Interview: Alison Mcwhinney - on dancing with ENB

Tuesday 1 September 2015 by Carmel Smith

Alison McWhinney
Photography by ASH

Australian dancer Alison Mcwhinney has been with English National Ballet since 2005. In 2014 she won the company’s Emerging Dancer Award, (jointly with Junor Souza) and was this year promoted to Soloist. This month (8 – 12 Sep) she’ll be dancing at Sadler’s Wells in Liam Scarlett’s No Man’s Land part of the award winning Lest We Forget programme, marking the centenary of World War One. We caught up with her between rehearsals…

Will dancing in No Man’s Land be your first performance as a Soloist?
Actually my first performance after I was promoted was in Colombia where we performed Swan Lake, at high altitude!

Did you dance in the first performances of Lest We Forget at the Barbican last year?
Yes. This year I will be dancing the same role in No Man’s Land and also I will get the chance to perform one of the principal couples.

What do you enjoy most about the piece?
For me Liszt’s music is so beautiful, I never tire of hearing it! Also the meaning of the ballet brings up so many emotions – the women working in munition factories at home and the men fighting in the trenches – it is always special to dance and always different. Liam isn’t working with us in rehearsal this time but most of us were there when he created it so we know what he envisioned for this piece.

Liam Scarlett talks about the making of No Man’s Land

In 2014 you were a joint winner of the company’s Emerging Dancer Award (with Junor Souza). What did that win mean to you?
Winning the Emerging Dancer award in 2014 with Junor was very special for me! Firstly, because my parents came over from Australia to watch, to share the excitement with them was something I will never forget. Also to share the award with Junor, who was my (dance) partner, was so nice because we had been through all the rehearsals together, helping, supporting and encouraging each other from the beginning and so to share the prize with him made it even better!

You’ve been with the company for ten years – what have been the stand out highlights for you?
There have been so many through my career so far! The most recent was being promoted to Soloist this year, which was incredible. Winning the Emerging Dancer in 2014; getting to perform in beautiful theatres, both indoor and outdoor, all over the world in places like Granada in Spain, in Italy and in France on the lake at Versailles. Getting the chance to dance roles I have dreamed about day in and day out! Also one that isn’t really ballet related but ultimately life changing, I met Laurent (Liotardo) when I joined English National Ballet and we got engaged last year. He brings me so much happiness, and English National Ballet brought him to me.

Is there a role you’d love to dance – but haven’t yet?
Juliet, Giselle (the whole ballet, I have danced part of Act 2) , Manon, Mary Vetsera in Mayerling, to name a few!

You grew up in Australia – do you miss it? (any plans to return?)
Yes, I miss it every day! I would love to return eventually when the time is right. I am a laid back Australian at heart and miss that lifestyle. But for now I am very happy here. We just bought a flat so we won’t be going anywhere for a while!

Lest We Forget
Sadler’s Wells, 8 – 12 September

Photo: Alison McWhinney by ASH

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