Serge Honegger (SH): You were born in New Zealand and are now in your fourth season with the Bayerisches Staatsballett. How do you perceive Munich as a city of culture?

Rhiannon Fairless (RF): For me it is a privilege to be able to work as a dancer in Munich. Ballet, opera and art in general are much more firmly anchored in society here than I experienced in New Zealand or Canada, for example. The respect that the public here has for ballet has an effect on me as an artist and inspires me. You also notice the attitude in the audience when you look around the foyer during performances, for example. Many people like to dress nicely because it is something special for them to go to the theatre.

Rhiannon Fairless on stage in "LE GRAND SOT"

SH: You are currently not only on stage as a dancer, but are also teaching the choreography Le Grand Sot by Marion Motin as ballet master. She had developed the piece with the ensemble in June 2023 as part of the evening Spheres. What kind of choreography is this in contrast to the other pieces you are involved in?

RF: Marion Motin's choreography has this cool and funky side to it. The audience loved it when we performed it in the programme with the young choreographers' work. It's a piece that is particularly appealing to a younger audience. I really enjoy dancing Marion Motin's version of Ravel's Boléro. But I am always drawn to the classical repertoire as well. Besides rehearsing contemporary choreographies, I think it's important to preserve the older ballets as well.

SH: What is the appeal of these pieces for you?

RF: It's the beauty of the moments on stage when I feel the furthest away from everyday life.

When I think of the shadow act in La Bayadère, there is something otherworldly about that scene. You only find it in this form in ballet. In classical group choreographies, we as an ensemble have to breathe at the same time and move as one. If you start thinking only about yourself, then it doesn't work. You have to want to fit into a community and let go of your ego. In doing so, something intimate, something vulnerable is uncovered. That's where the authenticity and honesty lies, and that is what moves the audience.

SH: Is that an experience you have in all the pieces you dance in?

RF: Not every choreography appeals to me in the same way. But I have loved dance and music since I was a child. And on stage I can show different aspects of my personality, whether it's through the hip-hop-influenced dance language of Marion Motin or the shadow act in La Bayadère. I just want to be true to myself on stage, that's when I'm happiest.

SH: We know that the careers of dancers are shorter than in other disciplines. Do you think about your own professional future and what might come after ballet?

RF: There is this clock ticking, but I still feel very good and want to pursue this profession as long as possible. I don't know yet if I will rehearse choreographies one day, as I am doing now for Le Grand Sot. I am studying psychology part-time at a New Zealand university. Maybe there is a future task for me in sport psychology one day, where I can work with the next generation of dancers. 

SH: And how do you see the future of ballet as an art form?

RF: I believe that ballet will always find its audience because of its diversity and its different styles.

In Canada we had an outreach programme where we showed small excerpts from productions to give children and young people access to ballet. That was met with a huge amount of interest. It was a very simple format that was very inclusive. I like to think back on that. Dance and music have been an integral part of virtually every culture throughout history. Dance is our universal language of emotion, connection, storytelling and celebration. Ballet isn't going anywhere. It simply needs positive, personal encounters that welcomes people in.

Author: Serge Honegger


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