Bal­let dancer Heather Og­den is the most ele­gant hu­man we know.

Heather Og­den is at the top of her game.

ELLE (Canada) - - Storyboard -

FUN FACT: Heather Og­den spends more time train­ing in one day than we’ve logged at the gym all month. “We’re in the stu­dio about six hours a day,” the Na­tional Bal­let of Canada prin­ci­pal dancer tells us dur­ing a rare break be­tween pliés and pas de deux. “There’s bal­let class, where we train and warm up, and then we split up for sep­a­rate re­hearsals,” she says. “There are six dif­fer­ent blocks of re­hearsals and an hour for lunch. In be­tween, dancers will of­ten fit in Pi­lates, and we have a gym. In some ways, dancers look del­i­cate, but we’re strong; we’re ath­letes.”

We’re ready for a mas­sage just lis­ten­ing to Og­den’s sched­ule, but it’s no big deal for the Toronto na­tive. She has been danc­ing since she was six, a mem­ber of the Na­tional Bal­let since 1998 and a prin­ci­pal with the com­pany since 2005. Along the way, she has starred in count­less shows, from The Sleep­ing Beauty to The Nutcracker to this sum­mer’s ground­break­ing Frame by Frame, a mul­ti­me­dia col­lab­o­ra­tion with Cana­dian film­maker Robert Lepage and Og­den’s hus­band, Guil­laume Côté, chore­o­graphic as­so­ciate with the Na­tional Bal­let (and a crazy-tal­ented dancer in his own right). We spoke to Og­den shortly af­ter she and Côté re­turned from a fam­ily va­ca­tion in Florida with their chil­dren, Emma Rose, three, and Léo Jef­frey, one. Please tell us you took some time off from train­ing dur­ing your hol­i­day. [Laughs] “I did rest, for sure. But I don’t want to stop mov­ing com­pletely. I went swim­ming one day, and I went to the gym. I’m so used to it. Move­ment in my body makes me feel good. [But] we’d just fin­ished a big sea­son with Sleep­ing Beauty— it’s men­tally and phys­i­cally tir­ing, so it’s healthy to take a lit­tle break.” The men­tal side of per­form­ing must be as hard as the phys­i­cal. “There’s a higher level of fo­cus. This is what we work for—the shows—so each time, you want it to be the best you’ve ever done it. Luck­ily, I don’t have a big prob­lem with nerves, which I’m su­per-grateful for.” Do you have any pre-show su­per­sti­tions? “When I first joined the com­pany, I used to have these lit­tle good-luck charms—jew­ellery and a beau­ti­ful pill­box. It was silly. I was 17. Now I feel it’s all about the warm-up. I find com­fort and calm­ness in be­ing pre­pared. I like the process of get­ting my makeup and hair done. I hate to be rushed. I get into the stu­dio early [to warm up]. If I need pri­vacy, I’ll put ear­phones in and lis­ten to mu­sic—a work­out mix if I want to get pumped up or some­times clas­si­cal mu­sic.” You kept danc­ing right into your sec­ond trimester dur­ing your sec­ond preg­nancy. That doesn’t hap­pen a lot in bal­let. “With my first child, I had morn­ing sick­ness and was much more cau­tious. But with Léo, I had tons of en­ergy. At three months’ preg­nant, I per­formed at the Lin­coln Cen­ter in New York and thought that that would be my last show, but I still felt re­ally good. A month af­ter that, we were do­ing a new piece of chore­og­ra­phy at the Art Gallery of On­tario, and the chore­og­ra­pher was to­tally open to me danc­ing. If it had been trad­itional bal­let on­stage, I wouldn’t have been danc­ing that far along.” That sends such a good mes­sage. “I felt strong and happy, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I try to con­tinue?’ I was show­ing a bit. But peo­ple were like, ‘Why should you hide it? It’s beau­ti­ful. You’re grow­ing an­other life.’” The idea of the “ideal bal­let body” is chang­ing, thanks to peo­ple like Misty Copeland [the Amer­i­can bal­let dancer who was told she was too mus­cu­lar to suc­ceed]. Have you no­ticed that? “She’s def­i­nitely send­ing that mes­sage. If Misty had lis­tened to what peo­ple said, she would have just stopped danc­ing. But she was strong enough [to keep go­ing]. I think these strong women we’re rais­ing are go­ing to break a lot more bar­ri­ers than we even be­lieve pos­si­ble.” Is that im­por­tant for you—that the next gen­er­a­tion of dancers has a pos­i­tive body im­age? “Yes, es­pe­cially hav­ing a daugh­ter—I al­ways want to be care­ful with my words around her. [So, for ex­am­ple, say­ing things like] ‘If you eat this, you’re go­ing to be strong like Moana [the Dis­ney char­ac­ter].’ I’m mak­ing sure her role mod­els are strong, healthy women. I feel it’s my job to show her that.” n

Mul­ti­me­dia bal­let Frame by Frame

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