminine. I love colour, especially pink and materials like lace with texture. I love having my hair down outside of the studio and wearing a hint of lipstick is a necessity. I have to say that my beautiful engagement ring is the perfect accessory! It goes with absolutely everything.
What is your favorite memory of being onstage?
A special moment that is held in my mind was during the balcony pas de deux from my debut as Juliet in the world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo and Juliet. My partner Brendan Saye and I performed on the closing show and hadn’t had the chance of rehearsing with the stage lights and the orchestra. During this moment the whole stage appeared larger than ever and we couldn’t see out into the audience, the lights looked like stars! The whole pas de deux felt like we were dancing in this universe that just belonged to us.
I have danced many times on the stage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and in that moment it felt like another realm.Dream role?
My dream role is to dance the Swan Queen Odette/Odile from Swan Lake. This was the ballet that made me want to pursue the career of a professional ballerina. One of my favourite movements in dance is “port de bras” (carriage of the arms), this is a key element for this ballet. This movement transforms the human arms to look like the wings of a swan. Any version I have seen of this ballet has been incredibly beautiful. The score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is without doubt one of the greatest classical scores in history. Dancing the dual role of the white swan and black swan would be very satisfying, both technically and dramatically – we all have light and dark in us.Words of advice for young dancers?
The best advice I could give to young dancers is what I outlined in ‘what makes a successful dancer’, this is the only way I know how to be and work. It’s also good to understand that being in the right place at the right time can determine certain things. For example, as a girl from Australia I never would have guessed that I would have danced professionally in San Diego and Toronto! Be open to ideas, surround yourself with teachers you trust and who inspire you. The gifts of talent will only take you so far. The rest is sheer determination and intelligence.
Read Chelsy’s bio, http://national.ballet.ca/Meet/Dancers/1st-Soloists/Chelsy-Meiss
Chelsy Meiss is sponsored through Dancers First by Diana St. B. Weatherall.
Catch Chelsy onstage in Romeo and Juliet, onstage November 25 – December 5, 2016> http://national.ballet.ca/Productions/2015-2016-Season/Romeo-and-Juliet