Robert Stephen, first soloist at the National Ballet of Canada

by Mariya Guzova

Robert Stephen, a first soloist at the National Ballet of Canada, can be seen in the role of the jester in the classic ballet, Swan Lake choreographed by James Kudelka.  “This is a really special production for the male dancers in the company. The ballet normally has a lot of focus on the female performers, but our choreographer really wanted to feature the men and give them a lot of real dancing to do,” explains Robert.

Evan McKie and Svetlana Lunkina with Artists of the Ballet in Swan Lake. Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic.

Robert Stephen. Photo by Sian Richards.

“Classical ballet is as challenging for me as it is rewarding,” explains Robert. “I find I’m often my own worst critic and the daily expectation you put on yourself can be very high. But there is just something about being on stage and performing. It’s such a rush to be a part of something so beautiful. It’s honestly like a drug to me.”

Robert has also ventured into being a choreographer and has since won the Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award in 2011, created Hold Me, Neighbour, in this Storm for the Banff Centre, and won the Audience Choice Award for best new choreography for his work Passacaglia at The Ninth International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize in 2012.

Robert Stephen in Chroma. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

“Choreography is really special to me. Music is so amazing, and its what inspires me to dance. When I hear music I can see the dancing in my head. It’s a really amazing experience to have those ideas brought to life and see how the dancers interpret them. That’s why I love working on classics like Swan Lake. Tchaikovsky’s music is so powerful and incredible, and dancing to it is a real pleasure,” explains Robert.

For now, Robert is putting his choreography on the back burner to focus on his dancing. “I don’t have a specific dream role. I just love working on new creations with choreographers and on demanding classical roles. To me there’s never been one dream part that I really wanted to have. I’m just soaking it all in and I love being able to be a part of it all,” explains Robert.

Robert Stephen. Photo by Sian Richards.

“I think the important thing in dance is to work really hard but to remember to enjoy it. Dance is so expressive, and has so much emotion and power. It can be really easy to lose the balance between perfecting your technique and enjoying yourself. It takes a lot of diligence, but it’s so crucial,” adds Robert.

Robert began this balancing act when he followed in his sister’s footsteps and joined his first dance class at the age of three in Burlington, Ontario. He joined the National Ballet of Canada in 2004 and was promoted to first soloist in 2011. Since then his career has boomed and he has been seen in roles such as the Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures on Wonderland, Uncle Nikolai in The Nutcracker, and the title role in Hamlet.

Robert can also be seen in the upcoming production of Onegin set to run from March 19 to March 23. For more information or tickets visit the National Ballet of Canada website.

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