Melissa Hamilton

Melissa Hamilton - Life and Ballet (1st Blog Post)

4 min read

September 9th, 2016

June has been a very busy month as I have just finished performing a contemporary production of Cinderella here with Semperoper Ballett. This was a very modern Cinderella, choreographed by Stijn Celis, whose work I’d never seen before let alone performed before joining Semperoper. French Principal Fabien Voranger was my ‘Prince Charming’, the stepmother and step-sisters were all played by male dancers, rocking heels and dresses. I wore a simple blue slip dress and then transformed for the ball scene into a gorgeous, sparkling red gown.

It was my first time performing in bare feet!  The performance was just under an hour, and the only shoes I wore were a pair of white high heels given to me by my Prince at the ball! As dancers we are used to lots of hard work on our feet but getting used to how my feet felt working exposed was all new to me.

Squeezing my feet back into pointe shoes for other rehearsals at the same time wasn't the most comfortable though and seeing as it's summer and so hot here they seemed even more swollen than normal having the chance to work uncovered. It was refreshing to experience the beautiful Prokofiev score not being in a tutu, tights and pointe shoes and be able to let myself go in telling the story without having to focus on the demands of classical technique and correctness. It became more about using and exploring Celis' choreographic language to become the character and bring the story to life.

It was staged in one of our smaller performance spaces - Semper 2. The audience was just over 200 and seated on all four sides of us, so it was very intimate. I really enjoyed it and being part of such a small cast of 11 made it feel even more special. Being stretched by new choreographic style is key to growing and developing skills as a dancer and artist and one of the key reasons I chose to take a sabbatical from the Royal Ballet and work with the Semperoper Ballett.  There appeared to be a very warm audience reaction to our shows. German audiences appear very open to experiencing new and different repertoire.

Two days after my last performance in the the run of these Cinderella shows I flew to Dortmund to perform in a two night Gala evening with another Semperoper Principal - Istvan Simon.  Then it was straight back here to continue rehearsals for the triple bill that is finishing the company’s season. I’m performing the first Handel pas de deux in Forsythe’s ‘Neue Suite’ and only days ago found out I would be performing the role of "The Black" in Matz Ek's "She Was Black."

Both of these ballets are very special for me to be a part of.  Both are debuts, it will be the first time I will have the chance to work on and perform a work by William Forsythe and I have never performed anything like the role of Matz Ek's "The Black." Great challenges to complete my season with!

We’re performing on July 7 and 10…and then I go to Ibiza! I’m meeting two friends there for a week’s holiday. One is a dancer with the Dutch National Ballet and the other with the Polish National Ballet.

All three of us said ‘we have to go there before we’re 30’ and felt this summer would be the perfect chance. We’ll be able to keep our dancing up in the clubs but I am also looking forward to having time to rest and intend to make the most of lazy days on the beach.

After that I’m going to France to work for a month with my coach. I’m debuting the full length classical ‘Giselle’ in Russia, in the Kremlin Ballet Festival on September 24 which I’ll be dancing with Istvan Simon a partner I dance with here at Semperoper. We performed the Act II pas de deux from Giselle in the Dortmund galas but the rest of the ballet I will have to learn and rehearse from scratch.

My coach, Masha Mukhamedov is the woman I left Elmhurst to train privately with when I was 18 and she’s based near Toulouse now. She built me, back in 2006-2007, when we originally worked together, and we’ve had a long-standing and very special working relationship ever since. She pushes me to lengths that no one else does. Training with her is the most intense I’ve ever experienced and I value every moment I spend in the studio with her. We will work every day, for as long as it takes. Giselle is a role I've aspired to dance for many years, so I'm very excited to start preparing it from a company performance DVD that I have been sent. Dancers use video all the time to learn ballets. Frankly I’d be lost without it!! It's perfect to break down and figure out the choreography you are learning and thank God for the slow motion, pause and rewind buttons!

Dresden is a stunning place to live in summer. We’ve had great weather with sunshine, blue skies and temperatures between 26-30 degrees. People bring their barbeques out all along the river and, out where I live, all the cafes, bars and restaurants have opened out onto the streets. It’s a really nice place to be but soon I’m off on holidays and I can’t wait.

Melissa Hamilton (27), from Dromore, Co Down, once described as ‘Charlize Theron in pointe shoes’, has defied all the odds to make a name for herself in the ballet world. A relatively late starter, she was rejected by the Royal’s ballet school at 16 but got a scholarship to train at Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham. Fortunately one of her teachers, the former Bolshoi Ballet soloist Masha Mukhamedov, quickly spotted her potential and in a bold move, Melissa chose to leave Elmhurst and instead train privately under Masha's mentoring. A year later, in 2007, Hamilton successfully auditioned for and joined The Royal Ballet Company. After eight years in London she made the decision to take a sabbatical to guest as a Principal dancer with the Semperoper Ballett in Dresden for 2015/16 season.

Melissa is an Allianz arts and cultural ambassador and will be writing a monthly blog about life and ballet.