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An interview with... Vaila Grigg

January 29, 2016

Tell us about your journey so far...

When or how did you develop an interest in dance?

I went to a ballet class in an attempt pick up a hobby when I was 10. My friend and I then became obsessed with everything to do with ballet! It was all we could talk about and all we spent our money on. It wasn't until I was 15 that I began contemporary dance and found that this was my true style of dance, it gave me freedom I didn’t know I was looking for.

What type of dance interests you most?

Contemporary and lyrical but I still think ballet is the most beautiful as I can fully appreciate the difficulty, technique and discipline required.

Do you study dance or is it a hobby?

Hobby

Is there anyone in the industry that inspires you?

There is no one in particular, ballet companies inspire me most I think.

Have you ever performed in a show?

Yes, I have performed in the big dance show on several occasions, with ballet group, young dance company, young dance group, performed in several ballet shows, summer school performances, and competitions to perform at the commonwealth games, and at an annual dance weekend in Edingburgh for dance companies across Scotland.

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My favourite show would have been at age 16, with my ballet company - the big dance show at the Empire Theatre in Eden Court. The music piece was Romeo and Juliet, we wore all black, tutus and masks with red fans, there was no theme but lots of drama in the choreography, costumes and lighting.

It went flawlessly, i had my first solo and it was on the empire theatre stage in Eden Court no one else on stage but me and i didn't slip up once. There was so much adrenaline and fear of ruining it for the group in the run up before the solo, (there was only three of us so a mistake would have been easily spotted) but it all evaporated once i was moving and just enjoyed myself and the feeling.

What were your pre performance rituals?

The company and I would be on site all day before a show, for tech rehearsals and costume fittings and trying out different hair styles. We would stretch all day so we were always warm and eat lunch together. With some performances we would be selling tickets but that wasn't very often. Our choreographer would get us to go over the dance again and again and change small things and make suggestions to each other.

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Did you get nervous before a performance?

I remember doing a performance of ballet on the Empire Theatre stage with only two other people. Most of my family were watching and I found that very reassuring. However, I had a solo in that performance, just me on a huge stage with blinding stage lights and a full house. I didn't falter but I had never been more nervous! It wasn’t until my colleagues were back on stage with me that I felt the butterflies settle in my stomach, then I just felt natural on stage again like a duck to water.

I never usually got nervous before a show, but in the moment, when you are waiting in the wings, just before you go on, you hear your music cue approaching your stomach never feels tighter! It’s because it's not just you you're embarrassing it's your whole company you are letting down if you muck up, and often it was competitions so there's that on your shoulders too.

What do you wear for class/ rehearsals?

Usually a leotard and a loose top over that, or leggings. With ballet it has to be a regulation leotard, pink tights and ballet shoes, we have optional crossover sweaters.

What kind of music do you like to dance to?

I like to dance to unusual music with contemporary as it is usually not heard of before, which eliminates associations with the piece. I like it when the track has an offbeat or unusual sound because it adds a quirkiness to the dance piece.

Are there any struggles of being a dancer that you have had to deal with?

Injuries ­ for me my back and knees were worse affected. I have had to take time off school,  have tried lots of treatments, had to pass up some performances and since last winter I have had to stop dance completely due to my back problems! In my company the girls have had some serious problems, but it’s kind of unspoken knowledge that it is worth the suffering to get to dance.

This is something you must really consider when beginning dance, as it is almost inevitable that an injury will arise!

What do you find most rewarding about being a dancer?

Getting to perform and having a body in peak physical condition which enabled me to do lots of other thing outside of the dancing world with little real effort, such as tennis, swimming and climbing. But it's the flowing feeling of dance that makes me do it. The streamline transition of movements which gives a feeling of flight and feeling the boundaries of what is possible for the human body.

How does dance influence other parts of your life?

Even 1 year on from my time away from dance, I still have great muscle memory and flexibility that allows me to do less taxing activities. My posture is much better than it was and I have so much confidence that I have gained from dance. I have made lots of friends and having a hobby like dance, shows that you are a committed and disciplined person - qualities sought after in other careers.

What are your career goals?

Plans for the future, travel and go to university to study art.