You’ll no doubt recognise Bethany Kingsley-Garner from the face of our Move Dance Isla Collection shoot and video. Bethany, Principal Ballerina at Scottish Ballet, spoke to us about her career, how she fell in love with dance and what’s next for her!
What influenced you to start ballet?
I think it was classical music that influenced me overall.My family home always had Classic FM playing on the radio, my sister played the piano and I just couldn’t stop moving. It was like it was something in my DNA, it was something flowing through my veins that just got me moving. I even tried putting paper cups on my feet as pointe shoes before I’d ever seen pointe shoes. I would have been only about 4 years old, so it really was something that came naturally to me. When my sister went to dance class the teacher used to always see me outside and bring me in and that’s exactly how it started.
Where did you train when you were younger?
We lived on Dartmoor so it was hard as there wasn’t anywhere locally. I attended Totnes School of Dance which did mainly Royal Academy work. I also did some Cecchetti classes with Monica Ferneaux in Exeter. I was also an associate of the royal ballet school age 7-10 before I went full time.
Who did you look up to in the industry?
I’ve always loved the traditional and the classics, like Margot Fonteyn. She was one of the first Principal Ballerina’s in the Royal Ballet and was famous for telling the story with her eyes and expression. So for me, Margot Fonteyn was an inspiration.
What did it feel like to become Principal Ballerina at Scottish Ballet?
You just feel incredible about what you’ve achieved, I thought about it for so long, about what it would feel like and if I’d ever get there, if I’d make it. Then when I did it just felt absolutely incredible. You feel fulfilled, it’s hard to put it into words!
What’s an average day like for you?
I train every day including rehearsal days. So that can be a different type of training depending on the performance, I either do cardio or strength and conditioning training. I’m quite strict with that. I believe it’s something that’s helped me to be robust and strong so that’s my bread and butter - I always make sure I’ve done my strength and conditioning. I have an hour and a half ballet class then I will go straight into rehearsals, so I’m rehearsing from 11.30 am to 6.30 pm five days a week. On Saturdays we work half a day so we finish at 1.30 pm.
On a show day we wake up later because the curtain down will have been around 10.30 pm the night before and we have to make sure we wind down. We have class around 12 o’clock, unless it’s a matinee then we’ll have it pushed forward, and again during the day we’re rehearsing on stage but maybe with a different cast for something that we want to tweak and make better. Right up to the last performance of a tour, even if it’s 3 months long, we will still be rehearsing up until the very last show. We are constantly improving, adding a turn here or there, making things better.
What’s your favourite Ballet to perform?
I have been extremely lucky in that I’ve got to do a lot of the classics like Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I think any Ballet where you have a creation is amazing, right now we’re doing the Snow Queen where I created the role of Gerda. That’s always so special because it’s got your own imprint on the role and the next generations to come can evolve the role.
What’s been your most memorable performance?
I think every season there’s always one show you’ve done that you remember. There was one show in Cinderella last year at the Edinburgh Festival when everything was just absolutely right, myself, my partner, the whole team! It was just a really enjoyable and fulfilling performance. Then you’ve got the shows where you perform at different theatres, I did Romeo and Juliet in Beijing at the Royal Opera House so that was a huge moment! We also performed at Mariinsky Theatre in Russia. It’s so memorable when I have a member of the family in who’s travelled to come and watch, that’s always special.
What’s been your biggest achievement?
It’s not career-related, but a personal achievement for me was getting married. I think dance-wise, the graft and staying honest to myself is an achievement as it is. I still come into work with enjoyment and wanting to continuously better myself and my dance. I think I find myself achieving each day no matter how small. I always say, ‘set your goals small so you can achieve them.’
Obviously you’ve achieved so much in your career so far, is there anything else you have on your bucket list?
I have so many things at the moment. I’m looking at future possibilities for when I do eventually retire. Doors open all the time and the more you invest in this career the more doors open. It’s something that’s always continually changing, one day I could think ‘oh I’d love to do this’ and then I have another opportunity to do something that tests another side of me. In terms of anything else on my bucket list, I’d say it’s probably everything!
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring dancers, what would it be?
I would always say, know your weaknesses, but definitely know your strengths because the only way you’re going to go through the weaknesses is knowing the positive aspects of yourself.