National Ballet of Canada First Soloist Tina Pereira is taking on the lead role of Carmen, in a new expanded full length version running at The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts this June 5th - 16th (with Tina Pereira performing the role of Carmen on performances June 6, 8, and 9th at the 2pm matinees). I spoke with Tina about taking on the iconic role of Carmen
Tapeworthy: Congrats on getting the principal role in the iconic role of Carmen, so how are you feeling?
Tina Pereira: It’s a pretty amazing role so so far so good!
Tapeworthy: And with such an iconic role, and the National Ballet still has a rotating cast of dancers that performs it, when you’re rehearsing and preparing the role, does the choreographer sort of just place the steps and movements for you, or how much of yourself do you get to put into this kind of performance?
Tina: That’s actually a good question. A lot of it is set for you but I think if a choreographer have different expectations and some are more specific with what they want, and others are more, it’s just good to see what you could bring to the character and to the role. And especially with Davide Bombana [choreographer of Carmen], if you even look at the casting, with me, Heather [Ogden] and Greta [Hodgkinson], we’re all so completely different in every single way, that also lets you know that he’s really looking for your individually interpretation of Carmen.
So for me, I think once he does set the material, then I feel free to add little things that maybe I would do as Carmen that wouldn’t be the same as the other girls and I think he would appreciate that.
Tapeworthy: Yah, like the emotional arcs and your take of the character yourself itself?
Tina: Yah and she’s such a strong character that you do want it to look authentic. So if that’s why he gives that sort of leeway, it’s because if you do something that, not everything looks the same on everybody, and If you do something that really suits you, or suits the character, it doesn’t necessarily mean that anybody else would feel the same way, or [feel] as comfortable doing what you do.
Tina: (laughs) Yah, actually, I’m pretty much smack in the heart of that right now, that discovery process, because so far we’ve just been learning the new material, and just on Friday it was the first time we’ve tried to piece everything together. And today is the first time I’m having my first work-through. So I’ve spent time this weekend trying to find those moments, but I think it’s a process, and I’m still trying to remember some of the new parts of the choreography, so it’s not quite gelled but I hope after this rehearsal, and I have another run-through on Friday, so between these two times, I’m going to get a really good sense of what I want to do with the character.
Tapeworthy: You and the company are also preparing for the mixed program as well (June 19-23), and you dancers do this all the time and in such close proximity in timing, and they usually are such a different type of ballet, do you enjoy it or is it just crazy?
Tina: I think a little both. I went into this process expecting it to be a little crazy, I’ve done a lot of work on my own and I know there’s just not a lot of time so I have to take a lot of initiative upon myself to really know my material and if that means going home and just reviewing something, just so that I can use the rehearsal time wisely to do everything well instead of trying to remember all the choreography.
So I think at some point when you know you have a heavy load you have to take a lot of responsibility for it.
But as far as [also preparing for the mixed program], I think sometimes it’s hard to go from extremely classical to contemporary but I think at first it was hard but now I’m sort of more used to it. What’s different about it is that you can go into one rehearsal and be wearing pink tights and pink shoes and then go into another rehearsal and be in bare legs and flesh shoes. So sometimes you don’t have time change so if I’m doing Carmen with pink shoes and pink tights, which I had to do once, it feels very bizarre (laughs). I feel like I have to be ten times the character because it feels completely wrong.
Tapeworthy: Going on that, I noticed you have a love for fashion with your blog Ballerina Couture, did you want to speak more about that, and if you were planning to pursue a mix of ballet and fashion more in the future?
Tina: Yah, I definitely am! I just sort of stumbled upon it. I started with a blog and then I started to sew and then kind of fused the two and have a plan to make a leotard line. But that was more when the season isn’t so busy, but as for right now, Ballerina Couture is on a very big hold!
But in the future it’s definitely something, and anytime I have spare time, I love to be learning about fashion.
Tapeworthy: Now that you’ve gotten the role of Carmen, are there any dream roles you would love to play? Or any ballets you would love to perform in that you haven’t yet?
Tina: There are so many and we do have so many in our rep that I would like to do but that’s a hard question!
Tapeworthy: Is there a favorite ballet you just love watching as an audience member?
Tina: Onegin! I love Onegin. I could watch that over and over and cry every time.
Tapeworthy: Yes, that’s a beautiful one! To go off topic, I know you train so properly and have such incredible proper diets; do you have any favorite splurge foods you enjoy?
Tina: Believe it or not I’m a vegetarian and I love to eat healthy. Well I guess every once in a while I’ll have some junk food and if there’s a birthday I kind of love cake (laughs) but I don’t really crave junk on a normal basis.
Tapeworthy: What do you think about shows like So You Think You Can Dance and the popularity of dance in reality TV?
Tina: I think it’s amazing since there are so many people with a passion for dance, and I think a lot of people have grown up and danced at one point, or had a sister or a friend that was in dance and really enjoyed it, but to have a career in it, ballet or musical theatre have been the only venues for that, so for shows like that to spread the popularity of dance, I think is really good, and it’s not like they’re just doing Jazz dancing, there’s everything nowadays, from Hip-Hop to Bollywood, so it’s really nice that all these others interests are being exposed and becoming more mainstream, because a lot of people really do enjoy it, it just hasn’t been as accessible.
Tapeworthy: How did you start dancing? I know you came from Trinidad, when did you come to Canada, and did your love for ballet start there or here?
Tina: Here, I moved to Canada when I was 3 so I started dancing when I was 5 and my family lived in Mississauga so I just started at a local dance school from the age of 5 until the age of 12, which is when I went to the National Ballet School but I danced pretty much everything offered to me. So I have some experience with Jazz and Tap and Acrobatics and Lyrical dancing.
Actually one of the people I first started off dancing with was a runner up on the American So You Think You Can Dance and choreographs and he was a judge on the show so he’s now established himself very much in the So You Think You Can Dance world. Ironically enough.
Tapeworthy: Just for fun, what’s the last song you played on your iPod.
Tina: Oh boy, (thinks) I can’t remember but I like anything that makes me dance and anything with a good beat and that makes me move. I love Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”. Happy music. I like Happy music!
Tapeworthy: Between Carmen and the modern dances, do you have a preference? Do you enjoy both types?
Tina: I’ve trained my whole life and we’ve trained every day in ballet school to be classical dancers but if I had a choice, I wouldn’t choose classical or modern, I would choose character work. I love more than anything is when I can portray a character. It’s the most fulfilling thing, and regardless of how hard or how easy it is, being in the zone of somebody else is just the most rewarding thing for me.
I think especially when you have a challenging role that is on pointe, and just to be in the character, is massive enough.
Interview edited for length.
Photos: Tina Pereira by Sian Richards.
Tina Pereira and Artsits of the ballet in rehearsals, by Christopher Wahl,
Tina Pereira with Jonathan Renna. Photo by Daniel Neuhas
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