1. How did you become involved with dance?
My mother took me to see a performance when I was five years old and I said to her “I want to be a ballet dancer when I grow up”. I always thought it a bit funny because who really believes it when their five year old makes a statement like that, but my mother did. I could never really thank her enough for believing in me from such a young age.
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
I am currently employed by Ballet Quad Cities and have been dancing with the company professionally for seven years. I grew up in this community so it is great to be able to give back through performances and the interactive educational programs we take into the schools. Last year we touched over 10,000 students with our art form.
3. Would you share a special moment or two from your career?
The opportunity to perform in New York city with BQC as part of Ballet Builders 2010 was something I didn’t expect to do in my career and I was definitely nervous. When we finished our piece “Ash to Glass” and the audience started clapping I was overwhelmed with pride for the company and myself. What a great feeling! I also can’t forget all of the great people that I have been fortunate to work with. Deanna Carter, BQC’s resident choreographer, has pushed me to do more than I ever thought possible through her coaching and her belief in me as an artist.
4. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding dance?
There really isn’t just one. There seems to be this data bank full of all of the ideas my teachers have given to me over the years that have laid dormant until someone else has said the same thing to me years later. The one that I have had on my mind is how to work smarter not harder. I love that piece of advice because so often I would push myself so hard all I would do is end up more frustrated and tired than need be. I would just muscle through things to make things happen. Taking a step back though has helped me to step forward and grow into a more of a thinking dancer.
5. Do you have any advice for those who would like to dance professionally?
Be humble. I think without humility one loses the ability to grow and learn. I am definitely not saying to lack in confidence but check your ego at the door and be open to whomever may come in no matter how crazy you think their theories may be. You will never know until you try. I have seen dancers be so resistant to teachers and choreographers simply because they didn’t “agree” and they end up fading into the background. Just work hard and be ready to learn.
6. What has been your biggest challenge in dance?
I think my own self image has hindered me more than anything. Not letting you get the better of you is a daily struggle. When judging yourself so harshly on a daily basis it is hard to keep things in perspective. Injuries seem to be unavoidable but I have found that dealing with the physical side of dance is easier to manage than the mental challenges that come with the job.
7. What is it that you love so much about ballet?
Pointe shoes. But, in all seriousness, if it weren’t for them I would have been a modern or contemporary dancer. I think there is a sort of romanticism about pointe shoes that a young girl has when she sees someone floating across the stage en pointe. I don’t think I ever got over that fantasy. I also love the way ballet in general can fuse such great athleticism and pure artistry. The challenge of how to make those things work together is what really drives me to keep doing what I am doing.
8. Do you have a special routine that you go through before a performance, or is each one different?
My routines always seem to change but there are a few things that I never do! First I have to stand at the same place at the barre once we get into the theater. Secondly I have to put on and take off my pointe shoes because they never seem to feel quite right the first time around. I also can’t have my hair feel loose. If it does it’s time to start over and there has to be tons of hairspray. I am not really a superstitious person I just need to feel ready. One has enough things to think about when performing without thinking about hair or shoe malfunctions.
9. Where you do think dance is headed?
Dance could go in so many directions. With dancers doing more and more physically each year choreography has the challenge to keep up while maintaining the balance of virtuosity and artistry. I also sincerely hope that ballet companies keep the classics like Giselle and Swan Lake even though it is difficult for many companies to stage such productions today.
10. What is next for you?
I am really looking forward to the upcoming season. Our first performance will be “I Vampire”. It will be based on a book written by a local author, Michael Romkey. I have just finished reading it and can’t wait to see how his book comes to life through dance.
Bio: Heidi Dunn began her ballet training at City Center School of the Arts, now Ballet Quad Cities School of Dance. She also trained with Ballet Conservatory of St. Louis with Nathalie Levine. In 1999, she was invited to become an apprentice with Cassandra Manning Ballet Theater under the direction of Johanne Jakhelln. Since becoming a full company member in 2003 she has worked with Dominic Walsh in “Die Hochzeit” and was featured as Clara in his 2008 version of the “Nutcracker”. She has worked with Deanna Carter in “Dracula” as Lucy, “Ash to Glass”, and as Carmen in “Carmen”. While working with the company she has also had the pleasure of working with Domingo Rubio, Cleo Mack, Simone Ferro, and L.D. Kidd. This will be Ms. Dunn’s 8th season with Ballet Quad Cities.