BLOCH influencer Anna Rose O’Sullivan offers an exclusive insight into her daily routine, the intense preparation schedule for a lead ballet role and her BLOCH must-haves!
Up there with Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty is undoubtedly one of the most iconic ballets every dancer dreams of adding to their repertoire — not to mention one of the most challenging.
For Anna Rose O’Sullivan, one of the Royal Ballet’s most promising young talents, that dream recently became a reality, when she was given the opportunity to star as lead Princess Aurora in the company’s production of the famed story, in December last year.
The dancer cites the much-coveted role — which marked her debut — as one of the highlights of her career so far. “Aurora is the iconic, classical role that I’ve dreamt of performing since I was a little girl, so I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to take it on,” she revealed.
Since joining the Royal Ballet from its Upper School, as an Artist in December 2012, Anna Rose has proven just how talented she is, being promoted to First Artist in 2016, Soloist in 2017 and First Soloist in 2019. Her shining repertoire offers further proof too, with roles including Swanilda in Coppélia, Dorabella in Enigma Variations, Alice in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Clara in The Nutcracker.
In April last year she added Juliet to that list too, dancing alongside Principal dancer and close friend Marcelino Sambé, impressing fans and critics alike. So much so, that she is nominated for the outstanding female classical performance prize in the upcoming Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards.
Dancing Aurora understandably took many hours of rehearsal and hard work behind the curtain, to prepare not just her body, but her mind too — but how else did she prepare? And just how demanding was her schedule? Eager to discover more, we spoke exclusively to the BLOCH influencer to find out!
When did you know you wanted to become a dancer?
I have always loved to dance. As a small child I would use the fireplace hearth at home [in Harrow, Greater London] as a stage to put on song and dance shows for my family. I started ballet locally around the age of four and joined The Royal Ballet School [White Lodge in Richmond Park] at 11 years old. That was when I truly dedicated myself to pursuing a career in ballet.
How did it feel to dance the lead role in The Sleeping Beauty?
It felt like I had stepped into some pretty big shoes! There have been many incredible ballerinas before me that have interpreted this role and it is famously known to test your nerve and stamina. The role holds a certain classical acclaim, so I felt incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to portray Princess Aurora.
How did you prepare for the role?
I prepared for the role of Aurora with my wonderful coach [Former Principal and Répétiteur of The Royal Ballet] Lesley Collier. My process to perform this ballet was built up over weeks of hard work and polishing details of the pure technicalities. There's always something more you can add and sometimes the simplest of nuances in the choreography required the most detailed focus and analysing to make it exact. I also researched the ballet and watched historic performances so I could soak up the magic. Once I had all the information, then it was up to me to find my own interpretation.
Anna Rose waiting in the wings with Matthew Ball on her debut show. Photo taken by Marcelino Sambé
How do you get ready for such a big performance?
I try hard to treat the day of a big performance the same as I would any other. I’ll take a class to warm up my body, but I’ll be extra conscious to conserve my energy so that it has plenty of reserve for a three-act ballet later that night. I’ll eat a balanced meal around 3:00 p.m. and I like to close my eyes and visualise the performance beforehand. The day of a show is mainly about charging my batteries as all the physical preparation is done. The moment I get on stage is the moment when I feel free!
What is your typical day-to-day routine like?
For me, there is no typical work day as no day is ever entirely the same, but I always start with class and then I’ll go on to rehearse until 5:30 p.m. on a show day and 6:30 p.m. on a day with a performance. I can rehearse for up to four or five different ballets in the same day.
You’ve described performing Aurora as one of your career highlights, can you share any others?
I've had so many wonderful highlights! Another recent one was performing Juliet in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. I enjoyed every moment of performing that role!
What is your exercise regime like?
My exercise regime is mainly built up within the studio with my coach. There is no better way to rehearse ballet than to find the muscle memory within the steps themselves. Repetition is key to preparing for Aurora! If there’s a particular muscle group I’d like to target, then I will ask the wonderful Pilates and strength training specialists for guidance. I also listen to my body to become more in tune with it.
That joyous moment of celebration and achievement post-show with James Hay, captured by Marcelino Sambé
How do you stay fit and healthy?
By eating well and sleeping well. I think it’s very important to have a healthy approach to your work — work hard but cleverly!
What is your favourite BLOCH product?
What BLOCH shoes do you wear and what do you love about them?
I wear a custom-made BLOCH shoe with innovation by Bob Martin. It’s a wonderful style because they fit my foot like a glove!
What tips would you give young aspiring dancers?
My advice would be to stay true to yourself in everything, treat others how you would like to be treated, and work hard, but above all enjoy your dancing!
Anna Rose captured by Marcelino Sambé
How do you like to spend your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my family and close friends. My working schedule is so busy, that going for a meal to catch up and laugh with the people I love helps keep reality in check and makes me feel incredibly happy.
And finally, what's your next career aspiration?
I would like to continue expanding my principal repertoire. The Royal Ballet is full of beautiful stories and abstract works, and that inspires me to want to explore my own capabilities. I enjoy getting lost in a narrative and there are still many characters I would like the opportunity to pour my heart into. Giselle is one I would particularly like to take on — it requires so much strength and vulnerability!
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