29 September 2012 at 8.17pm | Comment on this article
One is a full-contact team sport played out over 80 gruelling minutes and known jokingly as “a thug’s game played by gentleman”, the other an aesthetic art-form composed of complex steps, lifts and jumps performed in the spotlight of the stage. Rugby and ballet, though both physically demanding, seem to be at opposite ends of the physical spectrum. However, a discussion between two rising stars of the respective disciplines at a Young Friends Insider event revealed that, from relaxing before the big moment to building the optimal physique, the disciplines do share some common traits.
Royal Ballet Soloist Kristin McNally (who presented Royal Ballet Live) hosted the talk, which featured England Rugby Union player Charlie Davies and Royal Ballet Soloist Dawid Trzensimiech. During the talk, it emerged that both had their first taste of what was to become their future career before they hit double figures (Charlie playing rugby with his dad at home, Dawid in Poland and then at the Royal Ballet School), both spend hours in training to practise steps and patterns of play, and both make the most of free-time away from their career to rest and relax.
However, rugby and ballet ask very different things from the human body. “Ballet is all about strength and not bulk,” explained Dawid. “You don’t want to build up muscle because of the aesthetic lines that we have to show up on stage. The ballet class is perfectly constructed for the dancer, but I also go to the gym twice a week and work with a personal trainer. However, it’s not about looking strong but about feeling strong: when it comes to partnering and lifting the girls, a lot is about the co-ordination.”
In rugby however, bulk can often be an advantage. “In rugby, we do a lot of fitness and weight training to keep our size and strength up,” added Charlie. “However, it very much depends on what position you play. My position involves a lot of running – making breaks, going for tackles, sprinting down the pitch - and so I focus on explosive power exercises.”
Pre-match preparation also differs substantially from pre-performance rehearsals. Every day this week, the ballet company has been doing complete rehearsals of the full four acts of Swan Lake, which opens on 8 October. On the rugby pitch however, the team avoids full practice games. “We only do certain moves and run through patterns of play in training,” explained Charlie. “We’d never do a full game as you don’t want guys getting injured.”
Charlie has been playing professional rugby for four years. He began his career at Nottingham RFC in the Guinness Championship before going on to play for French rugby giants Stade Français, joining London-based Wasps in 2010.
“I think my career highlight so far has been playing against Jonny Wilkinson in my first game over in Paris. To play against someone who has achieved so much in the game (and come back from injuries), and to meet him afterwards, was humbling,” said Charlie.
Dawid, who was recently promoted to Royal Ballet Soloist, came to the company via the Royal Ballet School and is currently rehearsing six different roles. Following Swan Lake, he will dance in Liam Scarlett’s Viscera, Wayne McGregor’s Infra and Christopher Wheeldon’s Fool’s Paradise, followed by roles in The Nutcracker and Onegin.
“My career highlight was last season when I got a chance to dance the role of James in La Sylphide. I didn’t expect to be cast for the role, and it was the first time I did a narrative ballet. I had the chance to become an artist rather than just a dancer doing steps,” said Dawid.
The event, which was hosted by Rugby Ralph Lauren in Covent Garden and offered attendees the chance to preview the Rugby Ralph Lauren fall collection, was a Covent Garden Insiders event. Each Season Young Friends of Covent Garden are invited to attend four events that offer a special insight into the work and artists of the Royal Opera House. Find out more about becoming a Friend of Covent Garden.