'I just couldn’t do it', says Joseph Caley, describing how he agonisingly missed out on dancing the role of the Prince in Cinderella, after sustaining an injury just days before the show was due to open.
'I was gutted', he says. 'No one likes to be injured, and miss out on the performances. That’s the good bit – dancing on stage and having fun'.
Ironically, Joseph had already stepped in to partner an extra Cinderella after her own Prince was injured.
'I was down to do three shows with Tash [Natasha Oughtred]. Then I was told I was going to go on with Maureya [Lebowitz] too. But I only got to do one little rehearsal with Maureya, and the following week I did a dodgy jump, my knee went and that was that'.
'That was even worse, because I like stepping in and saving the day!'
Already partially recovered, Joseph has now been cast in the lead role in Aladdin, and has been working hard to prepare for the role.
'Being off injured, you lose a lot of stamina and strength. I’d worked so hard throughout Swan Lake [in the autumn], getting those levels up after the summer break, and I’d put a lot of work in, so losing all that really upset me'.
'At the same time you can go into the Jerwood Centre [Birmingham Royal Ballet’s physiotherapy facility] and combat weaknesses that you have, and it’s been good to go back to basics and try to build up from scratch. But it’s hard to keep motivated. In class I can keep pushing, because that’s dancing and that’s what I love. But in the Jerwood it’s just a series of exercises, and I don’t love that'.
'It’s just not the same. Footballers and rugby players aren’t match fit until they actually get on the pitch and play matches, and it’s the same for us. We’re not ballet-fit until we actually do a ballet!'
Joseph will be one of the first to play Aladdin in the UK, and will be working hard over the final few days of preparation.
'I’m doing the second show, so I’m straight in there', he says. “I’ve only just started doing jumps again now, so it’s cutting it a little fine, and I’ve still got pain in my knee. I did the solo the other day, or tried to, and I was just exhausted. But I’m confident that I’ll be able to do it, and over the course of the tour I’m sure I’ll get back to full fitness.'
The Aladdin tour will be the first for the Company in 2013, with January and February having been kept clear to allow everybody to learn the new production. This has also meant that Joseph has had the benefit of the physiotherapy facilities at our Birmingham HQ.
'While we have physios that tour with us, it’s the time when everybody most commonly picks up strains and aches and niggles, so it can be hard to get time to see them.'
'It’s tough to keep the body physically fit when you’re on tour. Different stages can have a huge impact on your body, and cold weather. Theaters can be cold spaces during the day, and you can take a full class in the morning without ever really warming up, so then going on and doing a show afterwards doesn’t feel great. Jumping on a coach for a few hours after a show isn’t the best way of recovering either!'
There are six dancers playing the lead in Aladdin, to give them all recovery time between performances. Many of them, including Joseph, will also be appearing in other casts playing different characters.
'I’m doing Aladdin and I’m doing Rubies', he explains. 'Rubies is short, but when we did a rehearsal the other day I was feeling it. That’s just down to a lack of fitness, and the only way to get that back is to keep doing it, and it will get better'.
'Rubies mainly involves partnering rather than jumps. But there’s a few technical lifts. During a performance, when you’ve got something tough like that coming up, it’s made harder on your body because you brace yourself for it and tense up'.
'But Aladdin is definitely the tougher role, because we’re on stage for the whole of the first act, and that’s 55 minutes long. It includes solos and a lot of running around, and on top of that you’ve got to play the part.'
As yet, none of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s dancers know exactly how exhausting the performances will be, as none of them have so far run the choreography from start to finish.
'We won’t get the chance to do the whole of the first act in one go until a week before the show starts, probably. We won’t do full calls until nearer the time. So we’ll have to see how that goes, and get, and stay as fit as possible.'
'I’m quite a positive person though. I believe I can do it, and I think that’s the best attitude to have!'