Interview: Getting the pointe across..

Monday 2 November 2015 by Laura Dodge

Madison Keesler backstage in English National Ballet's 'Le Corsaire'. Photo: Laurent Liotardo.

Injury can be the end of a dancer’s career and even relatively minor injuries can involve several frustrating weeks of rest and rehabilitation. But English National Ballet (ENB) First Artist Madison Keesler has used a recent back injury to begin an entirely new project – as a filmmaker.

Keesler’s YouTube channel, Mad’s Pointe – which launches tomorrow (Tue 3 November) – aims to provide lifestyle advice for dancers, based on her eight years experience with ENB, Hamburg Ballet and San Francisco Ballet.

In a brief gap between rehearsals and performances at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, she told Laura Dodge all about it…

So why did you decide to set up a YouTube channel?
When I had my back injury last year and couldn’t dance for two months, I was desperate to find something to put my mind to. I was watching some videos on YouTube and I found myself wondering what it would be like to create my own. I have taken theatre and film acting classes before, but I thought it would be interesting to use my injury time to learn more about everything that goes on behind the camera.

YouTube is a great platform. It offers endless possibilities to show and express whatever you want through film, and the best part is that the viewers don’t expect perfection. So it seemed like a great place for me to start playing around and teaching myself some basic things about filming, lighting, editing and more. Since then I have spent many months researching all the aspects of what being a YouTuber really means – from algorithms to three-point lighting and everything in between!

There are only one or two other professional ballet dancers who are creating content consistently on YouTube, so there is definitely a gap in the market. I feel that our world as professional dancers is so unique and diverse that there are a plethora of ideas for video content.

Speaking of which, what kind of content will you be posting?
I want my videos to cover an array of topics. There are so many different, interesting aspects to the world of a professional dancer. I want to film about everything – from beauty-related advice such as hair and make-up, to exercises, cooking recipes and different methods of sewing and breaking in pointe shoes. I also plan to have an ongoing series of Q&A videos where anyone can submit questions.

The first video tomorrow will be about stage make-up and then next week will be a hair tutorial. As time goes on, I hope my viewers will leave suggestions about what they want see as well. After all, this content is for them and I will be catering to what they want as much as possible.

I think my videos will be appropriate and useful for dance and theatre students, but I also hope other professional dancers will enjoy the content. And I think that there will be a number of videos that will also be interesting for non-dancers as well.

Do you think social media is important for dance?
I think social media has become important to many different professions these days, and I believe it’s important for dance as well. It’s great because it offers the opportunity to feel connected with both other people and organisations. I also think that film is serving an important and more vital role in the dance world. I’m happy about this because I think if dance is filmed well it can offer the viewer a close-up and personal experience where even the most subtle emotions and feelings can be seen and felt clearly.

If you had been able to see your YouTube videos when you were younger, what do you think you would have thought?
I would have loved to see YouTube videos created by professional dancers when I was a student! I was and still am so curious about what other dancers think and do. How do they prepare their shoes? How do they like to do their make-up? Are there any tips and tricks they have? What are some of their more personal views and ideas? My list of questions goes on and on. I hope that more dancers start creating content on YouTube. There are thousands of other people sharing all sorts of great information, so why not dancers too?

Finally, there are only 52 days (and counting) until Christmas, hooray! What’s your favourite character in The Nutcracker?
My favourite character in The Nutcracker is a three-way tie between Sugar Plum, Dew Drop, and Arabian in George Balanchine’s version. However, in English National Ballet’s version my favourite character would be Clara, which I hope I will get the chance to perform one day!

Mad’s Pointe launches on Tuesday 3 November.

Madison Keesler will be performing in English National Ballet’s Christmas season of The Nutcracker and Le Corsaire at the London Coliseum

Photos: Laurent Liotardo

Laura Dodge writes about dance for Dancing Times, Londonist, and several other publications, including her blog – Dance Musings. Find her on Twitter: @DodgeDance

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