Johan Kobborg: The 5-Minute Interview

'Stamina is vital in ballet. My daily routine is eight hours of studio time and fitness workout'
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Why stage The Lesson?

Not every ballet can be your traditional happy ending and all to do with love. Graphically and dramatically The Lesson is brilliant - only half an hour long, but fantastically put together. Physically it is as demanding on the dancers as any of the big classics can be.

How do you get in character?

I don't know anyone who is psychopathic like this, thank God, but you try to think why your character would act the way he does, why he becomes so angry with his student. The way the ballet is built up, you become gradually irritated by this student. She really is that sort of stupid "ballet girl" who does exist out there - if you're a male dancer in a female-orientated profession you meet those people and can relate to it.

Do you find The Lesson disturbing?

No. If it's not done well and all you have is the violence then maybe. But if it is danced well, if the timing is right, then it's not about the violence; it is amazing to watch. You turn on the TV and see worse things. At least when the curtain comes down we're all standing.

What were Ionesco's intentions with this play?

Ionesco, when he wrote it, had certain nationalities in mind, certain aspects of mankind. He is looking at the power balance between people, the way some people behave towards each other. The powerful want more power; that's what you see in the teacher as he becomes enraged with his pupil. The third character is the pianist, a spectator to the teacher's acts. She doesn't strangle anybody but observes, which makes her just as bad. The student is manipulated by them.

Why did you become a ballet dancer?

It was the drama, the music and the physical aspect all brought together - ballet is so challenging as a performer. I love opera, but with ballet you have a strong mix of the acting, the music and the movement, which you don't see anywhere else.

Why should people who are reading this go to the ballet rather than, say, go to the cinema?

It doesn't matter what you go to, so long as you go to a live performance. There is a tension in the air you don't get from a movie screen. You cannot recreate the atmosphere from a live performance, where you know that anything can happen.

What is the toughest thing about being a ballet dancer?

Constantly having to be in shape. Whereas in sport you might build up to an event maybe two or three times a year, then build down, we perform all year around. So stamina is incredibly important: my day-to-day routine is a total of eight hours of studio time and fitness workout.