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Tiffany Hedman of the English National Ballet. Photo by Laurent Liotardo.
Tiffany Hedman of the English National Ballet. Photo by Laurent Liotardo.
Ballet Blog Interviews

America’s Tiffany Hedman on dancing in London

  • July 20, 2016
  • by Grace Gassin

It’s always hard to leave behind family and friends to seize an exciting career opportunity abroad. No one knows this better than ballerina Tiffany Hedman. Formerly a dancer with the Boston Ballet, Hedman recently moved across the globe to join the English National Ballet (ENB), based in London. Most recently, she has been performing with ENB during the company’s tour to Paris. Here, she shares with us her joys and difficulties in adjusting to her new life and what prompted her to make the change.

You joined ENB mid-season in 2015 and have already been promoted to First Artist. Congratulations!

“Thank you! I came from Boston Ballet, where I was a soloist, so it was a gracious gesture from my boss [Tamara Rojo] to acknowledge all the years of hard work I had put in to get to that rank in the States. I feel very grateful.”

Tiffany Hedman at the Palais Garnier. Photo courtesy of Hedman
Tiffany Hedman at the Palais Garnier.

What has it been like adjusting to life in England? 

“Well, that’s a loaded question! I absolutely love the city of London, but there are definitely things that are hard to get used to for me. In the States, I have a car — a Hummer H2! — so I miss having the freedom to just take off and explore, although the Tube is brilliant.

There are also a few funny little really non-consequential things. For one, I miss air conditioning! Especially on public transportation, it gets stifling! Also, most of the sinks here have a separate hot and cold tap, and as I’m not experienced in that complicated method, I often burn my hands or freeze them. But in all seriousness, I have adjusted fine, as I love experiencing new cultures and exploring new places.”

In your opinion, what is the best thing about being a professional dancer in London? 

“I definitely think one of the best aspects of being a professional dancer in London is living in a city that is so close to all of the other European cities. This proximity allows us to collaborate with other organizations and ultimately pushes us to extend our horizons as artists. The expectations held by London audiences also keep us all pushing to constantly take our art form to the next level. At the moment, I am in Paris performing at the Palais Garnier, the home of Paris Opera Ballet. That is an opportunity that is very rare to come by and was only provided to us because of the world-class reputation of our Artistic Director Tamara Rojo and of the English National Ballet.”

You danced with the Boston Ballet and Miami City Ballet. How are things different or similar at the ENB? What prompted you to make the switch?

“Things are very different in terms of the way the companies are run. For example, in the States, ballet companies are generally non-profit organizations and rely on dedicated donors to support the organization. But in Europe and Russia, companies also receive some support from the government. Some companies also have dancers’ unions, while others don’t, which can change the way a company is run.

Tiffany Hedman in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Hedman.
Tiffany Hedman.

In the States, contracts are given out each year, so as a dancer you would sign, say, a 42-week contract, which would then have to be renewed again the following year. That can be quite dangerous, as it is very easy for companies to let go of a dancer. It also means that you have to claim unemployment from the state you live in on holidays (layoff weeks). In Europe, however, quite a few companies offer lifetime contracts, so the job security is much better. At the ENB, we also get paid through our holidays all year long. The salary may come out about the same, but job security is what I was attracted to in coming here to London.”

Do you think there is an ‘American’ style and an ‘English’ style of ballet? People often talk about the distinctiveness of these two schools.

“Yes, I do believe there is an ‘American’ style and an ‘English’ style; however, at the level we are at as professional ballet dancers, we can adapt to any style thrown our way. I would say that in theory, the ‘American’ style is bolder whereas the ‘English’ style is more reserved, but that is just how it is often perceived. Each artist brings something different, and styles are ever changing, as is the world.”

What has been the highlight for you so far during your time at ENB?

“I don’t know if I can choose a specific highlight! Dancing a principal role in Forsythe’s In The Middle Somewhat Elevated at Sadler’s Wells was one, as was dancing next to Tamara Rojo in Kylian’s Petite Mort. Sharing the studio and stage with Alina Cojocaru, touring to places where I am now, the Palais Garnier…I could go on!”

What do you miss most about the U.S.?

“I miss the life I had with my best friend and partner, I miss our home. I miss being close to my mom and having her come see my performances. My heart belongs to my country, so it has been very difficult to leave the audience and supporters I had there. But I believe that this experience is making my life richer, and one day, I’ll be able to take some of what I’ve learned back to the States.”

Tiffany Hedman. Photo courtesy of Hedman
Tiffany Hedman in rehearsal.

Can you think of a piece of advice or wisdom that has served you well in navigating the professional ballet world across two countries?

“Never lose who you are, stay true and honest to yourself. Don’t sell yourself short for anyone or any organization; know your worth. Allow yourself to be vulnerable on stage, give all you can at each moment you have and always look forward not backward. Be open to new and different things and, most of all, stay humble along the way.”

What’s next in store for you with ENB? What do you look forward to most?

“Next, I get on a train to the Palais Garnier to perform in front of this magnificent audience! That’s what I’m looking forward to right now. Each day, no matter how big or small the outcome is, I look forward to pushing myself further. I don’t know what the future holds, but whatever is next in store for me, I will make the most of it and I’ll never stop going after my dreams.”

Article produced by Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Tiffany Hedman of the English National Ballet. Photo by Laurent Liotardo.

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