Soloist, Royal Danish Ballet
Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in dance?
HD: I spent my childhood in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and my teen-years in NYC attending the School of American Ballet. Somewhere in there I grew up. ;) My first spark of interest into the dance world was because of my parents, especially my mother. When I was little (4,5,6 years old) my parents would create a birthday party for me that always involved dance. One year it was ballet themed. One year it was an introduction to Highland Dancing and another year it was Hawaiian Dance. Highland dancing was the form of dance that captivated me. After I saw a young girl perform it at my birthday party I asked my parents if I could take lessons. I danced highland for five years becoming the United States Champion at ten years old. When highland started to feel like a hobby with no career options my focus switched to ballet and it stayed there ever since.
How did your background and your family's background; affect your passion for dance?
HD: My mother was a huge influence on me for my passion for dance. My mother always loved ballet. She took classes for fun and so I was naturally introduced to the world.
What career would you have chosen if you could not have been a dancer?
HD: If i were to eliminate dance as an option for a career and lifestyle then I think I would have become one of two things. Either an eye-doctor or a novelist. I have really poor eye-sight. I'm as blind as a bat! I sympathize greatly with anyone who is in the same boat as me. I also believe that eye’s are the most beautiful feature on a human being. You can see so much emotion just by looking into someone’s eyes. Words aren’t always needed. So to help others with their eyes sounds very interesting to me. A novelist, because I love to read! I think it would be a creative challenge to write a story and get it published. I would imagine it must feel very rewarding knowing your words are bound in a book forever.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started dancing professionally?
HD: The path that you think you might have or want isn’t the one you’ll have. There is absolutely no way of knowing how one’s career will go. There will be unexpected twists and turns. The exciting part, is that your path might be even better than you could have imagined. The best thing you can do is just concentrate on yourself and keep striving for your own personal best. Challenge yourself everyday so you don’t allow yourself to ever get bored. Believe in yourself so you don’t get influenced by other’s opinions and other’s careers. And remember to stay inspired because that is what makes you shine.
Of all the roles you have performed, which role helped you grow the most as an artist?
HD: I really grew as an artist with the principal part of the Ballerina in, Etudes. There is a special moment when the ballerina is completely alone on stage in the sylphide section. She crosses her hands in front of her droping her head and then un-crosses her hands while lifting her face and looking straight into the audience. She then becomes completely still on pointe. When I performed that specific movement onstage I felt that I was taking the leap into the next level of performing. I was confident enough in my dancing to not be nervous and so instead I relaxed and showed the audience me. I was standing up there, center stage for them all to see; allowing them to see what felt like my insides and heart without any protection layers. And once you’ve done that, there is no going back! From then on every time I step on to the stage I find myself dancing more honestly then the time before. And once this clicks into place, you aren't afraid of the stillness, or of being alone on stage. You can't wait for those moments. From this role of Etudes it prepared me for the challenging role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. The stage experience from Etudes went the direct route to Swan Lake allowing me to accomplish a goal and a dream.
If a child told you they wanted to be a dancer, what advice would you give them?
HD: For a child I would encourage them to follow their dreams and I'd tell them to keep dancing as long as it feels wonderful. Enjoy dance while it really is only tutu’s and tiara’s. For a teenager or young adult thinking about a professional dance career I would advise them to talk to professional dancers so they can get a reality glimpse into the ballet world. You have to be willing to sacrifice a lot and not think of it as sacrifice. Instead the thought of not making the sacrifice didn’t even enter your mind. You need to love it that much.
How has social media changed a dancer’s status and what is required of them?
HD: I think social media has allowed a lot more people to see further into the world of dance. The “gritty” or “ugly” parts are secretly loved like a good gossip column. Pain, and heartache can always pull an audience because it is shared emotions whereas a princess or fairy in a lovely tutu with the perfect smile dancing around all light and happy is a little more difficult. One is a dream state while the other is a reality. Social media gives the dancers the opportunity to show both sides of their day. I do also think that privacy is a beautiful thing. Reveal only enough to make yourself intriguing and captivating.
Do you have one moment in your career that you remember most fondly? Or one moment that you feel really defined your career or the trajectory of it?
HD: A moment that really defined my career was when I was still in the corps de ballet and I was given the opportunity to perform Blue Bird Pas de Deux in the Sleeping Beauty. I enjoyed that role so much. It felt like pure happiness and sunshine. It helped my career because I got a chance to step forward and show myself. It wasn’t so long after that role that I got promoted to soloist.
Who would you like most to have a coffee with (could be dead or alive)?
HD: I would love to have a coffee with Aretha Franklin because she is the Queen of Soul! She grew up in Detroit which is where I am also from and she made it. She made it big time! I could imagine that she would have a lot of fascinating stories, good advice, funny and strange behind the scene tales to relate too, passionate words just like her music and that good ol’ Detroit humor and sound of motown!!
Who were some of the people who influenced you the most in your career?
HD: The person who has had the most influence in my career is Nikolaj Hubbe. We met when I was fourteen years old and it is because of him that I moved to Denmark to start my professional career. He offered me a corps de ballet contract when I was eighteen as the only student he brought with him to Denmark. He has been in my life for eleven years which feels like forever in “ballet years”and he has made a permanent mark. He is a wonderful man with a passion big enough to cover the earth for dance. He is an inspiring and fantastic coach always bringing me to my next level and daring me to go even further. I would not be the ballerina I am today or where I am today if he wasn’t in my life. Adam Luders has also been a huge influence in my career. We have created three ballets together. Originally we started working together because he casually mentioned to me that he wanted to try to choreograph and I was interested instantly because I just wanted to dance more to stay challenged and inspired. Then last year Nikolaj Hubbe asked for one of his pas de deux’s to be showcased in one program of the Royal Danish Ballet. Adam had his world premiere as a choreographer! He recently was introduced to the USA as a choregrapher as I performed his new solo-work for the Stamford Gala with NYCB and RDB this past September. I’m so honored to be his ballerina. He is a gem. Another man is Giuseppe Canale. He is my coach in Michigan. He was the man that made sure I kept on the right track when I was trying to figure out life and ballet during my teen years. His encouragement and constant support made it possible for me to open my eyes and allow myself to explore more of the dance world. He is an excellent teacher and any student would be so lucky to have him. I’m very thankful that our paths met. Kay Mazzo is another person who has influenced me in my career. She was the teacher at SAB that I admired and wanted to be like the most. I found her elegantly beautiful, strong and decisive and always classy. She had a special way of making me feel that she believed in me and would for as long as I danced. She was still one of the first few people I called when I got promoted. Silja Schandoff has had a huge influence in my career. She works with me on all the “ballerina” roles. She will not let me get away with anything less than my best. She has cleaned my technique, worked my turnout and made me a stronger woman just by being around her. Thank you.
What do you most value in your friends?
HD: Honesty. Just be you and i’ll just be me. Simple. Keep things true.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
HD: Perfect happiness for me is when you are in a moment and you get lost in it. You don’t have to say anything or knowledge it because it is felt so strongly. It’s an emotion that washes over you and it can happen from many different things but you always never want the moment to end because it feels so warm and happy. For me i’m in perfect happiness when i’m wrapped up in a tight hug from my fiancé.
If you could be an animal, what would animal would you choose and why?
HD: I think i’d be a moose. I find them so funny. They are an animal that isn’t the usual choice to be but they are so lucky! They spend their days walking around in some of the most beautiful parts of the world like Norway. They don’t really do much. They are a little too large and they always look a little awkward. They wouldn’t be the stereotype of beauty but they are fantastic! They aren’t anything extraordinary in the brains department but they are happy. They always look happy. Seems like nothing could ever bother a moose.
Which person (dead or alive) would you most want to dance with if you could?
HD: I would have loved to have danced with Fred Astaire. He was the definition of class and charm. I bet he made all of his partners feel like a million bucks. From what i’ve read about him, he seemed like a nice guy with a good heart who found happiness from simple things and had a great passion to dance. He would be an inspiring person to be around.
What is your greatest indulgence?
HD: The danish candy, Vampire Flyvermus with a Jacobsen’s Saaz Blonde beer.
What are your worst fears (professionally or personally)?
HD: My worst fear professionally and actually personally is that i’ll disappoint. I hate disappointing people. It can’t be completely avoided in life. You can’t make everyone happy. This is knowledge I know but I still can let the guilt of disappointing someone, even if it is by accident, sit in me a little too long. I don’t like the feeling of being spread so thin trying to not disappoint others that I end up disappointing myself.
What was your biggest mishap in a performance?
HD: I’ve gone the wrong way. I was dancing Apollo and all four dancers chug across the stage at the same time in the same direction. First to the right and then to the left… well i went to the left first… I felt like Balanchine must have been sitting on a cloud somewhere rolling his eyes thinking what is that ballerina doing messing up my ballet!
Is there a special meal you have before performances?
HD: I’m not a cook so it usually is a weird combination of what sounds good and what is in the fridge. I always have a piece of bread with the fridge mystery on top around 4:30/5pm and closer to the curtain going up i’l have a banana.
What is the one thing you wished more people knew about dancing?
HD: Dancing keeps changing and yet it is all the same.
Hair and makeup by Juliet Jane