On Pointe

The Ballerina That Wants to Turn Everyone into a Dancer

Adelene Stanley thinks that everyone can dance—yes, even you and me.

The Ballerina That Wants to Turn Everyone into a Dancer
Johan Persson

The word ‘burnout’ doesn’t register in ballerina Adelene Stanley’s dictionary. Since she was accepted to the prestigious Rambert Ballet School in London at 16 — the youngest in her cohort — it feels as though the 23-year-old hasn’t taken off her pointe shoes since.  

Her whirlwind career began the moment she graduated in 2014, where she was snapped up by the Sisters Grimm to perform for their brand new ballet, Inala. Since then, the Grammy-nominated production has had four runs spanning across Europe, and makes its Southeast Asian premiere in Singapore on June 19 at Marina Bay Sands’ Sands Theatre. 

But its premiere in Singapore isn’t just a big moment for the producers, it is one for Stanley as well: “On one hand, it’s going to be absolutely incredible to perform Inala in Singapore, because my family and friends are finally going to see it,” she enthuses. “But at the same time, all my family and friends are going to see it!”

Pre-show jitters? Not a chance for this upbeat dancer. She’s enjoyed every moment of her rocketing career thus far, even the endless rush of performing nightly in dozens of cities in as many nights. But Stanley says it’s only because Inala is that much of a joy for her to perform.

“Inala isn’t really a typical ballet show,” she says. “Its so fun, so feel-good and easy-going that once I start performing it, I don’t feel any nerves.”

Unlike a traditional ballet, Inala’s musical score comes from a soulful gospel choir that shares the stage with the dancers, whom they interact with during the performance.

There are 18 songs in the performance, each with its own story woven into it, with one set aside especially for Stanley to perform a heart-wrenching, four-minute solo. Its a little gift from the show’s producers to celebrate Stanley’s homecoming, to give her ever-supportive parents something to frame up.

“My solo a very intimate moment, and I’d say that it’s actually the most emotional moment in the show,” says Stanley.

Never mind the fact that the solo in question was choreographed for a male dancer, and that Stanley would be the first woman to do it throughout all of its runs. Choreographers typically adapt these solos when a dancer of the opposite sex performs it: Stanley was adamant that they kept it as it was.

“For this solo, you have to have a big presence on stage, and I want to fill that presence up — but in a feminine way,” she says. 

“I’m not trying to replicate what they did, but I want to do it in my own way.”

Stanley can more than afford to put her own spin on things. As an original cast member of Inala, she’s been performing with the troupe since its premiere at the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival Opening, and has travelled with the team to Moscow, London, and even before the Queen herself for the 2014 Royal Variety Performance (which Stanley brightly compares to its Singaporean equivalent, the President’s Star Charity — only with the house of Windsor in full attendance).

But she knows that attending a ballet recital isn’t everyone’s idea of a night out. That’s why Stanley has been hosting her own movement therapy classes in her downtime between tours. Open to the able bodied and those looking for physical rehabilitation, Stanley’s movement therapy classes are cleverly masked beginner’s dance classes — mainly because the word ‘dance class’ seems to frighten off any potential ingenues.

“I want to let the world in on the dance world, to show that it’s not as inaccessible as it might seem — and the best way is to start with movement therapy,” she says.

As Stanley puts it, not everyone would go for a dance class, but everyone moves — they’re just not too conscious of how they move, exactly. “We’ve become really mechanical and almost robotic in the way we move,” she says. “But it’s something people won’t think about until they feel the difference.”

Her movement therapy help make people more aware of their bodies and movements, and even if it doesn’t turn her students into swans, Stanley is happy enough knowing that her years of practice and study are helping affect someone else’s life for the better.

“I feel that so much magic happens when I’m performing and I connect with someone in the audience,” she says.

“I always liked dancing, but when I was 17, I did a solo performance in Poland that was eight minutes long. And I saw a woman in the audience who didn’t stop crying throughout those eight minutes.”

“She came backstage to tell me how emotional she got while she was watching me perform, and at that moment, I felt like I was meant to do this for the rest of my life.”

INALA: A Zulu Ballet will run at the Sands Theatre from June 19 – 22.

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