When Amy Watson decided to follow her School of American Ballet training with a stay at the Royal Danish Ballet, she expected to stay for a season or two. Now ten years later she has build a strong and varied resume and has moved to the very front of the company
Amy Watson seems to have had three different careers at the RDB and although she is very pleased of having had and conquered so many challenges she is now in a stage of her career where she would like to be able to concentrate on her present employ as the classical ballerina, an employ that this season have included the lead roles in “Swan Lake”, “The Sleeping Beauty”, “Serenade” and “Etudes” as well as two leading roles in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
“If I look at my earlier career at RDB a lot of the parts I have done has been characterized by short and late auditions. I have done a lot of late replacements. I have avoided major injuries and from early on got a bit of a reputation for being able to take over parts with short notice. Although that reputation gave me a lot of meaty roles, the conditions was not always ideal. Now I really appreciate having more time to prepare properly so I can present a worked though and detailed interpretation. The kind of roles I get now like Odette-Odile and Serenade also demands a longer preparation, especially as I was not trained in the strictest Russian style”, says Amy Watson.
As a student at School of American Ballet, Watson was trained with the Balanchine repertoire in mind. Her original plan was to join NYCB, but several of the Danes, tied to the school, advised her that she was suited for the RDB repertoire and might advance faster through the ranks there. So Virginian Amy Watson packed up the pointe shoes and went to Copenhagen with an agenda that included a return to New York. And returned she did but only as a guest, dancing roles like the Choleric in “the Four Temperaments”, a role she was well suited for with her strong stage persona.
But Copenhagen included some very pleasing and surprising challenges, including some of the key Bournonville roles. For the 2005 festival year she danced the lead female role in “Abdallah” and featured roles in “The King’s Volunteers at Amager”. “Ventana pas de trios”, “La Conservatory” and the various pas de six and septs. She likes dancing Bournonville and looked forward to more, but no sooner was the festival over before Ballet Master Frank Andersen decided it was time for something completely different.
“We got so many modern works following the festival, I loved “Stepping Stones” by Kylian and was happy to dance in “In the middle somewhat elevated” by Forsyth, but a lot of the other works were difficult, as I have very little background in modern dance”.
She might miss the background but Amy Watson’s long limbed body and strong personality and what can only be describes as chic meant that she was chosen for most of the modern works.
But the odd classical ballet appeared in the repertoire, and Amy Watson found herself on the cast list to “Swan Lake”. There is no doubt that her expressive Odette was the role that elevated her to principal status. When Nikolaj Hübbe took over at Ballet Master in 2008 he brought with him a repertoire that focused more on the classical and neo-classical repertoire, which was very much to Amy Watson’s taste. But she was not really aware that when she donned the white tutu for Swan Lake that she really had entered the world of white tulle roles. Not only did she got to reprise Odette/Odile, she was a strong Myrtha in Hübbe’s Giselle, Symphony in C’s first movement, Aurora and right now she is preparing for the Ballerina in “Etudes”, a Danish classic. One aspect of the role is particularly poignant for Watson.
“As there are three great Sylphs in the company I do not expect to be cast in La Sylphide, but it is a role I really would like to dance. Luckily the ballerina in Etudes also has a sylphide segment, so this will be my chance to show my take on being a real sylph,” says Watson.
Hübbe has also brought focus on NYCB’s other choreographer Jerome Robbins and Amy Watson enjoyed dancing “Dancing at a gathering” but was totally unprepared for the challenges of the second Robbins offering “ West Side Story Suite”, where she found herself cast in the singing role as Anita.
“I was very pleased with my role in “Dances at a Gathering”, but the singing in “West Side Story” really scared me. It did not help at all that my brother is a Broadway performer, who knows what it really demand. Singing is so far away from dancing, but somehow I got through it, but that was a real challenge” remembers Amy Watson.
Hübbe also brought Watson back to the Bournonville repertoire as Teresina in his modern set “Napoli” and for John Neumeier she got no less than two leading roles as Hermia and Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. As the interview took place on the same day that next season’s repertoire was unveiled, Amy Watson was excited about the Neumeier “Lady of Camille” which will premier next spring. She hopes she will get one of the female leading roles in the production. As for dream roles she has a specific one in mind, both for herself and the company, Balanchine’s “Jewels” and especially “Diamonds”. When her new employ as a white tutu ballerina it is understandable, but Watson could be casts as well in the “Rubies” and “Emeralds” segment. That is the kind of dancer she is, extremely versatile and able to cover a very broad repertoire. Being so versatile can be a problem for some dancers but not for Watson, who seems to be able to put a personal interpretation on every new challenge.
Portrait of Amy Watson
Swan Lake with Ulrik Birkkjær