When I was a dance student during the 80s and 90s, the Australian Ballet was directed by a truly formidable figure – Maina Gielgud. I am only just realising now how much her clear artistic directorship of our national ballet company would have influenced me. I met Maina on a couple of occasions in Australia but did not get the opportunity to work with her until I was dancing with Béjart Ballet Lausanne in 1999. There she came to guest teach and coach us for the more classical roles in Béjart’s repertoire – in particular, the Sugar Plum Fairy and Grand Pas de Deux in Béjart’s Nutcracker. This role terrified me. I was 22 years old and had stopped thinking of myself as a classical dancer. The prospect of performing that role in Paris, of all places, was utterly daunting. Maina managed to get me up there at Théâtre de la Ville despite my trepidation and doubt and has remained in my life ever since as someone who continually and unassumingly encourages and helps.
Having just interviewed Maina for Ludwig’s blog I thought it would be nice to provide readers with a little more background on her career…
Trained by the great Russians including Karsavina and Egorova, and later Rosella Hightower, Maina Gielgud has had an incredibly diverse career creating works with Maurice Béjart’s XXth Century Ballet, and as a principal with London Festival Ballet and SWRB, an international guest artist, and partnering Rudolf Nureyev. She then directed The Australian Ballet (1983-1997) and the Royal Danish Ballet. Free-lancing since 1999, she stages works (recently her highly acclaimed Giselle for Boston Ballet and Ballet du Rhin), made a comeback as a dancer and actress in Béjart’s L’Heure Exquise, and guest teaches and coaches around the world. Her principal affiliation is now with English National Ballet, where she is principal guest teacher.
So, stay tuned for next week’s interview with Maina to hear about what she has been up to in the last few years and what she thinks of dance today.