Principal ballerina Bethany Kingsley-Garner, Q and A!
Ahead of our upcoming Mini Retreat in Glasgow, we asked our retreat co-leader Bethany some questions about her life as a ballet dancer with Scottish Ballet . . .
Q: Where did you grow up and when did you begin ballet classes?
A: I was born in Devon and started dancing around to music as young as I can remember but started ballet classes at my first school aged three.
I grew up in a household full of piano music which inspired me to dance along. I love the way dance make me feel. I'm easily absorbed in a beautiful piece of music, or in a character I'm portraying in a story ballet. I love sharing that feeling with an audience and taking them on the magical journey with me.
Q: How old were you when you realised you wanted to be a ballet dancer?
A: There was a time when I was enjoying athletics as much as dancing. I could run very fast and loved the stamina and determination involved, but when I got offered a place at the Royal Ballet School I had to make a choice. When I joined I had no idea how tough the process and journey would be, without any guarantee of success. But even through this hardship I loved every second of my learning, and I knew that I would do anything to be successful as a dancer. The turning point was working with the Royal Ballet Company performing Swan Lake alongside Darcey Bussell. I loved every moment of being on stage and the live orchestra, it all became very real. I worked very hard at school and had wonderful family support with living away from home. I went on to graduate with Honours and was awarded the April Olrich Award alongside Sergei Polunin for Most Dynamic Performance.
Q: What was the most valuable part of your training?
A: The most valuable part of my training is a mental aspect, I always say, be true to yourself. You need to know your weaknesses as a dancer, but also definitely know your strengths. If you are honest and genuine it will come through your dancing.
Q: Tell us about your most memorable on-stage experience?
A: Just recently we performed at the Royal Opera house in London for the Kenneth McMillan celebration, I was performing a role that was created on a ballerina called Lynn Seymour, An icon of mine growing up so it was a breathtaking moment for me to perform for my family and London audiences,
Another most rewarding moment was receiving my promotion to Principal on stage after performing Odette / Odile in Swan Lake. Hearing the audience applaud with tears streaming down my face, it’s a moment that will last forever.
Q: We all know you keep very fit! Tell us what your fitness/ gym routine is outside of the ballet studio.
A: I do gyrotonics every day at work, I feel there are many benefits. It's a more gentle way of using the same muscles that I use in class or on stage so a great support to my daily routine and something I really enjoy doing. I'm also a bit of a gym junkie. I love an intensive cardio session or strength training using weights and I definitely see the benefits when quickly trying to get my stamina up for an upcoming run of performances, and body composition with using weights.
If my workload is heavy I turn to yoga to help relieve tension. I especially enjoy Bikram yoga, as the extra heat and intensity helps get rid of the lactic acid that can build up throughout a busy day in the studio.
Q: Are you mindful about nutrition? What do you eat during a busy day of rehearsals and performances?
A: I am so mindful about nutrition and enjoy cooking at home, I have a high protein diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. My mornings always start with toast with honey, peanut butter and and banana, also a bowl of weetabix and fruit, I am such a creature of habit that I bring most of this with me when touring internationally!
I also make smoothies with protein yogurt and oats to drink throughout the day. Lunch is surprising light with maybe just yogurt fruits and flapjack, I have tried many different meals at lunch but I prefer to snack throughout the day to stop any indigestion when having to jump about! The evening meal is always cooked from scratch and lots of variety of meat and vegetables. At the weekends I love to bake and also love going out for brunch and pizza!
Q: Describe a typical day as a Principal of Scottish Ballet.
A: I wake up around 7am. I’m an early bird because of my fiancé’s gym routine. I have breakfast and a large coffee in my favourite jelly bean mug. I’ll have another coffee on my way into work. I’m a morning person but only if there is enough caffeine in my system! I like to get to work early so that I can prepare both physically and mentally for the day ahead. My routine includes both gyrotonics and strength training, which has really helped me improve and maintain my stamina and physicality as I’ve progressed.
We then have ballet class, where I like to wear my pointe shows throughout. I find that it improves feet stamina and muscle definition. After class we go into rehearsals for the upcoming season. If rehearsing a par du deux I will work in a smaller studio for the morning, and after lunch will be the large group numbers.
Lunch break is a time to refuel, chat with friends and get a massage with our onsite masseuse.
Our evening rehearsals lasts until 6:30 I like to have a sauna after work, we are lucky enough to have one at HQ, or do an ice bucket for the feet! If I am sore I have a bath with Epsom salts, also a great way to unwind and relax the muscles.
Q: What is your dream role?
A: I’ll always have a soft spot for Sugar Plum Fairy because it was my first full length role and it was a key milestone in my career. I’ve also held on to the image of dancers like Darcey Bussell dancing Sugar Plum since I was a child, and it was a lifelong ambition to perform the role. However, today it would have to be between Fiancé in Macmillan’s Fairy’s kiss and Odette / Odile from Swan Lake as my favourite roles to dance. Both share the dramatic approach and passion that you crave as a ballerina. There are few roles where you can really let yourself go on stage, but they are definitely two of them.
In terms of a dream role, I can’t choose just one, as I feel lucky to perform any new role that helps me to grow and improve as a dancer.
Q: Our Cinderella themed Mini Retreat is coming up in August, what are you most looking forward to?
A: Firstly I am most looking forward to meeting everyone and all sharing a weekend of dance together, being able to impart my love and experiences of dance with you also working alongside Karis will be so much fun!