Morera -

Laura Morera
Royal Ballet
Monday 30 March 2009
Crown Court Church of Scotland Hall
Covent Garden
Allison Potts, the Vice Chairman, welcomed members and introduced Laura Morera.
I should get the pronunciation of your name right first of all.
I used to have a big thing at White Lodge when people called me ‘Laura’. At that
time I was fresh from Spain so I didn’t have that whole English ‘politeness’ thing.
I would keep saying ‘LAURA’ (pronounced LARRA) until they got it right!
I’m very glad we’ve got that one cleared up! What inspired you to become a
When I was at academic school in Spain my best friend went to a gym that did a
ballet class. I was really jealous because she got to socialize so I went along too.
They said I had talent. I don’t actually remember exactly when I fell in love with
it. I can’t remember if it was straight away or not. I just knew that ballet was what
I had to do. Once I went into ballet school I was really hooked. We had a really
good group of people there.
You studied in Spain then you joined the Royal Ballet School. I understand
that you were just 11 years old when you joined White Lodge and that you
didn’t speak any English at that time. It must have also been a very daunting
prospect to leave home at such a young age. How did you make the
I think what is really weird about it is that even at 11 I remember sitting with my
parents in the kitchen at home and saying: ‘I think we should give it a go.’ It was
actually my decision. I have very proud parents but I don’t have very pushy
parents. They let me decide. It was horrendous that I didn’t speak the language
because I LOVE talking!
I joined the year above where I should have been by age because my ballet training
was a bit more advanced. Still I was really the new girl; a new girl who was doing
32 fouettés en pointe at the age of 9! I actually find them harder now!
When I first joined there was that thing: ‘What’s she doing here? She doesn’t
speak English. She’s not much fun.’ Eventually, by the third year, we became a
really close group. It was hard because I’m a very family oriented person. I’m
very close to my parents. But two months after I joined I was chosen to do Swan
Lake and I know that really made me stick it out. This was the first time I saw this
theatre and this amazing production - we had nothing like that in Spain. There
were all these amazing dancers too and I thought: ‘Well, if you’re going to dance
then this is the place to do it.’ I really don’t regret at all my choice of company.
The Royal Ballet has been my whole career.
So put this in a time frame for us - tell us who was in your year at school.
I joined with Bennet Gartside. Vanessa Fenton and Victoria Hewitt were in my
year and Henry St Clair was too. They all came into the Company. Will Kemp
was in my year too. I auditioned with the year below me which included people
like Martin Harvey - I went to see Martin in Dirty Dancing the other night. It felt a
bit wrong that all these women were screaming at him. You feel like they are
screaming at your little brother!
Who do you count among your closest friends in the Company?
My closest friend is Ricardo (Cervera). He is absolutely part of my family - he was
my bridesmaid at my wedding! They loved that in Malaysia! I’m part of a very
Spanish group but we’re not actually very Spanish in the Spanish group! Tamara
is a very close friend of mine so are Isabel McMeekan and Deidre Chapman and
Christina Arestis - all the people of that generation. I’ve become good friends with
Liam Scarlett too. Out of my year, Benn is one person I know I will always be
friends with.
Before we move on from your school days, what are your best memories of
that time?
I think it was in the fifth year when we broke into the boys’ dorm - that was good!
In my younger years it was Swan Lake and the friends that I made. I was also very
proud of the fact that I was able to do all my GSCEs and ‘A’ Levels in English. I
took French for ‘A’ Level. Also my school performance was an amazing
What did you dance in it?
I did the lead in Valse Fantasie and the Gypsy Girl in Two Pigeons. You just have
a little taste of being a star in that show. You have a dressing room with your name
on the door and you have flowers. I thought: ‘This is good.’ It was a real highlight
So you joined the Company in 1995.
I was out with Liam Scarlett the other day and I said something about the Company
and he said: ‘Lau, I wasn’t even at White Lodge when you joined the Company’ – I
practically choked on my noodles!
Going way back to 1995, can you remember the process by which you found
out you had got a contract?
Yes. There was always talk that I was going to get a contract. I was one of the
favourites. Still, you never know as things change so much. It got quite late
during the year and no one had said anything. Thinking that I shouldn’t miss out, I
went for an audition to Monte Carlo. I lied about my height because they said you
had to be a certain height and I was actually a little bit smaller than what they
wanted. It was amazing because they called me back and said they were really
interested in me. They said that they wanted me to do class the next day with the
Company. I thought that was great but Merle Park would want me to be back. I
asked them to call her and maybe then it could work out. So they did. She agreed
but said that I had to be back by a certain time and they told her: ‘Fine. We’ll get
her to the airport and it will all be OK.’ So I took class with the Company and then
they offered me a contract. It was actually the first time someone had said: ‘We
absolutely love you and we want you’. I kept thinking: ‘Oh, this is good!’ And
they took me on a helicopter to the airport: A glass bottomed helicopter. I thought
‘Yes. I’m coming here!’ This was before I had even taken the job. Then I
suddenly thought: ‘Well, now what?’ It’s just that it was like a one track mind at
The Royal Ballet School. They knew you so they don’t really have to say anything
at all. So then I went into Merle Park’s office and I told her that I had a contract. I
should point out that by then Birmingham, Dutch National and Rambert had
already come to see a class and the three Directors had said if I didn’t get The
Royal then they would be quite interested but still nothing was settled. I said
‘Monte Carlo is really interested and I would really like it.’ The next day The
Royal gave me a contract!
One of the things I picked up from reading other interviews you’ve done is
that when you first started you used to get thrown into roles at very short
notice - sometimes with only a couple hours to learn them.
I think I’ve forgotten them all now but one of my most favourite ones was in Don
Q. That was really amazing because it was as a result of Ross Stretton. On a
personal level he was great to me. We all had to audition from the beginning for
everything. That created a lot of problems. But he was great with me because it’s
rare that a director actually calls you in. I remember we were in Australia and he
called me into his office. All he said to me was that he had seen me progress and
that he wanted to give me Don Q. He said that it wouldn’t be for two weeks and
that I’d probably be really jet lagged for the first. He said: ‘I trust you. Do you
want to give it a go? You will be dancing with Ivan.’ Of course I wasn’t going to
say ‘No’ - I love a challenge. I’m always up for it. I learned it in Australia and I
was really jet lagged in the first week. Then we did the first of two performances
in the second week. I was so lucky because I had two shows. That situation has
been what it’s really been like for me the whole time at The Royal Ballet. Even
now I think I’m doing the Queen of the Willis only because they were really short
of people. Monica came up to me and said: ‘How would you feel about Queen of
the Willis?’ I said: ‘Yes, fine,’ and that was it. I learned it one day and then did a
full call the next day. Stamina-wise it is really quite hard but I like doing things
like that. I actually think that’s why I’ve managed to become a Principal at The
Royal Ballet: The fact that I can just get out there and do it.
That’s certainly borne out by your repertory. In fact it takes five paragraphs
in very small print to list all of your many roles. I couldn’t possibly read it all
out. Every choreographer you ever heard of has worked with Laura and
maybe a few more besides. It is truly an astonishing array of roles. Which
roles do you have the fondest memories of?
Well, I think the first one I’m still on a high from is Manon. I had the best time
with the whole process in my first creation of it. This year I worked through the
whole summer to be in shape – I started to work really hard with Rupert on Manon.
He was going to be my original partner. Manon is the main role I wanted to do. I
absolutely love it. When I got finally to dance it, it was with Frederico and I was
so, so pleased. He is truly the loveliest person. He’s just so giving and so
wonderful. The more the Manons went on the more we bonded. It was such a
great experience - even if he did give me a black eye! We’ll talk about that later.
Also La Fille Mal Gardee with Ricardo is something that I will never forget
because it was with Ricardo and because we had Leslie Collier coaching us. I also
really loved working with Jonny Cope on Manon because I’d never worked with
him before. Then there is, of course, all the other MacMillan and Ashton stuff I’ve
been lucky enough to do. I really, really love it all.
Onegin has also been a highlight because I always love the dramatic side of things.
Even with Gamzatti I’ve learned to really get into her character more than just the
hard dancing. It’s now all of a piece. Ballet, I’ve learned, is ballet. It is just a
bunch of steps in different ways and once you get the hang of it then that’s just it!
That’s why I’m not daunted by the prospect of any new stuff because I’m always
left to find my own drama in the music. Like with Queen of the Willis, I’m really
trying to find a difference between that role and Gamzatti because they are both
very strong and potentially hard women; perhaps a little bit evil and a bit
dominating. The fun is in finding the differences and making it your own. For me
Gamzatti is human and the Queen of the Willis is not. For me that brings the edge.
So you feel more at home in the dramatic roles than in the abstract works?
Yes. It always makes them a bit more interesting. They don’t always have to tell a
specific story. I did a piece in the Linbury with Liam Scarlett and my section with
Benn had a very distinct dramatic feeling behind it, even though there wasn’t a
story. That’s what we dance for, I think. Well, I do anyway. I live for anything
that is a bit meaty; something I can sink my teeth into! I think I can get my head
around anything - even a pas de trios. You just bounce around a bit! Even there
though, you can find something behind it. For me, it’s the fact that you are slightly
younger and a bit freer. I try to bring a little something of myself into everything.
One of the challenges of this season has been the injury crisis amongst your
colleagues. So many people have been off. You said that you had worked
pretty much throughout the summer. Some people wonder if dancers work
too much during the holidays so don’t let themselves rest and recover – so
then they make themselves more vulnerable to serious injury. On the other
hand some dancers say that it is all the stopping and starting that causes the
problems. In your experience, which is it better for you?
It really doesn’t bother me either way. I can literally take five weeks off in
Thailand doing absolutely nothing or I can dance through. I’m very lucky like that.
I can even work in very bad circumstances for short periods and it doesn’t trouble
me. Certainly I don’t have to do an amazing class before I perform. My body
always seems to react well. It’s just that the thing is the only time you get to make
any extra cash is when you work during the summer.
Please don’t think I haven’t been injured - I have been. Most recently I ripped my
groin on my second show of Manon. First I almost dislocated my cheek bone
when I hit my head on Frederico’s knee in the last pas de deux. I heard my
cheekbone crack when I went down and someone said to me later: ‘When you died
you really looked out of it!’ The strange thing is that I was on such a high I didn’t
even really notice then but Frederico was really beginning to freak out and Ricardo
too. He looked like he was the one going faint! Frederico said: ‘Look, we need to
get an ambulance. We’re not going to do the curtain calls.’ I said: ‘WE’RE
Afterwards I had to go to the Emergency Room because, of course, it is quite
dangerous. We’ve all learned from what happened to Natasha Redgrave. When
you hit your head, you can’t just ignore it. It happened that Justin had come to see
that show with my family. He was in a suit. There was no time for me to really
clean myself up as I was going to be on that evening for the filming of Manon in
which I was the Mistress. I had just two hours in between the two shows.
EVERYONE was freaking out - even Monica looked worried.
We had already filmed one performance of Manon which had been fine for me but
I don’t think Tamara was entirely happy. I knew if they were to match the shots
they couldn’t have a different Mistress. So there was I with my cheek out to here.
I still had my wig on from Act Three and all the makeup. I had this real bruise on
one side and this other bruise that I’d drawn on. At that point I was really kind of
drained from the show but still on a high. I wasn’t myself really feeling the
pressure. Even when we got to the Emergency Room it was Justin who had
Monica on the phone saying: ‘Can you make them get her back here very quickly
because we need to do the show at 7 pm.’ So it was Justin who was running over to
the hospital administrator going: ‘I really need to get her back to work,’ and the
woman just looked at us and said: ‘You’ll be waiting for FOUR hours’. I think
they thought he was my pimp! No, seriously. Because he was all smartly dressed
and I just looked like a piece of rough off the street! Even my mom and dad were
freaking out. When Justin stepped away the lady went: ‘Is that your manager?’ I
went, ‘No, no. He’s my boyfriend.’ She just looked very doubtful!
Anyway, they did manage to see me. It was really freaky because at that point I
had just half an hour to get ready. Still I did make it only at the end of Act II and I
just felt this … this … thing … going in my hip. I finished the solo and I sat on the
table and I said to Jose: ‘I think I’ve ripped my groin.’ I knew then it was a really
major injury but also knew I wanted to do my next Manon two weeks later. I was
determined. Nothing was going to get in my way. I took a week off and then even with my leg still kind of dangling - I managed to do it.
When you’ve have a bad injury, does it make you feel more nervous when you
return to the stage?
I really can’t imagine how it feels. People who have had really long injuries often
feel really frightened and inadequate. They suddenly see all these people doing all
the things they really want to do. They are uncomfortable because they’re always
reminded that they are still getting paid but not really doing their job. There is
always that pressure underneath to just get back on. I really admire those people.
They have guts. I think there are some injuries – like knee injuries for the boys –
never really go away. They always freak out at the idea of it. None of us could
survive without a good physiotherapist.
Many people would really like for there to be more new works put on in the
Opera House but we know they are risky, expensive and time consuming.
One of my favourites from a little while ago was Kim Brandstrap’s Rushes
and earlier we were talking about that curtain. Perhaps you could tell us
about how you found it to work with.
I loved that project! I wasn’t originally scheduled to do the role I did. I’d never
actually worked with Kim before. I love how he gets into a room and creates every
principal part on someone. It’s so freeing. He got me in with Johannes and we
created this amazing pas de deux - which was never actually used. Just take my
word for it. It was very good! Kim is so lovely. He has a rhythm that is different
from any choreographer I have ever worked with before or since. It is not about
the steps with him or about the lines. He has a pulse and he creates everything on
you on that pulse.
My break in Rushes came because Zenaida wasn’t going to be able to do it because
she was pregnant. Kim liked the work I did in rehearsal so he asked me if I’d like
to do one of the lead roles. He also told me that I’d be dancing with Carlos Acosta
and working with Alina (Cojocaru) which I love. I have such a good rapport with
her. I just stood there thinking: ‘This is going to be really good!’
There was a story with Rushes but we didn’t really know what it was. Kim just
gave us pointers and let us fill in our own blanks. I think that’s actually why some
people said to me that my take on it was so different from Tamara’s. Basically I
think it is just the difference between me and Tamara. Even though we knew that
there had been violence and that this woman had been hurt, we were both
encouraged to interpret it in our own way. The proportions between Tamara and
Tom Whitehead and between me and Carlos are of course very different. There’s
no way with Carlos that I could get away from him.
Then of course we got on stage and Kim said there would be a curtain. We had
been told before. We just didn’t actually see it. Then we get on the stage and
suddenly there is this ‘thing’ – a huge beaded curtain! When we did the pas de
deux we felt that no one could see us. Suddenly everyone who had seen it started
to come back and say they thought it was really good but that they had missed it
because they couldn’t see.
We worked out a way to move onto the front of the stage a little more. It did work
from a dramatic perspective, I think. We always felt that we were coming in and
out of reality. It was haunting. Coming out from behind that curtain you always
felt that you were in the present. There was always something you had to face.
When you were behind it you were in the past. You were very much in your own
private little past world. I think for the audience it was as if we were in an old
movie. I loved the process and I loved working with the people that I was working
with. That is always very important for me.
After that you were the Apricot Girl in Dances at a Gathering and you danced
every show.
Dances seemed not to have a second cast! The process wasn’t very pleasant. The
way that Jerome Robbins used to rehearse was that no one ever knew what they
were actually going to perform. We’re not used to working like that. We had to
learn EVERY role in the ballet. I ended up dancing with Sergei (Polunin) who was
really new in the Company then. He was quite inexperienced in partnering. Of
course no one can be expected to be experienced in partnering when they’ve just
left the School. I really didn’t know Sergei at all. I normally joke around with my
partner but so he always looked a bit scared of me and I played on that for a bit! I
did two shows with him and then one with Ricardo. It was then I could say: ‘I get
this ballet’. The dance that we do is quite energetic and full of giggles. It needs a
certain energy from both parties. Sergei is a much more laid back kind of person
so I always felt that I had to put more energy into compensating for that. The
difference this year is vast because Sergei has had time to get used to it. He’s
relaxed now and we both have fun. What I mean is I can be more myself with him.
One of the things I picked up from reading your previous interviews was a
comment you made about how the Company has changed from the days when
you first joined. Tell us how it has changed.
It’s a younger company but then I’m older so it’s always going to be a younger
company! It’s a really nice place to be now. I feel respected by my colleagues.
There’s a huge amount of support plus it is really nice to know that people are
learning from what you are doing. We share. I also love the fact that my coaches
leave me more to my own devices now. If I don’t feel like doing a rehearsal one
day then there is no pressure. They trust me. It’s nice because sometimes your
body really hurts. They know you know when and how to pace yourself.
Of course ballet directors are always going to have their own views and no one is
ever going to please everybody all the time. It can be hard but that’s just life. You
learn you can’t fight it.
Sometimes I might be really unhappy with my own work but I always appreciate
the support around me and the excellent facilities. We really are surrounded by the
most amazing people. I just watched Tamara and Carlos doing Swan Lake and you
get that buzz. Other companies don’t all have that buzz. It’s just not the same.
We pack the wings really wanting everyone to do well. In other companies the
wings are more packed with people just wanting to check you out. I’ve also found
getting to know some of the younger people has been very good for me - like
Sergei and Steven (McRae).
Starting now to look towards the future - first of all congratulations on your
marriage! Laura married Justin Meissner who many of you will know.
I haven’t seen him since the wedding! We got married in Malaysia on a Thursday
and I left on Sunday. That was a month and a half ago. People ask: ‘How’s
married life?’ I don’t really know yet!
Tell us about Justin’s new project.
Well, he’s retired from dance completely. He just wanted to get away from that
world. What I really like about Justin - and the people who we usually socialise
with - is the fact that we really love being on stage and doing what we do and are
100 per cent passionate about it BUT we don’t really like the politics of the ballet
world. You know, all the bits that surround it; the fact that some people find they
might get a role because they hang out in the office. I just don’t do that. The nice
thing about Justin is that he always got on and did his work and when he was done,
he was done. No fuss. We always worked hard and played hard … especially on
tour! It’s really nice. You could immediately see that once we both have given up
dance then we are both going to have a life.
I don’t blame Justin for wanting to get away from the dance world. He decided to
open up some dance seminars in Australia for Japanese people. He’d worked in
Japan before. People come from Japan and do really good classes in Australia with
international teachers and then see Brisbane which is where he is from. It’s been
quite successful. I help by teaching in the summer. We go to Japan which is
fantastic and to Spain, Australia and Singapore. Of course it’s hard work and the
economy is not good right now. We’re in a situation where dance for your kids is
seen as an extra not an essential – which it is - except in Japan. In Japan it’s a
luxury people still seem to appreciate. In Spain it’s all about having ‘the’ car!
I never thought I would like to teach but I do. I love to coach older girls. They
really like the fact that we are nice people who just love what we do and are able to
pass that on. I think that’s where my talent lies - in teaching. I just pass on this …
this honest love that I have. As Justin says it is ‘untainted love’.
Before you hang up your pointe shoes, what roles do you really want to do?
I would like to do a lot more of the MacMillan big ballets. I’ve done a lot but there
are still a lot of principal roles that I haven’t done. Giselle has been a really big
disappointment for me this year. I rehearsed it four years ago and they were going
to put me on when Miyako (Yoshida) was injured. At the time I really didn’t feel
ready because I’d not had a rehearsal. Still, it’s always been something on the
cards - I wouldn’t say ‘promised’ but certainly always talked about … and it didn’t
happen. That was a really big disappointment.
There’s a lot I’d really, really like to do. I really had a massive battle about Romeo
and Juliet. I’ve never been a big one for fighting. I’ve always believed that you
get up on stage and do the best that you can whatever the circumstances. You get
up there and show your potential. You don’t just run into the office and say:
‘Why didn’t you give me this? Why didn’t you give me that?’ I wasn’t brought
up like that. I don’t feel comfortable with it. But with Romeo and Juliet I did.
Questions from the audience:
Are you winning the Romeo and Juliet battle?
I don’t know. There’s only so much you can do. I’ve learned how to deal with my
disappointments and that would just be added to the list. Lauren actually said
something quite interesting. She said that Juliet was a younger Manon. With Juliet
you get that ‘growing’ in such a different way. I’d love to be able to explore that.
I’ll let you know!
I think it’s wonderful that so many different elements of the Spanish culture
are represented in the Company. Long may it continue.
It’s weird. I’m Spanish - and there’s definitely Spanish in me - but I’ve always
said that because I came here so young that I think about myself in part as being
British. Ricardo feels the same. That’s probably because his mother comes from
Sheffield! For me it’s just being part of The Royal Ballet and wanting to honour
that heritage. Also, despite what many people feel, the Spanish are quite hard
workers - certainly the Spanish dancers in the Company are. People often get the
wrong image of us. Look at Marianela. She’s worked so hard and has turned out
to be this outstanding artist.
We’re really lucky you came over when you did because you understand
Ashton and MacMillan so well. It seems to be your metier.
Like I say to Ricardo, that’s probably one of the nicest things that anyone can say
to us because if you go to a different country you have to work so hard to be part of
them. Of course you can never lose that spark that is your own and Spanish people
are maybe a bit more daring. We’re not too scared.
Spain has so much talent in terms of dancers and musicians. Why is it you
don’t have a top flight company there?
I really don’t know. Angel Corella’s tried to do something. I think there’s a big
part of the country that’s always married to football and bull fighting. Certainly
those always seem to win in terms of money. Of course, Nacho Duato did an
amazing job with that company but was a contemporary company. Unfortunately
most young Spanish dancers looking for an established repertoire have to leave.
The other thing that’s important to say is that the training in Spain has actually
often injured people very early on. A lot of dancers I grew up watching in Spain
had some kind of fracture by the time that they were 16. Most of them couldn’t
dance anymore. That, of course, might have a bit to do with it. I don’t know.
Some people have asked me if I would be the person to bring classical ballet to
Spain. The answer is ‘No’. When I give up ballet I’m going to Thailand or
Malaysia and I’m building my house with Justin - that’s what I’m doing. I’m
doing nothing! That’s my dream.
Where do you get your amazing energy from? I remember that ballet you did
for William Tuckett.
Puirt-a-Beul. I have a lot of energy. That’s a good part of me. I think my
strongest point is that I really, really honestly love what I do. That’s the best way
to manage anything. I had a dreadful year where I was really, really ill. The
illness left me alone because Justin was working all the time. It turned into this
weird kind of depression because they couldn’t find out what was wrong with me.
The only thing that would get me up in the morning was the idea of getting back on
the stage. Being on stage is just magical. Despite the pain – and there is always
pain – I can forget everything. Now that I’m well and sorted, I never question that.
Now I’ve a focus for that energy. I land on stage and go: ‘Thank God for this.’
THAT’s what I will miss when I give it up: The opportunity to be able to go out
on that stage and be alone and know that people are clapping for you.
In Isadora didn’t you feel that you were a little under-cast?
I get a lot of roles that no one really understands why I get them! You just have to
get on with it. I knew that part was a bit dodgy when everyone came up and said:
‘Oh my God, have you seen the video? Have you seen what you’ve got to do?’ I
said ‘No’. ‘You walk on,’ they said: ‘You get a fan out and you walk off. That’s
it.’ Monica came up and asked me what I thought. She said it was a really small
role but that it needed someone to carry it off because it was quite important to the
story. She said it needed to be Mara and myself. Do I agree with her? I don’t
know. At the end of the day the Director decides that and that’s it. Personally I
think it would’ve been nice to have it done by some of the dramatic younger
dancers with lots of stage presence. Someone like Kristen who I think is amazing.
On behalf of the London Ballet Circle Allison thanked Laura for such an enjoyable
evening and for taking time out from her hectic schedule to spend time with us.
©London Ballet Circle 2009