Tour diary: interview with Luke Ahmet
Where do you stay on tour?
A mixture of places really – I like to rent an apartment usually. It’s nice having the freedom to cook and relax at home, and also not worry that you’re going to keep the people who you’re staying with up.
Sometimes we find an Air BnB, where we rent a room in someone’s house, which is fun. We tend to go back to the same places. In Nottingham we stayed with a young couple who had just got married. It was interesting to get to know them, and then they ended up becoming interested in Rambert, and came along and enjoyed the show. It’s quite nice to feel like you’re making new friends along the way.
Which dancers do you usually stay with?
I mostly stay with Daniel Davidson, as we tend to work on the same schedule, and we don’t like to get up too early. It matters staying with someone who has a similar routine. For example, I like to have a lie-in when I can, and if someone wants to get up at 6am to do their warm up, that wouldn’t work.
Do you have a set routine on tour?
It depends, some places I’ve been to before, and other places are completely new, so it’s always different. We always look out for the nearest supermarket, and scout out the town when we first get there. A Rambert dancers’ tradition is to all have dinner together on the first night, after the performance. A big favourite is Thai food, which I love. Thai covers everyone’s various dietary requirements, which works as there’s always a big group of us.
What do you do in the day before a performance?
I love my sleep, so I don’t get up early. Once up, I have a cup of tea, slowly walk to the theatre, pick up lunch and a coffee before we get to class, and then usually have class plus have a full tech run before a show.
So class is your first warm up?
Yes definitely. That will either be a ballet class or contemporary class; we alternate every day. And then we do a tech run in reverse order so that everything is set up for the first performance. The last thing you do in the run will be the first thing you do in the performance, which is good psychologically, so the piece is still quite fresh in your mind.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yes, I always take a really hot shower before the performance. It helps me to relax, and prepares me superficially for my proper warm up. Then I do my make-up and head to the stage. This routine makes me feel fresh, warm and ready to go.
Do you do your own make up?
Yes. I’ve learnt to do my own by watching other dancers do it throughout my career. When I danced for Scottish Ballet, if it was a specific look or character make-up, they would always have someone there for the first time to show you how to do it, or they’d do half of your face and you’d copy the other half so you got used to how to do it. At Rambert, our make-up is more natural, and as there are fewer characters involved it’s more about accentuating the face so we aren’t lost in the stage lights.
Any highlights/key moments of the tour for you?
Cymru was a particularly exciting week for me as I had to learn new places in Frames, due to several dancers being injured and falling ill. I had to perform three different parts, and only had an hour to quickly learn and rehearse it. Luckily, we film all of our performances, so I was able to watch it on the iPad before performing it.
Were you nervous about filling in so last minute?
Not too nervous – I’ve seen it so many times, and we’ve had a couple of trial runs in the past. As I was covering for two female roles, whose parts in Frames tend to have less connection with the bars, I didn’t feel scared about ruining the frame structures.
It must have been really fun to have that challenge, how did it feel after the show?
It was definitely exciting, and while I was grateful when the week ended, it was also great to be able to say that I did that. Frames is a piece that you have to stay so alert and present in. You have to be a team – really looking into each other’s eyes and being there for each other. I felt that I couldn’t just let them carry me through it, and I had to stand up and take ownership of my place within that piece.
The energy of the dancers spurs you on and makes you feel supported and protected. Brenda Lee Grech had to go in to Terra Incognita that night as well, and she had never even really rehearsed it properly. So we supported her through that, and it’s in those moments that you take pride in your team mates. When I had to go on for Frames, I thought if other people can do this, I can do this.
Touring must be tiring at times – do you have anything that you rely on to keep you energised?
Although I’m used to touring, there are days when I’m really tired. But as soon as you get on stage you forget all of that and get on with what you’re doing. The collective good mood and excitement before a show can pull you out of tiredness and being grumpy. You have to keep reminding yourself that you love what you do.
Coffee also helps – I love my coffee!
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