This season Hilary Guswiler has establish herself as the next great Danish ballerina covering a repertoire from Bournonville over Balanchine to a promising Swan Queen.
21 year old Hilary Guswiler has had a dream start to her career at Royal Danish Ballet. In her first year as member of the company she not only got a leading role in “Serenade”, had a ballet made on her by Iain Rowe, and participated in the Erik Bruhn competition with Alban Lendorf as well as performed in Vail. And by the beginning of her second season, she got the ultimate challenge as Odette – Odile in Swan Lake.
“I was in the Royal Theatre during the summer holiday to prepare for our Vail performance, when I by accident discovered that the casting for Swan Lake was up and my name on the rooster”, explains Hilary Guswiler, “I was pleased but also worried whether I could handle the challenge.”
Tall and slim Guswiler has the ideal build for the swan queen, and her first performance in September showed a very expressive and mature white swan. The black swan was slightly marred by her running out of energy, but showed determination and also the layout of a well balanced contract to the white swan, which comes so natural for her. Getting three performances allowed Guswiler to build more experience, but she does hope to get a second turn, where she can use the experience she had gained since.
But her season included much more than the Swan queen. Solo parts in “Sleeping Beauty” was followed by one of Bournonville meatiest roles, Hilda in Nikolaj Hübbe’s production of “A Folks Tale “ which will be featured on the US tour and a role famously often given to future ballerinas.
“I so enjoyed working on the part, and I really felt that I was able to contribute ideas and interpretations to the role and we had a lengthily rehearsal period. As we was only two casts there was focus on all the dancers. I love being in the troll’s den in second act. I feel so at home and so safe”, says Guswiler.
An early start
A great deal of the Danish audience assumes that Hilary Guswiler is one of the foreign members of the company, but they could not be further from the truth. Hilary Guswiler has an American father and a Danish mother. Save for a short period in her early childhood she has spend her entire life in Denmark, and her English is the result of school lessons. She describes her years at Royal Danish Ballet School as quiet and harmonious:
“I auditioned when I was six years old and had just passed my seventh birthday when I started. My time at ballet school went quietly and I do not remember being pressurized. I was not picked out for any of the major children’s roles and although I was ambitious, I did not set my expectations to high and was happy and grateful for what I got, which probably saved me for disappointments at a young age”, explains Hilary Guswiler.
But when she entered the aspirant’s class, it became clear that she had extraordinary gifts. In the aspirant years Hilary Guswiler was the pupil of Christina Olsson, one of the strongest technical ballerinas in the company and she also had variation class with Anna Lærkesen, who in the sixties was a leading ballerina with the RDB and who shared the poetic gifts with Guswiler as well as the impressive height. For the final exam Guswiler danced Grand Pas Classic and this showed that the teachers saw her as a natural tutu ballerina. That the new ballet master was in agreement was clear by the production of “Symphony in C” where Guswiler in addition to dancing a side soloist also got the chance to try on the lead in Second Movement in practice.
In her student years she was lucky to get a grant to study at School of American Ballet. That builds an interest in the Balanchine repertoire and led to friendships with many American dancers with whom she still has ties. Clearly friendship means a lot to Guswiler. She is a strong advocate for her talented friend Caroline Baldwin, who got a break in various solos in Christopher Wheeldon’s Sleeping Beauty as did Guswiler herself. She hopes that Baldwin will get a shot at Hilda and seems happy when I disclosed that I too see a great potential in Caroline Baldwin.
Interviewing Guswiler so early in her career is meeting a ballerina who so far has only seen the happy phase of being a ballerina in spe. She has not meet major injuries or set bags nor has she been hit by vicious jealousy from her peers. Quite the contrary. According to Guswiler all her co workers has been very supporting regarding her big break. As we discuss this, I suggest and she agrees that this could be the positive effect of the rest of the dancers seeing that it is possible to get a great role early in the career under Hübbe’s management, and if it could happen to Hilary Guswiler, it could also happen to other dancers.
But one of the reasons it did happen to Guswiler is probably her strong work ethic and her quest to keep demanding more of herself. She always wants to keep improving, to get a chance to do the best she can and to get more experience. Although she has been giver a lot regarding talent and an ideal body type, it will be her commitment and hard work that will bring her to the very top – and it can happen fast. The American audience will get a unique opportunity to see Guswiler dancing major parts while still maturing. They will see a great promise but also a dancer who already is on a high level.
Portrait of Hilary Guswiler
Swan Lake with Gregory Dean
Hilda in "A Folks Tale"