Labours of Love

Precious Adams

for PRECIOUS, BALLET RESONATES IN her BODY, MIND AND SOUL. BEING ‘CRAZY DETERMINED’ HELPS TOo. HERE, she shares why she WAS born to dance.

Precious Adams is a junior soloist at the English National Ballet [ENB] whose charm is as impressive as her extension. She’s only the second black dancer in the company’s 72-year history and her company co-members praise her sense of humour as well as her talent. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Precious has trained in Toronto, Monaco and Moscow, and now lives in London.

Precious in action

What does it take to succeed in the dance industry?
Passion. Deep passion for dance and the possibilities of what the body can do.

Why is ballet your labour of love?

Ballet can express those things that are beyond words. It’s the quality within the dancing, otherwise I’d be a robot. You can see nuances of quality in people doing the exact same steps but so differently. There are so many sensations and emotions that can be compounded within a single ballet. When all those things come together –  the dancer, the music, the costumes, the lighting – you might see a magical moment during the performance as if the stars are aligned. When they hit something so precisely it’s like magic and everything on either side looks imperfect.

What’s new with you?

I just finished a six-week stint at the London Coliseum with English National Ballet (ENB). It’s my eighth year performing with the company at the Coliseum. I still love it so much and enjoyed it even more with all the full audiences after the pandemic. Next up will be a work by my all-time favourite choreographer and creator, William Forsythe. The program is called The Forsythe Evening at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. You won’t want to miss it.

Forsythe has been redefining what is possible with classically trained technical athletes for decades and the music is going to be fire! James Blake, Barry White, Natalie Cole, to name a few. Who knew ballet could be danced to this music? Here’s a clip from the production.

What does it feel like to perform at this level?

Being a ballet dancer is like having fibre-optic cables running from your brain through your entire body. I like thinking of my body as a fibre-optic network and I’m checking the laser pulses within it to make sure everything is working where I want, as quickly as I want and as consistently as I want. That’s what, as dancers, we’re doing in training. We’re conditioning it; getting the wiring to move how we want it to move.

What was your path to this career?

I started with creative movement classes when I was about seven. My mom signed me up because I was always dancing around the house. At 10, I realised that professional ballet dancers existed, so I decided that’s what I’ll be. And then it was just fully-fledged training for 15 to 20 hours a week for the next eight years, before I got my contract with English National Ballet and joined in 2014. I’m the second black female dancer in the company’s 72-year history.

Career highlights?

They include being cast as the Chosen One in Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring in 2019. It’s raw, powerful and spiritual. I had an out-of-body experience, with the power of the music, the set design and lighting, and everything else. It’s really fascinating and amazing being a ballet dancer, and I love it. it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

How do you build strength and stamina?

At the beginning and end of my day, I add in workout routines, and I often do more technical work with a sports scientist or personal trainer who will prepare my strength in accordance with the role I’m going to perform. Dancers want to be as functionally strong as possible in every possible way. The more mobility you have physically the better a dancer you are. I do cardio, weight training, aerobics, everything.

 

For example, when I did George Balanchine’s work I did lots of extra cardio. [In 2020, Precious performed the Fascinatin’ Rhythm solo from Balanchine’s Who Cares.] His work is very fast so I did less strength training and extra cardio at all the rehearsals to ensure I had enough stamina to finish strong.

At each rehearsal we’d speed up the music a little more. It’s about pushing yourself to the edge and it’s more exciting to watch anyways. Even then, at the end, you feel half dead! I don’t know how I do the whole ballet without throwing up.

How key is flexibility?

I focus on how much I can change my flexibility. When I was younger, I did a Russian style of training which gave me an expansive port de bras, and gymnastics helped me gain flexibility, too. Now I have to stretch everything, always, or I lose a lot of range. And after performing I’m on a high, like a runner’s high. I use protein shakes, balance eating and an ice bath. That’s a normal part of training – a mix of ice baths and protein shakes.

“After performing I’m on a high, which is like a runner’s high”

Do you meditate or practice mindfulness?

I went to see a therapist when I was in Russia (at 16) for my anxiety about performing badly. She told me to look into mindfulness, start meditating. I’m naturally wired to be anxious and nervous in front of a lot of people but, for some reason, I wanted to be a performer. It’s kind of crazy but it worked out in the end. Meditation helps me focus my mind in life a little bit more and helps me be present.

Do you think ‘what’s for dinner?’ when you’re on stage?

Do I ever think about my shopping list on stage? If you’re in the spotlight it’s different but if I’m in the back, I’m the first person to let my mind wander and wonder what I’m having for dinner. As for my anxiety, looking back, I think it was more about hormones and being a teenager!

What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve faced in your career?

It is still my biggest hurdle to this day, self-doubt. This is ironic because doing this career is entirely based on the want and need to dance and the belief that you can do it.

What did you take away from the pandemic, work-wise?

Definitely, I learned how much dance means to me. A great deal. But I also faced and came to terms with the possibility of it not being in my life in the same way anymore, which I think helped me to develop a much healthier relationship with myself, dance and living in the moment, enjoying the good times. This art is also about community.

What career would choose if you weren’t a dancer?

Hard to say, but maybe a lawyer or in luxury marketing and branding.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Hopefully, happily married, with a child, home and dog, and still dancing professionally. Doing my best work preparing for a transition for a life offstage and making it all work beautifully!

What’s been key to your success?

Being crazy determined worked. I’m somewhat hard-headed and you have to put your heart, soul and blood, sweat and tears into this. Every little girl wants to be a ballerina but as you get older, it’s harder, more competitive. Some people quit. My teacher at Michigan’s Academy of Russian Classical Ballet, Sergey Rayevskiy once said: ‘You can tell by a kid’s physical ability and how their mind works whether they will make it or not.’ That’s what he saw in me. She’s crazy determined, he said, so it’s going to work out for her.

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