Renowned South African dancer Camille Bracher is thrilled to be performing in South Africa again, after more than a decade. The former Royal Ballet dancer is performing with the cast of 11 professional dancers and 8 apprentice dancers from South Africa, in ‘It’s Beautiful At The Ballet’ currently at Theatre On The Bay until 4 December, 2021.
Bracher grew up in Johannesburg and came to dance at a very early age through her mother, a contemporary dancer and choreographer.
Bracher’s repertory with The Royal Ballet included White Cat (The Sleeping Beauty), Entertainer (The Invitation) and roles in The Nutcracker, Onegin, Swan Lake, The Rite of Spring, Infra, Giselle and Scènes de Ballet. She created roles in Carbon Life, ‘Diana and Actaeon’ (Metamorphosis: Titian 2012) and Woolf Works. In summer 2012 she created a role in Hot House, part of One Big Stage with Gareth Malone and the Royal Opera House Learning and Participation Department.
PTP: You mention the thrill of returning to the stage after a year and a half, please tell us more about this break, and why have you decided to come back now?
CB: At the start of Covid I found myself without a job after working for two world-renowned dance companies. I was living in London and had rent to pay so I knew I needed to make a plan quickly.
I am also a qualified dance teacher and life coach and I knew that I needed to use these skills and adapt to the fluctuating circumstances that we were all living through. I decided to start teaching dance online and picked up a lot of students quite quickly. This was the beginning of my transition from stage to working online all day every day.
When things started opening up again I came back to visit my family in South Africa and got stuck here due to the red list being introduced in the UK. Whilst here, I was asked to take part in this production of Beautiful at the Ballet. Hesitant at first due to my break from stage, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to perform in South Africa for the first time since leaving at the age of 19 to join the Royal Ballet. As a dancer I always loved performing, feeling the adrenaline pulsing through me as well as the electric energy from the audience. Returning to stage gave me the opportunity to experience this all again. Stepping back into a dancer’s shoes again has also helped me to grown as a teacher and an artist which I can now pass onto my students.
PTP: What are you most looking forward to?
CB: After immersing myself into my dance coaching work, I did not think that I would dance again. I was at peace with this thought as I love coaching other dancers and helping them to achieve their dreams.
I am however excited to step back onto stage again and to experience that unmatched feeling of being transported into another world together with the audience. It is a magical world that enables you to use the music and the movement to escape together with the audience members into a completely different reality.
PTP: Tell us more about your special feature in ‘It’s Beautiful At The Ballet’ and what the fans can expect to see?
CB: One of the pieces that I will be performing is the Nutcracker pas de deux. The music is beautiful and it always makes me think of Christmas and my time at the Royal Ballet. The choreography is fun, but also challenging, with different turns as well as lifts that my partner and I have been working on.
We have also been rehearsing a pas de deux from Orpheus and Eurydice that Veronica Paeper has choreographed on us. It is always special to have something created on you. Expect to see some high lifts!
PTP: Besides being a dancer teacher, you are also a life coach, please tell us more about these roles?
CB: Emotion drives our behaviour. Dancers, in their striving for perfection, often internalise their feelings in fear of appearing vulnerable. I therefore always felt it was imperative to address the emotions as much as the physicality of dancers.
Life coaching helps people to reach their full potential by finding their own solutions and developing their own skills. There is a lot of pressure and expectation on dancers. I am passionate about using my life coaching skills to help dancers reframe their thoughts in order to feel uplifted, inspired and in control of their own lives. This is essential for dancers to feel confident, happy and at ease. After 9 years of intense training and 8 years at the Royal Ballet and then touring with a modern company, I understand how to deal, sympathetically and empathetically, with the physical demands and psychological pressures that dancers are put under on a daily basis. Having experienced all of these situations myself, I understand how to connect with others to help overcome these challenges.
PTP: What is your first recollection of your growing passion for dance?
CB: My passion for dance started from a young age when I used to make up dances for my family. I then started taking ballet lessons as a hobby to feed my love for dance. I met my teacher Martin Schoenberg at the age of 9 which is when I started to train more intensely in the hopes of turning my passion into my career. I took part in international ballet competitions and after finishing my matric (12th grade) I auditioned for the Royal Ballet and was given a place in the company.
PTP: What is the source of your inspiration?
CB: Tough question! I love to learn from anyone that I can. Marianela Núñez is the most incredible dance technician and such a hard worker. Being in the company with her was hugely inspiring. Alina Cojocaru was also in the company when I joined. She is a true artist who totally invests in any role that she does.
As a teacher, I have learnt so much from every teacher that I have come into contact with- from the start of my training with Martin as well as my time in the companies that I worked in. At both the Royal Ballet and Company Wayne McGregor, I was lucky to work with teachers from all over the world including France, America, Russia and Brazil. This has influenced my teaching and helped me to pass on essential knowledge and experience to al of the dancers that I teach.
What were your experiences of being a performer during the pandemic?
I was working for Company Wayne McGregor, a touring contemporary company, at the start of Covid. Obviously this came to an abrupt halt when Covid hit and borders were closed. We were actually performing in Germany just before lockdown started kicking in all over the world. I suddenly found myself jobless in London with rent to pay.
I had to act quickly and I therefore decided to start online lessons and build up my own coaching business. I always wanted to go into dance coaching to support dancers both physically and emotionally- I guess covid just fuelled the process. Teaching online has helped me to reach a much wider platform and connect with dancers from all over the world. It was a big transition going from working in a studio all day to now working through a screen all day. But I am so grateful to work with so many talented and ambitious dancers and to help them reach their own goals.
‘It’s Beautiful At The Ballet’ runs at Theatre On The bay until 4 December, 2021.
Tickets range from R180 to R250, and can be purchased from Computicket
Click HERE to book.