Emily Umbrazunas on stage in the 2013 Sydney Eisteddfod. Photo: WinkiPoP Media
At the end of 2016 Sydney Eisteddfod alumni Emily Umbrazunas had the opportunity to perform with the esteemed The Royal Ballet company in their production of the Nutcracker, which performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. This was not only a major personal achievement, but an incredible honour as she was the only student from the Royal Ballet School to be selected to perform in 17 out of 25 shows.
Emily has attended the Royal Ballet School since she was 14 years old, firstly training at White Lodge and then at Upper School, Covent Garden. Now at only 17 years old, she is in her Second Year at Upper School and going from strength to strength. She recently spoke to Sydney Eisteddfod about what this experience was like and reflected on her days performing in the Festival.
When asked how she prepared for this opportunity, Emily revealed there was actually little preparation involved. “One day after school I got all these messages saying I was ‘on’, which meant I had 45 minutes to go over the dance, find a wig, a dress and some makeup, and I had to make sure I stayed calm through this whole process, because just the idea of dancing with The Royal Ballet at 17 years old freaked me out!”
“I can’t really remember much that’s how nervous I was” she admitted, but she also insisted “I was literally the happiest I have ever been in my life!”
Evidently Emily made a striking impression and it was after this first performance that she was informed she would be required to dance the position of the iconic Snowflake for consistent shows.
“Seeing all the people I’ve grown up aspiring to be like, and actually being in the same room and the same dance as them, really working with them, was unbelievable,” said Emily. She also revealed that the experience was incredibly demanding, with some days requiring her to dance double shows on top of her daily training at school, but “sheer adrenaline” got her through.
When asked what the best piece of performance advice she has ever heard is, she simply replied, “to not overthink… and to not over-anticipate the piece and just focus on the place, formation and steps.”
Having performed on the Sydney Eisteddfod stage in a multitude of dance events and winning a total of 15 prizes across 5 years, Emily certainly has knowledge to pass down to those thinking about entering the 2017 Festival.
“The stage experience I gained from Sydney Eisteddfod at such a young age is so valuable as now I feel comfortable and I know what I have to do personally to deal with nerves, and it really helped build a base for the level I'm at today” said Emily.
“The advice I’d give people wanting to enter Sydney Eisteddfod is just go for it! It was so much fun and a highlight of my year; I met some of the best friends I know today. It’s a worthwhile process in building confidence, perfecting technique and stagecraft.”
However she added, “always keep in the back of your mind though, that winning doesn't define you or where you will end up in your career, it's merely a snapshot in a long career”.
Emily is currently performing in the Royal Ballet’s production of Sleeping Beauty and Sydney Eisteddfod wishes her the best of luck not only with these performances but her entire dance career.