Broken bones and broken hearts, but Mia’s role as Giselle was worth the wait

For Queensland Ballet’s newly promoted Principal Artist Mia Heathcote, the joy of bringing Giselle to life this year is the culmination of decades of coming so close yet so far from performing the iconic role.

Apr 06, 2023, updated Apr 06, 2023
Qld Ballet Performance of Giselle at HOTA Gold Coast (Image: David Kelly)

Qld Ballet Performance of Giselle at HOTA Gold Coast (Image: David Kelly)

The romantic classic will finally get its QPAC season, a year after it was cancelled because of 2022’s historic flooding event which brought Brisbane to a temporary halt.

“We had the whole production ready to go last year, and then the floods hit,” Heathcote said.

“And unfortunately because of the water damage in the theatre, we weren’t able to have the season go ahead. I think they tried many different other avenues that we could at least perform it somewhere, but it just didn’t work out.

“So it was pretty heartbreaking, but now we get to sort of relive it again, which is nice.”

It wasn’t the first time that Heathcote had come so close to stepping into Giselle’s spotlight.

“The Queensland Ballet has done Giselle before – 2013, I think was the first year they did it. I joined the company in year 2014, so I missed that,” she said.

“And then when we did it again in 2020, I had ankle surgery, so I didn’t do it then. So I’ve missed it every single time we’ve done it.

“And then when it was coming up last year, I was so excited and then it got cancelled. So it’s sort of been a long time coming for me.”

Heathcote said the memory of her promotion to Principal Artist on stage with Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin following the opening night of Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon, is still fresh in her mind. But now comes the responsibility which she feels to these classic roles.

“It feels like such an honour to be promoted to a principal artist. It’s every little girl’s dream when they start out to be a ballet dancer,” she said.

“Giselle is very iconic and it’s a real beautiful ballet from the romantic era, and it’s one of those ones I think every dancer wants to tick off the bucket list. So to be able to do that, it’s pretty special.

“It’s such a long journey, and I think to be recognised in that way is just a huge honour.

“But in the same sentence, I guess the work really begins now. It’s still very much, there’s a responsibility there, and yes, you are a principal dancer, but it doesn’t mean the work stops, it really just begins.

“And I think there’s a slight bit of pressure that I put on myself to sort of uphold that status.

“But at the same time, just trying to remind myself that why – my purpose – which is just that I love performing and I love telling a story. So I’m just trying try and keep that and lose the pressure.”

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She says finally stepping into the role now is reward for the difficulties they faced as a company both recently with the floods and also through Covid-19.

“If I’m looking at the positive side of what happened last year and what happened in 2020 when I had surgery as well, I think maybe, everything happens for a reason,” Heathcote said.

“And I think that it’s come around at the right time now, and having watched the ballet many times before and seen many interpretations of the role, and then being able to, I guess, digest it all in a different perspective as well from different characters. Now coming to the role of Giselle will be really special.

“What happened was about a couple of weeks before we were about to open Giselle (last year), I had to isolate for the week with my partner at home, and I didn’t end up getting Covid, but I ended up rehearsing the whole ballet myself at home just to try and keep my mind and my body active and ready to go for the opening night.

“And then on the Friday, Friday of the last week of the isolation, we were told that it wasn’t going ahead. I was standing in my apartment, on the phone to a colleague being like, are you serious? In what I could call a rehearsal space in my tiny apartment. I never would’ve expected that.”

Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin said he is delighted to be able to overcome that disappointment and finally bring one of ballet’s most celebrated works, with its tale of passion, vengeance and the power of love, to the QPAC stage.

“We are delighted to be showcasing Ai-Gul’s production of Giselle,” Cunxin said.

“Our dancers have been working incredibly hard over the last few months, and are looking forward to finally performing this magnificent production for our Queensland audiences.”

Queensland Ballet’s Giselle runs from April 14 to 29 at the Playhouse Theatre at QPAC.


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