A Creative Artist talk from Leanne Benjamin
We were delighted to have Leanne Benjamin deliver a Creative Artist talk on Tuesday 22 February. Leanne was interviewed by two of our students before a captivated audience of students and staff at Upper School.
Leanne Benjamin joined The Royal Ballet School at 16, winning both the Adeline Genée Gold Medal and Prix de Lausanne within her first year.
Throughout her extensive career Leanne has danced with four major ballet companies: The Royal Ballet, Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet (now Birmingham Royal Ballet), London Festival Ballet and Deutsche Oper Ballet. She spoke to us about her experience of transitioning between companies:
It was scary… it’s always difficult to know what to do. I don’t regret anything that I did… I think that you have to be true to yourself. Every time I moved it wasn’t for personal reasons, it was all about the work, that’s something I always put to the forefront… just make it about the work.
Built for Ballet
Since retiring, Leanne now coaches for The Royal Ballet among other companies. In 2021 she published her autobiography Built for Ballet, covering her life and career as well as her views on the changing world of ballet. She told us about why she felt it was the right time for her to publish her book:
I felt I was ready because I felt that I had my career as a dancer, I’d had some time to get away and I was also back as a coach and so I thought it was a much more interesting take on why I should write a book, because I was writing [with] a perspective not only as a ballerina on the world stage but as a coach and what I’ve learnt right through my career and what I want to give back.
Advice for our students
Leanne had some great advice to offer to our aspiring dancers:
Just be yourself, work hard, work within your means and be brave. That’s all you can be. Just make the most of it, it’s an incredible time to be training, especially here, it’s such an amazing school… Just don’t expect things to go your way all the time… you can have a bad day, a bad week, a bad month, you can even have a bad year and you can bounce back. So just know that quiet determination is what you need and consistency… you can always start again afresh.
A few questions
Some of our audience wanted to ask more:
How do you get psychologically into a role?
It’s getting in the mind set as soon as you get on the stage… you have to hit that character as soon as you arrive… otherwise the audience is playing catch up. It’s very important to identify that character… it is just about rehearsing and trying to evolve and develop and find what works and what doesn’t work in that rehearsal process.
Do you find it hard to let the character go after a show?
I’m quite good at just cutting out and having a drink and dinner… you have to celebrate the good times; you have to embrace the good times and enjoy it!
Do you have any regrets?
I think it’s really important to be yourself. I was really brave in my career however there were times when I wish I’d opened up. There were times when I didn’t open up and missed an opportunity… Just be brave about talking to people and think no one really minds. Other than that, I would have made all the mistakes I’ve made and come out of it the way I came out of it. You can’t do everything perfectly, perfect is overrated, you can’t be perfect.
Thank you Leanne for giving us such valuable insights!