Interview

What’s in a Contemporary Dancer’s Bag? With the National Dance Company Wales

People often look up to big name singers, athletes, and movie stars, but for every young aspiring dancer out there, it’s a different story. Looking up to professional dancers, renowned choreographers, and dancing legends, these are our idols. Besides our interest in a professional dancer’s training routine and performances, we’re also curious about the little things, like a professional dancer’s favourite warm-up tune, or even what’s inside a dancer’s bag!

Unzipping our most burning questions for the dancer-on-the-go, Hong Kong Dance Moms (HKDM) sat down with three of the company dancers from the National Dance Company Wales while they were on tour in Hong Kong as part of ArtisTree Selects: Moving Pieces. Sporting our exclusive HKDM dance bags, dancers Cyril Durand-Gasselin, Marine Tournet and Julia Rieder gave us an inside look into their dance bags, sharing their invaluable rehearsal, performance and preparation tips! 


Cyril 1

Cyril Durand-Gasselin

Greeting us with a warm and friendly smile was Cyril Durand-Gasselin, who has been a full-time dancer with the company since 2017. Having recently performed in the National Dance Company Wales’ Double-Bill Performance in Hong Kong, Cyril moves with flawless precision and a presence that can fill an entire stage. From discussing his own supplemental dance training to advocating hydration, Cyril gave us some insightful tips.

Cyril 2

What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

C.DG.: “For rehearsal, of course my dance clothes, just because I like to wear city clothes when I’m outside. I have my bottle of water, it’s really important. I have knee pads, it’s not the protective ones. I mean I could have this, but it’s in case during the day you have a weak knee, it can be really useful to use it.

I have a notebook that’s really important in the creative process, or during rehearsal, if I need to take notes or just find ideas for myself. I have two tennis balls in socks for massaging. I also have a cereal bar, because of course during the day you need some time to get energy back if you’re feeling a bit tired. 

Cyril Bag

I have my headphones which is useful if you just want to have a moment for yourself to listen to music without disturbing anyone. Or if during a rehearsal, I’m asked to work on something on my own, I’ll use my headphones on the side to work on my section in the piece of choreography. I have my glasses, but I wear contact lens because it’s really hard to dance with glasses. There is some paracetamol in case I have a headache, though I just need to make sure that I don’t take it before I go and dance, because when you have pain in your body it’s better to feel it so that you don’t get injured more. For performance, I have my jock strap and my makeup, and that’s the only difference”.

Cyril

What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

C.DG.: “It’s my bottle of water, because I think it’s really important. You always need to drink water”. 

What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

C.DG.: “I wouldn’t say I have a specific one, I just fold my clothes correctly and I try to put my pants on the side, and all the t-shirts on the other side. And in the center, all my makeup and toiletries. And because I like to do yoga, I’ll put my yoga mat in there which is quite hard to fit, but when placed lengthwise it works!”

Cyril interview

What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

C.DG.: “My best advice would be to take care of your body, because this is the tool you’ll use all your life if you want to be a dancer. So it’s really important to eat healthy and drink a lot of water. But also to think physically about balancing the body. For example, when doing a certain choreographic movement, most of the time you won’t do right and left. So you end up working one side of the body more than the other. Before or after class, stretch or do some strengthening to get the body balanced. I’m using yoga for example, so I think yoga is a really nice tool to do that and to centre and balance the body”.


Marine

Marine Tournet

A freelance dancer and former full-time dancer with the company, Marine Tournet’s humble, kind and optimistic comportment was absolutely contagious! Creating disjunct movements with her body, Marine’s movement style has an utterly unique and inspirational flair. Highlighting the importance of having a healthy and positive mind in dance, Marine gave us her personal life mantras that have taken her far in her dance career.

Marine 2


What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

M.T.: “For rehearsal, I always have deodorant because it’s important. Also in the U.K., it’s always important to have an umbrella and tissues as well. I always take this little towel to wipe up the sweat after class or during rehearsal. I have this pouch of medicine, and tiger balm incase I injure myself or if I am sore. This is a foot roller to massage the feet either before or after rehearsal. This is a theraband to stretch or exercise the legs, depending on what you need. I have an extra t-shirt in case I’m too sweaty and need to change, and also a pair of shorts and a pair of trousers. Depending on the work we do, I need to change sometimes. This is a foam roller, usually I just leave it in the company studio, so I don’t need to bring it everyday. But it’s really nice to roll over the muscles, the legs and the back. 

And I always have my ipod with me, I don’t actually use it when we rehearse like some people do to warm-up. I actually use it more for auditions to focus on myself and be in my bubble and centre. But for a normal warm-up in the company, I don’t really use it. 

marine 4

I always have my water bottle, it’s very important. For a performance, the only difference would be bringing my makeup and hair kit. I also bring my warm-up shoes to wear between rehearsals and the show, and in the evening I will wear them to keep my feet warm”.

marine 5

What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

M.T.: “I think it would be my hairbands, because it would be a problem if I didn’t have any!”


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

M.T.: “I would like to have one, because I don’t have one. I just squish everything into my luggage and sit on it”.

Marine’s Take Care Tip: To help dancers with any pain or soreness, Marine recommends macadamia oil mixed with a few drops of wintergreen essential oil.

marine 6

What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

M.T.: “To always be positive. Even when you go through a hard time, especially if you get injured, you can get depressed very easily. Especially if you see your friends who keep dancing, and you come to class to watch them on the side. It can be a very hard time, but just know that it is going to go away soon and you’ll recover. And you can learn a lot through watching as well, so it’s important to watch. 

Be a sponge. Whenever the teacher gives a correction, even if it’s not for you, just always take it for yourself as if it was for you, because that’s how you learn. Just keep watching everyone, and taking everyone’s corrections

Watch videos! I spent my life watching videos on Youtube when I was younger and wanted to be a dancer. I watched a lot of ballet videos, because I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I just watched a lot of things and went to see shows, to learn about the dance world outside; all the choreographers, all the styles, it’s very important to know and learn about everything. 

Be curious, even if it’s not dance related, it will always be beneficial to maybe learn about acting or martial arts or music… or anything! You will find out later that it can relate to dance in a way that you didn’t know before. So stay curious and learn! Be generous, be yourself and be honest with yourself and with the people around you. The only competition is with yourself, it’s not with the others. Believe in yourself, and trust your body and its knowledge. Trust your body, because it knows if you can keep pushing or not. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work with them intelligently”.


julia

Julia Rieder

Having danced full-time with NDCWales for the last two years, Julia Rieder creates a serene atmosphere with her poise, maturity, and sweet smile. Moving fluidly as though submerged in water, Julia dances with such tranquility, clarity and flow. Creating a checklist of things to bring in our dance bag may be one thing, but Julia sheds light on the most important thing to bring to rehearsal, an open mind and body.

julia 2

What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

J.R.: “In my dance bag, I’ll never go to class without my water bottle. A reusable one, not plastic. I have tennis balls for massage. I have some tiger balm to heat the muscles. And for class, I bring a little snack for breaks. And then the essentials, some tissue, some plasters. I have a little pocket where I put all the urgent stuff. Some hair pins, phone, headphones, charger, and knee pads just in case we do lots of floorwork”.

julia 5


What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

J.R.: “I’d probably say water or a snack. Just because you couldn’t go even half a day without fuel”.


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

J.R.: “I usually roll my clothes to make more space in my luggage. It’s quite basic, just monitor the amount of dance clothes you need for class as well as some change of clothes because you will sweat a lot. But the usual things, and some city clothes as well just in case we visit some sites and do not want to look too casual”.

julia 7


What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

J.R.: “It’s lots of hard work, but don’t overthink too much because a lot can happen by luck. It takes some luck to do everything you wish for. 

Just enjoy the ride, because there are so many occasions to connect with people and great audiences as well. Enjoy every night, and take what’s there for you as if it were the last time. 

It makes your day full. And staying open and balanced”.

julia interview

So now that the NDCWales has created the ultimate checklist for your next dance bag packing mission, be sure to pass on the torch and let the next generation of dancers know about your own personal life hacks in dance! Until next time, that’s a zip!

A Special Thanks to the National Dance Company Wales and ArtisTree!

Dancers' Cookbook - Moonwalk with Macarons

Dancers’ Cookbook - Moonwalk with Macarons: Celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival with MacaMOONS!


About the Dancers’ Cookbook

From heaps of leaps to bunches of munches, Hong Kong Dance Moms knows that there are plenty of dance foodies out there! That is why we are super excited to add this delectable page to our online dance magazine. The Dancers’ Cookbook is all about enlivening your taste buds and inspiring you to challenge your creativity. Covering mouth watering topics such as recipes, health & wellness, and food & beverage, we’re serving up some fantastic stories right to your screen!

Grab your aprons, because we’ve baked up a delicious story about macarons to kick off the Dancers’ Cookbook series!

Creativity is a bridge between the performing arts and the culinary arts. As dancers we may know how to tap our toes in the studio, but do we also know how to dabble our toes in the kitchen?

Seeking some new creative inspiration for all our dance fanatics out there, we went for a classic MJ moonwalk with macarons! And with the Mid-Autumn Festival just around the corner, we were introduced to a new spin on traditional Chinese Mooncakes. Something lighter and not too sweet, we found just the right treat to curb our holiday cravings. For all the sweet-tooths out there, Hong Kong Dance Moms sat down with Anita Caswell Ng, the founder of Little Miss Macarons for an an exclusive interview! Sharing her creative process on her mooncake alternative, the MacaMOONS, and giving us some tips on baking and exploring our creativity from the kitchen to the stage! 

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.02.36 AM.png

Escaping the humidity and rain of Hong Kong’s city streets, Hong Kong Dance Moms visited Little Miss Macarons and their beautifully vibrant kitchen. Anita welcomed us with a warm smile and exuberant energy! Before our interview, Anita surprised us with a macaron baking lesson! Though this may have not been a starring role as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, it came pretty close.

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.06.38 AM.png

The basic ingredients to make macarons are almond flour, sugar and egg whites. Don’t be deceived by the minimal amount of ingredients, because macarons take extreme care, practice, trial & error, patience, and steady hands to master. Just as a prima ballerina can make 32 fouettés look easy, Anita made it look easy to bake 32 macarons. As Hong Kong Dance Moms left our jazz hands at the door and put on our baking gloves, we learned just how challenging (but absolutely fun) it was to make macarons! Though our macarons weren’t perfect, they tasted delicious!

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.07.42 AM.png

After dabbling into the baking arts, we sat down with Anita to learn more about her love of macarons and her Mid-Autumn Festival MacaMOONS.

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.08.16 AM.png

How did you come up with the idea of making MacaMOONS?

A.C.: I was in the UK with my husband’s family, and for one moment I really missed my family in Hong Kong. And I spoke with my friends in the UK who like the idea of mooncakes, but don’t quite like eating it. I thought…well, I make macarons, can I somehow make them look like moons? So I had this idea two years ago, and last year I thought I should really have a go! Actually my son came up with the name. He said to me “macaroon, mooncake, MacaMOONS”!

 

How do MacaMOONS differ from traditional Chinese Mooncakes?

A.C.: It’s the same idea of bringing the family together, because the MacaMOONS are very big so you have to cut and share them. But the difference is that it’s more dynamic! We got a traditional Chinese flavour, we call it “芝麻姜湯圓” or “Ginger & Sesame Tong Yuen (Sweet Dumpling Soup)”.  Which brings the idea of Chinese tradition, as we do have it during Mid-Autumn Festival. We also have some flavours more familiar to the Western world, such as Sea Salt Caramel, Raspberry Dark Chocolate, and Tangy Passionfruit. So it gives people different options during the Mid-Autumn Festival, but it still embraces the idea of creating happy memories with the family together.

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.09.26 AM.png

Which MacaMOON flavours would you recommend for those with a lighter taste palette?

A.C.: Definitely Tangy Passionfruit to start with. It’s much lighter and refreshing. The other one is Raspberry Dark Chocolate. And we use real fruit, so you do taste it! We also use less sugar in our fillings compared to most traditional macaron recipes.

 

What was your process in making this dance inspired macaron tower?

A.C.: First of all we had to make the macarons the day before assembling the macaron tower. On the next day we made the cake, and decorated the cake with individually shaped fondant petals to create a tutu-like texture. And then we placed the macarons on the tower. For this particular tower, it took us 6 hours to finish! There is a lot o f love! I love tutus because there are so many details to it. And I wanted to keep it quite simple, as I believe simplicity is beautiful.

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.10.08 AM.png

How do you explore your creativity with baking?

A.C.: Just being alert of what is around you! For example, when you go on a holiday, try different types of food to get inspiration. Obviously I was self-taught, so I watched a lot of Youtube videos to see what other people do. Reading a lot of books, and lots of study. Be open minded, sometimes you don’t know until you try it. That’s something I learned over these last few years.

 

How does baking feed into your life as a mother? 

A.C.: The major reason I bake is just because I can do it with my son, as a mom. I would tell all the moms, it doesn’t matter how old their kids are, even if they are 1 or 2 years old you can bake with them. It’s all about the memories. Hopefully I can inspire him, and not necessarily to do baking. As he understands that everything requires hard work.

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.10.23 AM.png

How do you balance your passion and your career?

A.C.: Time management. You can always make it work! If you want to do something, you will make it happen.

 

What is your favourite Mid-Autumn Festival memory?

A.C.: When I was a kid, I was the eldest of three, and my parents who are local Hong Kong Chinese were great parents but also quite strict. So I was never really allowed to go out on my own. The only day I could take my younger brother and sister to the park and burn some candles and walk around at night, was Mid-Autumn Festival. That was my favourite Mid-Autumn Festival memory.

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.40.22 AM.png

What advice do you have for our dancing bakers?

A.C.: If you’ve never baked before and you want to do it, the first thing to try baking is scones! This is how I started my journey in baking. Because it is very easy to bake and easy to make very nicely! I think it is a great thing to start with!

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.10.56 AM.png

Baking macarons may very well be the pointe shoes of dance, glamorous on the outside, yet filled with passion, time, patience and practice on the inside. Plus, they are both extremely difficult to master. Whether exploring your creativity in dance or in baking, take some time to try something new! And most importantly, don’t forget to reward yourself with a little treat and something sweet!

Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 11.11.18 AM.png

 

The Mid-Autumn Festival is almost here, and to celebrate HKDM has teamed up with Little Miss Macarons to give our readers a chance to WIN a box of the scrumptious locally made macaron set, Macamoons! What’s your most memorable Mid-Autumn Festival memory? Let us know in the comments section of our social media posts on Instagram or Facebook for a chance to win these delicious holiday treats! Click here for more information!