The National Ballet of Canada’s newest principal dancer is one of those ethereal presences that makes little girls dream of being a ballerina. As Hermione in Christopher Wheeldon’s new version of The Winter’s Tale, Jurgita delivered an Outstanding Ballet Performance with both stunning classical technique and remarkable pathos.
Do you remember the first ballet you ever saw?
It was Snow White and Seven Dwarves and this ballet made me fall in love with ballet. Before I saw the performance, I did not even know what ballet was.
What is it about ballet specifically that made you want to pursue it professionally (perhaps over other dance forms)?
I loved that ballet allows me to express myself without words and be who I want to be on stage. The artistic and extremely physical demands draw me to this profession too. From a young age I loved being physically active and I was very competitive.
What performers have always inspired you?
The ones that bring something special to each role and simply live their roles onstage. When the artist projects the honesty and the sensitivity on stage, it inspires me. Whether it concerns singing, drama, ballet, opera or music… I need to feel what the message is behind each performance and I like to be touched by art.
What are some of your strongest memories from your years of training?
To be completely honest, I remember the incredible discipline while studying at the professional ballet school, the strong feeling of competition every day between schoolmates and very tough, exhausting training, learning that will power and determination is the key to everything at times. I would feel like I am in the army! All that payed off greatly though once I joined a professional company.
What have been some of your favourite performances in your time with the National Ballet?
So far I loved Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale and I just premiered La Sylphide, which will become one of my favorite ballets. But the 2016/17 season holds so many ballets I have always dreamed to dance. So I am feeling very inspired at work, performing ballets that the National Ballet has in its repertoire.
How does the National Ballet stand out from other companies?
I have experienced that this company allows for me to just be myself at work. It allows me to use my work ethic and my artistry and my qualities in every day work and the company is very respectful to the qualities that each dancer has to offer. So that leads to the conclusion that I love to feel appreciated and feel the freedom to be myself. And once one feels comfortable in the working environment, the best personal results can be achieved.
What would you say is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to make it as a professional ballet dancer?
There are plenty of obstacles that I am facing every day. Not a single day at work is easy. The demands I put on myself and my work are so high that it feels it is impossible to achieve, but every little movement or detail that is getting better is an overcome obstacle that leads to a better and higher quality performance. Striving for endless perfection is the biggest obstacle but an advantage as well.
What would you say separates your performance style from some of the other members of the company?
Every dancer is quite unique as we are unique human beings as well. Our inner world projects on stage and that is the beauty of every dancer. The same choreography and same movements look completely different on each dancer. I am who I am on stage and as to what makes me different that is a judgment and preference for the audience who come to watch.
How important is acting in your process of developing a performance? Is there much character interpretation involved in your approach to a role?
Every step, every small movement of the head or arm is part of the character. The interpretation is everything to me. But without complete control of the movement and achieving a sort of ease at dancing the specific choreography I am not able to just “act”. My movement has to project the character. So it goes hand in hand. Without one I am not able to do the other and vice versa. It has to be one full picture and both acting and dancing have to be in such harmony to be able to take the audience to another world.
The physical strain and demanding schedule of ballet must take its toll. What would you say is the hardest part about being a dancer?
A constant feeling of exhaustion. And not allowing yourself to relax even for a day and take it easy. Keeping your body injury free, healthy and incredibly strong but lean at the same time.
… and the best part?
The performance. After a performance I don’t even want to leave the stage, I just want to stay there forever and dance again, again and again… It’s unexplainable and so addictive.
Do you have any dream roles you haven’t gotten to dance yet or someone you’d like to work with?
There are still a lot undanced ballets in the world’s repertoire, but I have completed a list of all the major classical ballets. Every season I find a role that feels like a dream role and keeps me inspired because there is always something else… Whether it is a classical performance or a contemporary one. Next season I am really looking forward to Onegin.
Do you have a favourite ballet or choreographer?
It is really difficult to single one out… each of them has brought me so much, whether it would be the details in the movement or interpretation of the role or attack of the movement, musical phrasing of the dance steps… Really there is so much I am learning every time I am working with the choreographer him or herself.
What are you working on now?
I have just premiered La Sylphide and am looking forward rehearsing Le Petit Prince by Guillaume Côté.