After six years with the Bayerisches Staatsballett, Principal Dancer Emilio Pavan is ending his active career. Not entirely voluntarily, a recurring back injury forced him to take this step. We talked to him about this life decision, his love for Munich, the most challenging moments on stage and his new life in Australia.

Annette Baumann (AB): Emilio, you are ending your career prematurely this summer due to health problems with your back. The decision was made in the course of the last few months. How are you dealing with it today?

Emilio Pavan (EP): I am fine with this decision. I have danced many great roles and have been able to experience many wonderful performances. It was always my dream to become a principal and to dance certain roles: Romeo (in London in MacMillan's choreography, editor's note), Onegin, Siegfried in Swan Lake, Armand in Lady of the Camellias. Of course there are a few more ballets that would have been nice to dance. But at the same time I am super grateful for what I have achieved. That made my decision easier. An injury is certainly not the best reason to stop. On the other hand: that's life. And I was lucky for a long time that my body took it all without any problems.
But I just don't see myself returning to the stage today with the best time still ahead of me. What I achieved was the best.

If I came back, I would very probably not reach the level I had. I don't want to struggle back only to realise I'm not the same. It's not worth it.

AB: What are your plans for afterwards?

EP: I have started studying sports science. My goal is to become a personal trainer. Not necessarily in ballet. I think that I can use what ballet has taught me profitably for all sports. Of course, it would be nice to keep in touch with ballet. If something comes up here, I'm super happy to do it. But I'm not looking for that exclusively. I can also imagine teaching a bit. But ultimately, life will show where it goes. The only thing that is certain is that I will stay in some form of physical environment.

AB: Do you remember your first ballet class? How did you get into ballet?

EP:  I played football and did karate as a child. But my mother and sister were dancers. When my mother saw me kicking my legs upwards during karate training, she said: "It would certainly help you to take some dance lessons; to become more flexible“. And since I really wanted to get better at karate, I thought, ok, I'll give that a try. I started with Pilates. There were only girls in this Pilates class and I thought that was really cool (he laughs). I was about 13 or 14 and there was only one other boy who went to a dance class. After that I also tried ballet - we were the only two boys in the whole city who did ballet. I think it was this social aspect - a good friend and otherwise only girls around me - that contributed significantly to me staying with ballet as a boy. By the way, I'm still good friends with the boy from back then, he dances with the National Ballet of Canada today.

Rotbart in Swan Lake

AB: And when did you know that you also wanted to make ballet your profession?

EP: The decisive moment was when I realised how difficult ballet is; what a strict methodology lies behind it. It was this challenge above all that I loved. Thinking about how I can create something that is so difficult. It became an obsession. Because it just takes sooooo long to get good at ballet.

Ballet is so damn hard.

That's why I then quit football and karate one after the other. I got better at ballet and then people told me I should do it full time. I eventually got into the Australian Ballet School. The rest is history.

AB: What brought you to Munich in 2017?

EP:  It was the contact with my friend Osiel Gouneo. We had danced together in London. I wasn't very happy in London at the time. The company is great, but I didn't get on with the city. Too big, too crowded, too busy.


AB: What was it like for you to come to Munich?

EP: Honestly, Munich is my absolute favourite city. Munich is the only city in Europe I want to live in. I'm going back to Australia for now because I started studying there. But I would love to come back. Really: I love Munich! Munich is home for me. I like cycling, just along the Isar. After a few kilometres you have the feeling of being in the mountains, in nature. But actually you're still in the middle of the city. This feeling is so important for me. I come from a small town in Australia, right by the sea. I need a bit of nature around me. To relax. I'm a pretty chilled out personality. In Munich you can find that chill, but there's still everything a big city needs. A thriving economy, the Oktoberfest, a wonderful opera house.

For me, Munich can't be compared to anything else.

AB: Back to the stage: Which of your roles did you identify with the most?

AS: The two roles that are closest to me personally were Armand in Lady of the Camellias and Onegin. As Armand, I really had an incredible amount of fun on stage. I didn't have to prepare the character at all, that was quite natural for me. Unlike Spartacus, for example, there I had to really read up to understand this person. Walking through Paris as a young man and finding a girl pretty, that's real. But I never saw myself taking the Roman Empire (he laughs).

AB: What was the most difficult role you ever danced?

EP: Crassus in Spartacus. You have to be incredibly fit when you dance that role. The curtain goes up and you have to be at over 100 per cent right from the first diagonal. The first time I danced the part, I saw stars. Because this solo is so incredibly intense. After the show you are finished. The role takes all your energy and emotion.

Spartacus is a beautiful work. But it's also a beast. A ballet beast. Just crazy.

AB: Have you ever had a lucky charm?

EP:  I don't have a talisman, no. Imagine forgetting it, you would be scared the whole time. I'm a pretty relaxed person.

AB: Did you have a role model as a dancer?

EP:  I have admired many dancers, but it has always changed over time. I don't want to name a single one. And sometimes there are people you admire and then you meet them in real life and you just think "what an idiot." On the other hand, who I really appreciate is my colleague and friend Osiel Gouneo.

Emilio Pavan as Crassus in Spartacus

AB: You once said that ballet is a lifestyle for you. How will your lifestyle change now that you are no longer in the studio every day?

EP: I will always be doing something. I absolutely cannot imagine that I will ever do nothing. I did my workout this morning, I'm doing another one tonight. Just because it's good for me and because I feel  good. You learn as a dancer what your body needs to function. There is no reason for me to change a lifestyle and strategy that has led me to success. Besides: my body needs that. This is me. I feel completely different and my brain works differently when I haven't exercised in the morning. I can't think properly without training. My whole body is set up for it, since childhood.


AB: What are you looking forward to in your new life?

EP:  I hope that I will manage to reach the same level in my new profession as I did in ballet. I am a very ambitious person. I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can go now in my second professional life - with the skills I acquired in ballet. In the past, my biggest goal was to become a principal. I would like to achieve something similar in my new job.

AB: What trait from your dancing days will help you the most in this new life?

EP: Discipline. That's number one.

AB: You have to end your career early because your back can't take that level of strain. Do you have any tips for a healthy back?

EP: The most important thing is mobility, is stretching. After a performance or when you have trained hard, the muscles shorten. If you don't stretch then, the muscles stay shortened and you are completely stiff the next morning. And general tip if you have problems with your back: check your hips. And your front, often there is also an imbalance between the front body and the back.

AB: If you had a wish for the future of the company, what would it be?

EP:  I wish the company to continue on the path it is currently on.

The Bayerisches Staatsballett is one of the strongest companies in the world.

The company is in good hands, the dancers are incredible. I recently went to see some performances from the auditorium because I was injured - something I had never really done before. And I was impressed by how great the ensemble is. The performance of Schmetterling was one of the best I've ever seen in my life. I'm only leaving with positive memories. It's really hard to talk about leaving, I'm going to miss Munich and all the people I worked with here.

AB: Emilio, we wish you all the best from the bottom of our hearts!

Author: Annette Baumann


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