A graduate of the La Scala Theatre Ballet School in Milan, Italy, Mara Galeazzi spent 21 years as a member of the Royal Ballet in London where she was the Principal dancer for 10 years before retiring in 2013.
There are so many genres of dance in the world. Why did you choose ballet?
I loved ballet from the time I was six years old but I only began to delve deeper into the genre around the age of 13 by watching live performances and videos, and studying its history. I realised that my dream was to dance the part of Juliet someday. At that time I was in a private school and got a chance to audition for La Scala. Luckily for me, I got in.
Ballet demands a lot from a dancer’s body. What did your daily routine look like?
When I was in The Royal Ballet I would start my mornings by doing Pilates at 9am for an hour to prepare for the rest of the day. That was followed by a 75 minute ballet class with the whole company. We would take a quick break before getting busy with rehearsals from noon till 6pm. On the days we had shows, we’d finish rehearsals at 5.30pm, which would give us 2 hours to get ready for the performance. When I became a principal dancer, my routine changed a little as I’d get the afternoon off to prepare psychologically and physically for the evening. Ballet dancing is a physically and mentally demanding career but you have the support of your peers, teachers and physiotherapists along with other facilities. And if you love what you do, it is never work.
What advice would you give dancers who want to take up ballet professionally?
I think the most important trait for a dancer is discipline. You need to be able to take your teacher’s criticism and use it to your advantage and not get disheartened. There are no excuses in ballet. Every day is training day where you strive to do your best. If you don’t love it, it’ll be very hard to maintain an interest in the genre. Reading about the history of ballet is also helpful in gaining a deeper insight into the art form.
Tell us about your charity Dancing for the Children.
After I was diagnosed with a kidney problem, I was told I couldn’t have children (but I do have a child now and she’s my miracle!) The diagnosis made me think back to my childhood and how I had wanted to do missionary work in Africa. So I resolved to do something for African children and my vision evolved by meeting people who helped me set up this foundation. It began by taking a group of young ballet dancers to Africa where we did charity shows. We also did outreach projects and the response we got was overwhelming so I started to organise charity shows and fundraisers in London to help African schools and orphanages. The feedback we received was that the children benefitted greatly from learning dance and it gave them something to look forward to.