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In conversation with Varna International Ballet Soloists Claire Gillard and Vittorio Scolè

Norwich Theatre talk to Varna International Ballet’s soloists Claire Gillard and Vittorio Scolè.


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Ballet lovers can be transported into some of the best-known stories with Varna International Ballet and Orchestra when they are here at Norwich Theatre Royal between 6 – 8 Feb. The company is making its UK debut with the romantic Swan Lake, set to Tchaikovsky’s ravishing score; the comic Coppélia, about a doll, brought to life and the tragic Giselle, in which love continues after death. 

But what is it like to dance on stage? We spoke to soloists Claire Gillard and Vittorio Scolè about their excitement about touring the UK and giving you a taste of the magical shows that await you. 

We’re thrilled that you’re coming to the UK! How are you feeling about it? 

Claire Gillard: I’m really, really excited! I think it’s going to be so fun and challenging for us: it’s a big tour, but we’re ready for it. I was born in London, and I have family in England – it’ll be so great to see them, and they’ll be able to watch me dance. I’m especially excited to perform in Wimbledon, in the centre of London. It’s a lovely homecoming. And I think Cardiff, where we begin our tour, will be a really nice welcome. 

Vittorio Scolè: This will be my first time in England – and I’ll be dancing, at Christmas time! I’m so happy. I just know it’ll be amazing. It’s hard work, dancing non-stop for three months, but I’m curious to see new cities I’ve never been to; when I have any free time, I’ll definitely be a tourist. Also, my family are flying in from Italy to see my debut – I think that’ll be in January, when we’re in Manchester. So that makes it even better. 

How long have you been with the company, and how are you finding it? 

Gillard: I’ve been with Varna with two years. It’s a really fun mix of dancers from different countries: Spain, Italy, Portugal, France, Brazil, of course Bulgaria… We all connect through dance. My partner in the shows is called Marco [di Salvo], he’s Italian – I speak a bit of Spanish, which is similar, so we figure it out! I love working with him: he has a lot of experience.  

Scolè: We’re completely international – it’s really cool. I started in August with the company and I really like the atmosphere. It’s like a family from all different places. 

Tell us a bit about the shows you’re bringing us and which roles you’re dancing 

Gillard: They’re all the traditional ballets that people love – with great music, great stories and beautiful dancing. I’m performing [the lead roles of] Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Marie in The Nutcracker, Swanhilda in Coppélia, and Giselle in Giselle. We have four principal casts going on tour, so we alternate shows between us. I really love Swan Lake, because you get to be elegant and soft in the first act, and then you play the dark swan in the second act, which is a big change of personality. It’s really fun to do. 

Scolè: I’m dancing the soloist roles, which is Albrecht in Giselle, Frantz in Coppélia, and the Princes in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. I would say the Prince in Swan Lake is the most difficult, but you keep practising and every time you do something different with your movement or your face so it’s always getting better, better, better!  

How much work goes into a big tour like this? 

Gillard: It is really busy with rehearsals. But we’re a young, talented company full of energy and stamina, and we’re so excited to tour.  

How big is the touring company? 

Ivanova-Dimova: We have about 40 dancers – that means that we can ensure, in any situation, we can continue on and give the audience a great show. We also have an orchestra with about 25-30 musicians.  

Scolè: It makes such a difference having the orchestra with us. I feel it in my heart: the music and dancing are together, they are one. You might be scared before you go on stage, but when the orchestra plays you get this feeling that’s impossible to explain: it’s like a dream. We are carried away, and I hope people watching are too. 

Do you have lavish sets and costumes? 

Gillard: When you get the dancing, the live music, the sets, the costumes, everything coming together, it’s magical. 

Are these good ballets for first-time or family audiences? 

Scolè: It’s our job to carry people with us when we’re up on stage – to tell them the story through our dancing. It’s like sharing a fairy tale. I think parents and children, everyone who comes will have an amazing time.  

Finally, what do they think audiences can expect from a Varna ballet? 

Gillard: They’re going to really like our company because we’re just full of energy, we’re so thrilled to travel around the UK bringing our ballets to new audiences, and we have a great connection on stage between all the dancers. I think they’ll feel our passion and our joy.  

Scolè: You don’t need to understand all the ballet technique or the history. We’re bringing stories with princes and princesses that little kids will love, as well as beautiful dancing, costumes, music: everything you need to have a magical time. 

Varna International Ballet is at Norwich Theatre Royal between 6 – 8 Feb.