Now for one of my all-time most favourite interviews. Guo and I talked (argued) for agesssssss about anime (Bleach > One Piece any day ;))
If you ever have a chance to see any ballet with Chengwu in it though- go. Do whatever you absolutely can and go. He is absolutely mesmerising and brings the performance to a whole new level (literally too though because his jumps are SO high). Just look at this nonsense! He’s simply incredible.
This production of The Dream stands as my favourite ballet that I’ve seen so far.
p.s- I could totally see a“Prince of Ballet!” anime working! It worked so wonderfully for ice skating with Yuri!
The interview was originally posted on Arts on the AU.
Chengwu Guo has been with The Australian Ballet since 2008, and was promoted to principal artist in 2013. He has danced the lead in several productions, including the Company’s recent production of Giselle, and appeared as the young Li Cunxin in the 2009 film Mao’s Last Dancer. Guo is currently dancing as the delightfully mischievous Puck in The Australian Ballet’s beautiful production of The Dream. The AU Review Arts editor Kat Czornij caught up with Guo before the Melbourne premiere to discuss life as a principal artist in The Australian Ballet, his advice for young hopeful ballet dancers, and favourite anime.
When and why did you first start dancing ballet?
I started dancing ballet when I was ten. When I was young I was a hyperactive kid so my mother took me to a local dancing studio. When I arrived there were three or four other boys and they were all rolling around doing backflips and I thought “wow, that’s so cool”. I became hooked right away. That wasn’t ballet though! After a year at that school I went to an open audition in Beijing, for Chinese Dance and Classical Ballet, but I didn’t get through the Chinese Dance. When I got through to Classical Ballet I didn’t really want to go, I didn’t know what ballet was. My family also wasn’t rich, and the school cost a lot of money, but the whole family decided I should go and that is how I started at Beijing Dance Academy.
Why did you choose to join The Australian Ballet?
In 2006 I came second in a competition called Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland and the prize is a scholarship to choose a ballet school in the world. I didn’t really know where to go, so I asked my teacher where I should go and they said “you should go to the Australian Ballet School”. So in January of 2007 I came to the Australian Ballet School and did one year of study. At the end of the year performance David McAllister (the Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet) came to watch and after the performance he offered me a job. So I’ve never really auditioned for any other company!
What is it like being a Principal Dancer with The Australian Ballet?
Maintaining everything is one of our most important jobs- strength, stamina, and flexibility. We do it every day. As a principal dancer especially you can’t afford to have any troubles. Even a tiny problem could cause a lot of issues for the Company. Maintenance is a big part of our career. Also being a Principal Dancer after every show we like to develop, so after every show the ballet master and the director will give you notes on where to improve. There are really high standards in the Company.
You currently dance the role of Puck in The Dream, who is quite a fun character- full of mischief! He is quite different from your role as the more serious Albrecht in Giselle. What is it like switching between different characters? Is it more fun to play someone like Puck?
Well switching between these two roles was the hardest part because they’re so different. I remember after Giselle’s season I was quite a prince character and then during the rehearsals for The Dream I was having a bit of trouble bending my back and getting lower to become another creature. But they are both fun, neither is more fun than the other. I was trying to create two completely different characters and the fun part is putting yourself into this character and going on stage to show what you can be. We do so many shows and it gets tiring, so enjoying being out there and being a different character for each season is what makes it fun.
Do you have a favourite role or production?
I just really love classical ballet, any classical ballet. Even though I have done so many of them I still love them. Recently I have been thinking, oh we did Don Quixote three years I think I want to do it again!
You also starred in the feature film Mao’s Last Dancer. What was the experience like, and would you consider more film roles in future?
I was really young when I did it and I loved doing the movie. If there are any film opportunities I would take them, but I think ballet is keeping me very busy at the moment. But definitely if there were any opportunities I would take them!
You are also quite a fan of anime! Do you have a favourite? Do you think any would make a great ballet?
My favourite is One Piece! I thought about if I made any anime what I would make… and I think I would make a new ballet anime talking about ballet stories. All the dramas, maybe even some superpowers! “Prince of Ballet!”
What are the best and worst parts of being a ballet dancer?
I have never really thought about it… but I think the best part is that you are doing what you like for thousands of audience members. You are getting all the love from the audience and you feel great about it. The worst part is the process of injury. When we are mid-production, and people get injured, and all the difficulties the whole company goes through.
And finally, do you have any advice for any young hopeful ballet dancers?
The chance is for people who work hard and the opportunities are for people who are ready. So if you work hard you can always achieve what you want to be. But if you just think it is going to happen then it is never going to happen. That is what I want to tell them.