Back in July we were so excited when we bumped into Houston Ballet dancer, Hayden Stark while fitting the company with their mdm shoes. We decided to throw a few questions at him for a quick catch up.
Back in 2011 we were introduced to a 15 year old Hayden who played a role in Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg’s short film ‘We Used To Be Real Good’ which featured mdm dance shoes.
In ‘We Used To Be Real Good’ Hayden totally plays down being able to do a pirouette, when in fact he is an incredible turner, which we do see in the end lucky enough. We got some sneaky footage of him while at the Arts Centre in Melbourne which you can watch below.
So Hayden, we know that when you were five you told your Mum that you weren’t returning to kindergarten because you wanted to become a professional dancer, how old were you when you started dancing?
Yup, that was my big 5 year old idea.. skipping out on kindergarten to go pro! I was certain I was ready for the big time! My Mom put me in dance at 3. Apparently I had a lot of energy! We had recently moved from Dallas to Phoenix, my brothers were in school, and I needed something to do. There was a dance studio nearby, so she signed me up. She actually thought she was putting me in a hip hop class, but realized later it was beginning ballet - 12 little girls and me, all 2 and 3 years old - and from the first class I was hooked. She says every day I’d wake up and ask first thing, “is today dance day?”
Ethan Stiefel is one of American Ballet Theater’s most celebrated male dancers. What impact did he have on your training while you were attending the University of North Carolina School of the Arts?
Training as a teenager under Ethan Stiefel was an amazing opportunity. We moved from Phoenix to Lincoln, Nebraska when I was four and I spent the next 10 years at a jazz competition studio. Leaving Nebraska for North Carolina at 15, I was intent on training hard. Ethan was the Dean of Dance, and, as a 10th grader, that was a little bit intimidating! He worked us hard - there was an expectation that we would show up and give 100%. He was a straight talker, fair and no-nonsense. He seemed to appreciate the dancers who listened, were driven and who understood his direction. He was great for UNCSA and I’m glad I got to train under his direction. He definitely whipped me into shape!
Also in 2011, you were one of the first to wear MDM dance shoes, can you tell us how they impact your dancing?
I’ve got really wide feet - picture Fred Flintstone’s feet if you will. Because of that, it’s hard for me to find a shoe with enough room in the toes so that my toes won’t scrunch up or curl under. MDM shoes are that for me - they fit comfortably and have enough room without making my foot look bulky. They show off the lines of my feet very well and have great arch support!
Talk us through what a typical day looks like for you?
Houston Ballet dancers work Tuesdays through Saturdays. We start our day with company class at 10am, followed by the first three hours of rehearsal for the upcoming performances. I’ve always loved learning new choreography and often find myself accidentally learning parts I don’t even cover, including the women’s roles! You’ll always find me at Starbucks during my lunch break ordering a tall flat white and a panini. After lunch, we have three more hours of rehearsal. By 7pm, I’m ordering pasta to-go from a nearby cafe before finally heading home and calling it a night.
How would you usually spend your days off?
Besides doing laundry, grocery shopping and occasionally going out with friends, I can be a little bit boring! I tend to stay at home with my cat, Pumba, watch Netflix and try to do as little as possible. I’ve learned it helps a lot to give yourself time to do absolutely nothing! However, I recently moved from an apartment to a house and I’ve been having a great time decorating the house! My parents are renovators (every house I grew up in was always under construction!) so I’ve been having a blast organizing, hanging artwork, re-upholstering old chair seats, painting walls, etc… It’s nice to come home to something you’re proud of!
What or who inspires you to dance everyday?
I think I was born passionate. I love to dance and its what I do. I’m not sure someone or some thing inspires me to dance every day as much as I feel like its who I am - I’m a dancer. I want to be the very best I can be and that’s what gets me into the studio every day.
What is your dream role?
I’d love the opportunity to dance Peter in Trey McIntyre’s Peter Pan. I remember watching Houston Ballet perform it when I was in the second company and thought his character had so much energy and enthusiasm, it looked like a blast!
You were recently in Melbourne to perform Stanton Welch’s Romeo and Juliet with Houston Ballet, did you get to see much of Australia while you were here?
Not as much as I would have liked! When we’re traveling it takes me a little while to get acclimated. About the time I got situated in Melbourne, it was just about time to leave! But while I was there, I was obsessed with the food! I was always looking forward to breakfast the next day. And the coffee! Melbourne has such great coffee! I used to drink macchiatos, but now I’m addicted to flat whites after staying in Melbourne!
Hayden, thank you so much for spending some time with us. It was an absolute delight to catch up with you while you were in Melbourne.
What do you have planned for the next few months?
Currently we’re rehearsing for our fall triple bill, including William Forsythe’s Artifact Suite, Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances, and George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. After that we will be performing Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly and Son of Chamber Symphony.
Stanton Welch is also choreographing a brand new Nutcracker this year. It’s the first new Nut in 30 years! I’m excited to be a part of its world premiere!
You can watch Hayden Stark in 'We Used To Be Real Good’ here.