Some little girls are made of Sugar Plum Fairy dreams; others, of spicier stuff. Tina Pereira, a second soloist in the National Ballet and one of the five leading women of this month’s Carmen, has always had a little more kick in her pointe shoes. For her, the piquant, passionate part of Carmen—flamboyantly translated from Bizet to the ballet by Davide Bombana, and now performed in Canada for the first time—is an exquisite fit. Catch her while you can: presented as part of Luminato, in duet with daring original composition Skin Divers, the highly starred Carmen continues until June 14. We snagged Pereira on a break from intense rehearsing to get her first-person take on the tragic heroine and treasured role.
Heather Ogden, another of the lead ballerinas in Carmen, on stage.
Torontoist: This being the North American premiere of Bombana’s Carmen, do you feel hyper-pressured, or just excited?
Pereira: It’s amazing. I’m pretty excited. It’s a really special role, I think.
Indeed—so how did you land it?
Well, from our performances and from watching class, the director was able to get a good idea of who he’d like to see in the part.
How does the ballet change from the original, famed opera?
Some things are different in the ballet, but the intensity of the story, and the passion behind it are the same.
What’s your favourite part of dancing Carmen?
The most satisfying thing about it is the progression of [Carmen’s] character throughout the ballet. So I think my enjoyment is mostly in the journey, and just trying to keep the intensity of her character the whole way through.
And what’s the hardest part?
I don’t know. But it’s probably top three in the most difficult things I’ve done. It requires a lot of concentration, mental and physical energy. That’s the only thing I could even complain about—how physical it is. But it’s so worth it.
How is Carmen different than other, more classical ballets?
It’s not about looking nice, or creating a nice line. It’s fun to do things like this because you lose yourself in the character, so you’re not nitpicking at steps. A lot of classical ballet is just about feeling the shapes, but the dancing in Carmen is so much more satisfying. At the end of the day, some characters are stronger than others, and this one is ridiculously strong.
Well, the choreographer describes her not as a woman, but as a force of nature. She’s very temperamental and very wild…the whole time she’s trying to battle with herself, between love and freedom and having to give up herself. Towards the end of the ballet, she gets closed into a ring and she just snaps. And after that she’s just a wild child, and [Torontoist note: spoiler alert!] she ends up just killing herself, because she’d rather die than be contained.
I take it you’re of a similarly heated temperament?
Reading the different versions of the story or the opera, I do relate to Carmen. I already have a bit of that spice in me. [Laughs.] This is definitely a role I always wanted to do.
Do you have any other dream roles, on or off the stage? These days, Plan B seems to be a requisite.
I’d like to do more original work [like Skin Divers]. And I’d like to work on ballets myself…I have two secret pieces of music that my best friend tells me no one should know about. They’re just two little pieces I think I would like to explore one day. I do have that little burning desire…but it won’t be until I’m fully ready and able to explore that.
Lastly, tell us why we should go see you in Carmen.
It’s not your typical ballet. Anyone even considering the option of maybe going to a ballet should choose this one—it’s so enticing and so fresh! Not at all traditional. It’ll really get people interested in what we’re doing here.
To see Carmen and Skin Divers presented together at the National Ballet (Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen Street West), visit the site or call 416-354-9595.
Photos by Sian Richards, courtesy of the National Ballet of Canada.