Energetiks talks with Brayden Gallucci
Brayden Gallucci might only be seventeen years old, but with thirteen years of dancing already under his belt the New South Wales born teenager is completely in his element on-stage and in the ballet studio, and it shows. It's most likely this natural demeanour, combined with endlessly long limbs, incredible feet and a single-minded dedication to dance that's been getting Brayden noticed everywhere from the Genée International Ballet Competition, to the Isobel Anderson awards and the Prix De Lausanne in Switzerland, and making him one of the latest Australian talents to be snapped up by a world class ballet institution. After his impressive performance at the Prix last year Brayden was offered a scholarship to train full-time in London (alongside fellow Australian's Makensie Henson and Amelia Townsend), where he's been living and dancing now for the past four months. Whilst such a big move away from friends and family must be a challenging adjustment, there's plenty of familiar faces in London including Royal Ballet star, Principal dancer Steven McRae, who is also New South Wales-born, a Prix de Lausanne Finalist, and just so happens to be a former student of Brayden's previous school, Alegria Dance in Sydney. And if Brayden's track-record for the past thirteen years is anything to go by... we'd wager there's a good chance he'll be following swiftly in McRae's footsteps.
Brayden dropped in to Energetiks Head Office earlier last month (during a quick trip back home) and chatted with us about his new life in London and the rewards and challenges of full-time dance, see the interview below!
E: How and when did you begin dancing?
BG: Similar to most boys I think, my older sister started dancing and mum took me along to her lessons to drop her off. I watched her and thought ‘that looks fun!’ so I started tap and jazz when I was three, and then when I was about four I started ballet.
E: And at what point did you realise you wanted to pursue ballet as a career?
BG: It was probably a bit later than everyone else, not until I was fourteen or fifteen. I always enjoyed dance, but I never really thought it was something I could do my whole life. And I wasn’t focusing on ballet either, I was doing contemporary and commercial and dancing with my friends to have fun. But that changed when I was 15, I moved studios to be full-time in Sydney at Allegria and I started seeing it as something more.
E: What’s your favourite part of class?
BG: I love turning and adagio. I do enjoy fast movements and petit allegro too, but I think I’m much more of a natural turner than a jumper – E: Well you’re so tall! No wonder petit could be a challenge! – Yeah (laughs) I’ve always been a turner and a slower dancer by nature, so the elevation and strength for jumps is something I definitely had to work on.
E: What’s the most challenging part about dance for you, and what makes it worth it?
BG: The most challenging part for me has been the willpower – I’m naturally very laid back and I like to just go with the flow. It wasn’t until I got out into the world and I saw people who were really committed, practicing 24/7 and I thought, I’m going to push harder to keep up. So yeah, the willpower didn’t always come naturally to me! But the most rewarding part is the applause, even when it’s me going and watching other dancers and they get their applause, I can appreciate knowing what they’re feeling. One of my teachers used to say ‘That’s how you pay them’, you know. Money isn’t the payment, the applause is. He used to say that now [full-time training] is the hardest part, when there’s no performance in the evening and no applause; it’s just training day in and day out. But when you’re a professional, I think that applause every night would definitely make everything worth it.
E: Did you ever encounter judgment or criticism from other kids who didn’t ‘get’ ballet?
BG: Well, I went to a normal primary school, but primary school kids aren’t really that aware of what each other are doing, and then in high school (which is where a lot of kids encounter difficulties I think) I actually went to a performing arts school, and that school was known for having all types of crazy, weird, creative people – so there was no bullying, we all did weird things! And there were other male dancers so I fitted in really well there.
E: That sounds amazing!
BG: It was great.
E: Who inspires you?
BG: The Principal dancers at the Royal Ballet, I see them all the time, and get to watch them rehearsing and definitely aspire to be rehearsing with them one day. Probably one of the biggest for me would be Stephen McRae, because he came from my old studio – and he’s my Guardian as well while I’m at the school.
E: So do you get to see many of their performances?
BG: Yeah we get tickets to go see their ballets all the time. I’ve seen pretty much every performance since January this year!
E: And what’s something you’ve learned this year?
BG: That hard work is the key to succeeding. Because even if you are naturally gifted, the teachers and Directors notice how hard people work, and even if you don’t have the greatest technique in the school, if during rehearsals you’re in the back learning all the parts and pushing yourself to the limit, that gets noticed.
E: What do you do enjoy doing in your free time?
BG: Is sleep an answer? (Laughs) I don’t think there really is much ‘free time’ you need to really focus on [dance] …I mean I love watching Netflix haha, but I’ll usually just eat and sleep, I’m tired!
E: Flexibility can often be a little more challenging for guys (like strength is for girls) but you’re super bendy! Do you think that’s been a good thing for you?
BG: Well, I mean, when I was younger my mother took me to see a doctor because she thought there was something wrong with me, because I could do weird things with my arms! So I’m hypermobile. Especially my arms, I have crazy arms. But I think hyper-flexibility can be a real challenge in itself, because you need to know when is too much. And because my arms are so bendy, when they feel straight to me, they’re actually well past straight, meaning I have to make [port de bras] feel kind of weird to me for it to actually look correct. So there are definitely pros and cons to being that flexible.
E: Is there a saying or quote you try to live by?
BG: Hmm. Not really, I’m not that much of a quote person.
E: Fair enough.
BG: I mean I just can’t think of one I use…
E: Okay, name one stage you’d love to dance on one day:
BG: Probably the stage at the Royal Opera House, we’ll be performing on that in a few months, which is really exciting. It’s such a beautiful theatre too, so I’m really looking forward to dancing on that.
E: What keeps you motivated when you’re having a challenging day?
BG: I definitely find I get a lot more frustrated than other people, I think I expect a lot more from myself than most, maybe. And I find I can get really stuck in that one negative headspace which makes me just want to stop and go home and sleep. But it’s so important to just laugh sometimes if something doesn’t happen the way you want it to. Try and move on and keep improving instead of getting stuck and upset. I feel like a lot of my life I’ve spent trying to prove to people that I belong here, so it’s hard to have a moment where you aren’t perfect because you think ‘Oh no. Now they’re going to think I’m not worthy of being here’. But you just have to try to breathe and let it go, because there’s more important things. – E: Very true. …and there’s your quote, “Breathe and let it go!” – BG: (Grins) Haha, oh yeah! Just breathe and let it go!
E: Alright, favourite post-dance snack:
BG: Oh I love chocolate. I’m a big chocolate fan… any type of chocolate!
E: Lastly, any words of advice for other aspiring dancers?
BG: One thing I think’s quite interesting is something Stephen [McRae] said to me: He told me to watch as much as you can, try to always be watching; looking in the studio; watching your peers; professionals; going to performances. That’s something I really took on board that I think other people can as well, not to just be looking at the few dancers in your class, but really getting out there and seeing as many different dancers and companies as possible. Which can be a bit difficult in Australia! But we have the internet, we have YouTube, so there’s lots things people can look at and get ideas and inspiration from, it’s a chance to look at different dancers and think about what exactly you might like about their style, and let it influence your own dancing.
E: Thanks for chatting with us Brayden, we're wishing you all the best with your training and we can't wait to see what's in store for you in the future!
Follow Brayden's dance journey here: @braydengallucci
Interview By Elly Ford.