Grace Humphris. Photo: WInkiPoP Media
Grace Humphris, finalist in The Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship for 2018, reveals what it's like from a dancer's perspective to perform in an eisteddfod as well as what inspired her to start and continue on her path as a ballet dancer.
What inspired your passion for ballet?
My older sister, Hannah. When I was little, just 3 years old, I would sit and watch Hannah, who was 5, at her ballet class. When we would get home I would be asking her to teach me all the steps and show me everything again. We were both always dancing at home.
My burning passion for ballet was also enlightened when I was 10 years old. We went on a trip to Europe and here I had the opportunity to watch the Paris Opera Ballet perform a triple bill of George Balanchine works, including Serenade. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat in awe at the amazing Paris Opera House.
Who inspired you to start ballet?
My older sister inspired me to start ballet. She started ballet when she was 5 and I was only 3, but this young age didn't stop me from making her teach me all the steps she had just learnt in her ballet class.
What motivates you as a ballet dancer?
The strive for perfection and my goals and dreams that lie ahead. Even though one person's idea of perfect is not another's, as a dancer I always strive to complete my work to my fullest potential. Also, my dreams of where I would like to end up motivate me. I get so excited for the future! I can see it all ahead of me and this makes me push and work even harder.
Tell us a little bit about your classical and free variation that you performed in the final.
My classical variation was Dream solo 2nd variation, 6/8 allegretto from the ballet Raymonda. Raymonda is facing the decision of whom she will marry. She falls a sleep and reflects on the decisions she has to face. While asleep, she sees visions of her future husband who she then will marry. All of my ballet teachers, Brett Morgan, Elise Frawley, Emma Hanley-Burden and Jake Burden have helped me with different parts and aspects of this dance. They have all been so supportive helping me portray this character and believing in me throughout this whole process.
My free variation was about a retreat; I am alone and I am able to contemplate my contrived actions towards my fictitious partner. This piece is called " My Sanctum" and means ' Place of worship and comfort'. My contemporary teacher Ms Zoe Jones is also the choreographer of this piece. Zoe has been teaching me Contemporary and Jazz since I was 6 years old, so it feels so special to be able to perform this piece on the Sydney Opera House stage.
Which other performers do you most like to watch, and why?
I have a whole list of favourite performers that I could talk about forever, but if I had to choose one I would have to say, Marianela Nunez. She is so amazing to watch. You can see the love she has for ballet and she is a truly amazing storyteller. She is such a strong dancer and can master any role.
What is the best piece of performance advice you've ever heard?
"Do it because you love it, and remember why you're here"
This is so important to remember, especially in a competition situation. As ballet dancers being able to perform on stage is the uplifting experience. We train so hard in the studios and when we get on stage we treat it as the gold pot at the end of the rainbow. Even in competitions when there are nerves, always remember why you are here and the thrill you have when on stage.
What have you learnt from your Sydney Eisteddfod experience?
I have learnt how to prepare myself for the stage and how it feels to be on stage. I have learnt how to be more independent and confident. I have also learnt that not every time you dance on stage is going to be amazing, and how to handle it if something didn't go to plan. All these lessons and experiences will stay with me forever throughout my whole dancing career.
What would you say to a younger dancer who was thinking about entering Sydney Eisteddfod?
Go for it and be confident. Don't get frightened by pressure and the fear of being in front of a large audience. Turn those nerves into excitement and enjoy your experience. I would also say don't treat it as the be all and end all; treat it as stepping stone to your future dreams.
What do you hope to achieve next?
My next goal is to be accepted into a world-renowned ballet school and complete the next stage of my training. I would also love to be accepted into selective ballet competitions around the world to further help my chances of my dreams coming true.