Born in London, Assistant Director, Marion Tait joined the Royal Ballet School at 15, graduating to The Royal Ballet’s touring company. Having been given an OBE in 1992 and made a CBE in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours, she continues to enjoy a distinguished career, having recently created the role of the Stepmother in Cinderella.
To celebrate #DancePassion, we sat down with Marion to discuss her love for Fred Astaire and why she believes coming together as one dance community is important now more than ever before.
What is your earliest memory of dance?
I started young, I was three and I remember being in what seemed to be a huge studio surrounded by really tall people, I was small for my age even then. Although I was very shy, I was galloping around in circles and loving every minute of it. Apparently, the other children were sitting on their mother's laps crying because they didn't want to join in.
Another memory of my early days was being in an exam and being too terrified to answer the theory question in case I was wrong, but I knew the answer all the time.
But my first memory of ballet? I remember my Mum taking me to see The Nutcracker at the Festival Hall.
Who or what inspired to start dance?
Simply, my Mum thought it was a nice thing for a little girl to do. I just went along at the age of three and enjoyed it. I didn't just do ballet, I did tap, jazz and a bit of singing. Even when it was suggested I went for a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dance, for serious ballet classes, twice a week at the age of ten, I wasn't thinking I was going to be a ballerina. It was just the love of it and the challenge.
People have often asked, why did I choose ballet? I think probably because it was the hardest.
What is your favourite full-length ballet?
There are so many!
To dance? Something narrative.
I do love David's (David Bintley) pieces; I love Romeo & Juliet. It's absolutely fantastic. It tells such a story and dance wise it's not that technically challenging. Not like The Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake, where it's very obvious that there are technical feats. I think that's how ballet should be, it shouldn't be about waiting for the big thing to happen. I’m very much a fan of the idea, that movement tells a story without you even having to act. Which is very much what David Bintley does with his choreography. I've watched him create solos for people and before they realise it and because I'm watching it and listening to him, I realise what an arm movement is meaning. Because it actually means something.
But to answer your question. It's usually the thing I was doing at the time.
But going back to Romeo & Juliet, you just have to sit and listen to the music and it tells the whole story. From the joy to the tragedy, to the anguish to the battles. It just says it all.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I think my proudest moment is to know how proud my Mum was of everything I did.
Currently, I feel pride when I see someone achieve something, I've helped them with. It's little things like that.
So, when I talk about proud moments, I've done some fantastic things that I'm really chuffed with. But I'm proud that I gave my Mum so much pride. (Which hopefully she didn't talk about too much!)
What has been the most unexpected source of inspiration?
To someone who loves music and is musical and loves storytelling. The music is the inspiration a lot of time. However, now that I sit at the front of a studio and I watch someone like David Bintley creating art and watching him work with the dancers he chooses (lucky people). That's my inspiration, I sit there and wish I could get up there and do those things.
So as far as inspiration, I could be working on something quite insignificant. But, because of the person who has come to stage it is so inspiring it will be such a special piece for you.
I was really lucky with the woman who taught me Juliet, because she talked through every single thing. Immediately you grasp what that 14-year-old girl was feeling. Even though I was 42 when I first danced it. Kenneth MacMillan came to me and said, you're' going to be surprised. You're going to be doing Juliet. I just said WHAT? I thought I'd be the nurse.
How would you like to be described as an artist?
As someone who connected with the audience. In whatever way. If that was connecting with an audience telling a story or making the most beautiful lines with the body. That's why abstract ballet also thrills me.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
All I would say is, are you enjoying it?
It's too hard of a profession to go into if you don't enjoy it. I didn’t go to an early vocational school. I started when I was fifteen at the Royal Ballet School. So that was when it became vocational. I would not have done that if I did not enjoy it.
Is there a role you enjoyed the most?
Oh, it's a list, La fille mal gardée, The Dream, Two Pigeons and Hobson's Choice. I could even say Swan Lake, even though I found it very hard and was relieved every night when it was over.
Why do you think events like #DancePassion are important?
It's so fantastic! Because as opposed to #WorldBalletDay (which is great), it’s showing different facets, different sides of companies and very much more accessible sides.
Do you have any inspirational figures outside the world of ballet?
I have to say Fred Astaire he was such a disciplined performer. He was just intent on getting it right. I'm sure he was a devil to work with. But fantastic!
Pictured above Marion with Joseph Cipolla in Las Hermanas (Left) and Marion in Elite Syncopations (Right)