Soloist, The Royal Ballet
Meaghan Grace Hinkis, Soloist with The Royal Ballet
Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in dance?
MH: I was born in Boston, MA, grew up in Simsbury, CT and moved to NYC when I was 12 years old to further my training in ballet. I have been interested in dance for as long as I can remember. My sister, Caitlin, used to dance and of course, I wanted to follow in her footsteps. My parents had Caitlin and I in both gymnastics and dance, she became the elite-level gymnast, and I fell in love with all facets of dance. I knew it was what I wanted to pursue.
How did your background and your family’s background; affect your passion for dance?
MH: I am the only “dancer” in my family (however, my Dad will tell you he taught me everything I know!) But, I am certainly not the only one in the family in a career that takes a lot of sacrifice and dedication. It runs in the Hinkis family. I have had so much support throughout my career and I know that it would have been there no matter what I was doing. I have had a passion for dance ever since I was a little girl. My parents had me in every type of dance you could think of...jazz, lyrical, tap, acrobatics, ballet, you name it. It wasn’t until I was about 11 that I realized ballet was the one for me.
How did you end up joining the Royal Ballet?
MH: I joined the Royal Ballet four years ago in a rather unexpected way. I was on tour with ABT to London and decided to stay on a week and explore what London had to offer. I asked to take class with the Royal Ballet because it had been a dream of mine for years. I also think it’s important to see the way other companies tick. I took class for a few days and Dame Monica Mason came in to watch. One thing led to another and I had an offer on the table. It was a tricky decision leaving ABT. I was happy and felt part of the “Ballet Theater family.” But, joining the Royal Ballet was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. It was a rare chance to live in another country and experience dancing on the legendary Royal Opera House stage. I accepted the offer with butterflies in my stomach and moved across the pond to beautiful London.
What career would you have chosen if you could not have been a dancer?
MH: Well, lucky for us dancers, we don’t just have to pick one career. There’s time to discover so much more. I would love to get into real estate and interior design later on in my life. Also, while it is still dancing I would definitely like to get a swing at performing on a Broadway stage!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started dancing professionally?
MH: "Watch and learn. Learn what to do and what not to do.” I am so thankful that when I first joined ABT I received advice from some of the most experienced dancers in the corps de ballet. And that’s what they told me and it couldn’t have been more true. I think about those words daily. I watch rehearsals and performances and am always learning. I think that is something that young dancers joining companies now often forget. Everyday we can learn, and it may be surprising who you can gain the most knowledge from.
Of all the roles you have performed, which role helped you grow the most as an artist?
MH: This is a hard question to answer but one role that comes to mind is ‘Princess Stephanie’ in Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s 'Mayerling.' It’s a ballet that I had never seen before and I fell in love with it. Dramatic roles are some of my favorite and one of the many reasons why I was so drawn to the Royal Ballet’s repertory. I was honored to have been cast with
Carlos Acosta as my 'Prince Rudolf’...definitely a career highlight for me and one that helped me grow as an artist.
If a child told you they wanted to be a dancer, what advice would you give them?
MH: I would say, “Go for it!" If it’s what he or she wants to do, then why not? Being a dancer is a very special career; we have the power to transform. People enter an auditorium carrying their individual burdens. Our job is to make them forget and pull them into our magical world. I remember a little girl once came up to me when I was doing the 'Sugar Plum Fairy' and she said, “Do you know who my favorite superhero is?” Not knowing where she was going with it, I asked, “Who?!” And she responded with a sparkle in her eye, “YOU.” I’ll never forget that and if the younger generations have as much fun as me, then they should absolutely put their dancing shoes on.
How has social media changed a dancer’s status and what is required of them?
MH: Social media has allowed us dancers to have a voice. We can be ourselves and show a human side. When used appropriately, I think it is a great way to be our own managers too. Many of us don’t have personal PR agents, so it is a way for us to put ourselves out there and give updates on what is happening in our lives. Also, it is a wonderful way to keep in touch with friends, family, and fans who may live on the other side of the world.
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?
MH: I have “moments” all the time where I’m standing on stage at the Royal Opera House next to some of ballet’s greatest superstars and I think, “Wow this is pretty amazing!” It’s difficult to pin down just one. Although, one moment that definitely defined the trajectory of my career was when I decided to move to London. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means, but the past four years have been incredible and I have done things that I never would have the opportunity to somewhere else. I am excited to start next season off as a Soloist with the company and see what opportunities await!
Who would you like most to have a coffee with (could be dead or alive)?
MH: If I’m sticking with the dance theme, I would absolutely have to say Baryshnikov. I would love to sit with him for an entire day and hear story after story. (but who wouldn’t?!) I would also like to request him to whack out a Basilio solo but not sure he’d oblige ;-)
I would also love to have a coffee with author, Khaled Hosseini. I recently read his book, “The Kite Runner,” and was completely astonished by it. He must be one of the world’s best story tellers.
Who were some of the people who influenced you most in your career?
MH: First name that comes to mind is Wes Chapman, my director from when I was in ABT II. He is a former principal dancer with ABT and has taught me so much in regards to my career. I often think back to my ABT II days and realize just how much experience I gained. Wes is a very important mentor in my life.
I would also have to say many of the cast members from Radio City Music Hall. It was a rare opportunity for such a young person. I played the role of Clara in the Nutcracker scene. I looked up to each and every cast member and rightfully so, because they taught me to enjoy the process. They taught me to never take advantage of what you have. They will always have a very special place in my heart, and I'm still in touch with many of them today.
What do you most value in your friends?
MH: Respect. I’m not sure there is anything more valuable than that.
If you could be an animal, what would you choose and why?
MH: I would have to say an eagle because I have always wanted to fly! Eagles are like royalty of the sky- they are so powerful and majestic. Also, they are at the top of the food chain as alpha predators in the avian world, so nothing to worry about there!
Which person (dead or alive) would you most want to dance with if you could?
MH: Gene Kelly! He’s so charming and definitely has the best dance moves!
I’d also love to do Romeo and Juliet and/or Manon with ABT’s Marcelo Gomes. Dream!
What is your greatest indulgence?
MH: This is going to sound a little sad but Pinkberry! It’s my favorite treat and they don’t have it in London so when I come home I try and make the most of it ;-)
What are your worst fears?
MH: Growing old...but I don’t think I’m alone there which is comforting. I also have a huge fear of tornadoes!
What was your biggest mishap in a performance?
MH: I remember I was doing the Canary fairy in “The Sleeping Beauty" when I was in the JKO school at ABT. It’s very fast moving and all running on pointe. We were at a school in the middle of the Bronx and it was a very slippery floor...I came flying out of the wing and BOOM...down I went to a room full of laughing students. It was so embarrassing but that was the day I realized these things can happen to us all!
Is there a special meal you have before performances?
MH: Sometimes it’s hard to eat too close to showtime but I always make sure I have some sort of protein before a show. It gives me sustainable energy. And if it’s “Swan Lake,” I always drink a coconut water and eat a banana an hour before curtain up to help with those pas de trois and cygnet cramps.
What do you miss most about living in NYC?
MH: Well first things first, I miss my family and friends. Thank goodness for FaceTime! But, I also miss the hustle and bustle of NYC. There is an energy that can’t be beat. I think that energy is what some people find overwhelming about NYC but I love it. It’s an adrenaline rush! Thankfully, NYC isn’t going anywhere and whenever we have a break I get to come home to an iconic city.