Limelight - Karen Nanasca
Karen Nanasca was born in Auckland, New Zealand. She joined the Australian Ballet School in 2006 at age 16 and the Australian Ballet in 2009. She has recently been promoted to coryphee and was a nominee for the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award last year.
What is your background?
My parents are Filipino, I was born in New Zealand and now I speak with an Australian accent.
What is your parents’ occupation?
My mum works in accounting and my dad is an outdoor activities coordinator. He takes groups skiing, camping, kayaking, hiking – the list goes on!
How many siblings do you have?
I have a younger sister, Alana, who is in her graduating year at the Australian Ballet School.
What is your earliest memory of seeing dance?
I can vividly remember watching a video of Margot Fonteyn in “Swan Lake”.
What was your first public performance?
My first proper performance would’ve been at my ballet school’s end of year concert when I was seven. Before that though, lots of dancing happened in the living room -- to Michael Jackson and The Spice Girls.
Where did you first train?
The Mount Eden Ballet Academy in Auckland, with Heather and Melinda Palmer.
When you joined the Australian Ballet School, how did you cope with being away from home?
I missed my family a lot, but when you move away you have no choice but to become more independent. It didn’t take me too long to settle in and learn to fend for myself!
What was the first role you danced with the Australian Ballet?
A Sylph in “Les Sylphides” and also a housemaid in “Petroushka”.
What has been your most challenging role to date?
Being part of Wayne McGregor’s piece “Dyad 1929” in 2009. The choreography was physically demanding, but even more so mentally. The different movement vocabulary combined with seemingly uncountable music was truly testing.
What is the best venue you’ve performed in?
The Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, which is the theatre we performed at when we toured to Japan in 2010. This was my first tour overseas with the company. Backstage the walls are covered with names of dancers who have performed there, and it was amazing to see who we shared the stage with.
What is the best costume you’ve worn and why?
The ball dress from the Ice Palace scene in Graeme Murphy’s “Romeo & Juliet”. Akira Isogawa designed it – need I say more!
What is your funniest moment during a performance?
During the Dance of the Hours in “Coppelia”, my arm puff attached itself to my head dress and I couldn’t detach myself for a good 30 seconds.
What is the hardest thing you have performed?
“South of Eden” by Daniel Gaudiello, which was part of the Bodytorque program in 2010. The degree of difficulty in some of the choreography that Daniel created was higher than anything I’ve performed before.
Do you have a pre-performance ritual ?
I don’t have a set ritual like a lot of dancers, so what I do before a show varies every night. I always make sure I’ve had something to eat, do my hair and make-up and warm up, but never in the same order.
What do you always take with you to a performance?
My head, my heart and sometimes a foot roller.
What would be your dream role?
Nikkiya in “La Bayadere”.
What book are you reading at the moment?
“The Sense of an Ending”, by Julian Barnes.
What is your pet hate?
Little dots clustered together that look like bacteria. Weird I know, but it makes me shudder.
What do you admire in people?
I admire people who are kind, compassionate, determined and dedicated.
What do you like about yourself?
I am a very calm person and I hardly ever get nervous before performances.
What annoys you about yourself?
I am terribly good at sleeping which always makes me late in the mornings.
What makes you sad?
Tragic ballets like “Romeo & Juliet” and “Madame Butterfly” where the main characters die.
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would they be and what would you ask them?
Albus Dumbledore, and I would ask if I could attend Hogwarts.
What occupation would be furthest from your true nature?
An accountant. (Sorry mum.)
What word would you use to describe your feet?