When you view videos of American dancer Dusty Button on Instagram, you can’t help but notice her endless leg extensions and seamless, never-ending pirouettes. This June and July, Australian and New Zealand dancers will have the opportunity to learn from Button, the latest guest teacher for International Ballet Workshops. Here, Dance Informa catches up with the Boston Ballet principal dancer for all things dance, her advice for aspiring professionals and her love of cars and motorcycles.
What is your earliest memory of dance?
“Flintstones. Enough said.”
As a dance student, who did you look up to?
“I find my early inspiration hard to express in words. I find it healthy to fixate on a person of inspiration while growing, but I have always found comfort in a different approach. I never pictured anyone when looking for inspiration, rather the void of someone. I fixated on what I thought was missing from the industry rather than what the industry viewed as the standard. I then worked to place myself in the position that I thought the industry was missing.”
What is your favourite part of ballet class?
“Jumping. I like reminding guys that a girl can get up.”
What area of technique is not your natural strength, that has required more focus than other areas?
“Ironically, classical ballet is less natural to me than any other area of focus. I enjoy movement that originates from my core and is distributed evenly from that point to my extremities, and classical ballet requires opposing muscles to be engaged for proper technique. I enjoy both forms of the art; however, contemporary movement uses more of my soul, and I feel because of this it came to me more easily.”
What is the secret to your incredible pirouettes?
“My husband, ironically. He reminds me that nothing worth having comes without a fight, and pirouettes are not immune to that philosophy. People often come down off of relevé or pointe when they feel they have lost their centre, rather than fighting to finish. Whether fighting results in half a rotation more or five, these pieces over time accumulate to put together the puzzle that is pirouettes.”
You also have a love of cars and other vehicles. What is it you love about them?
“There are many doors that are opened throughout the journey of a dancer, but most of them lead into rooms filled with like-minded people. The auto industry, however, offers doors that lead you into rooms full of people who are all on individually blueprinted journeys. Sharing in my husband’s compulsive obsession with cars, motorcycles and anything with a motor has opened many doors for me, the most exciting of which is the door that lead us to Red Bull and my opportunity as the first Red Bull Ballet Athlete. While all of these things are benefits that I enjoy, they are not what I love about cars. The sparkle that I see in my husband’s eyes when he is hunting, designing, building or driving these machines is that spark that most people lose as they become adults and reality sinks in. That spark is priceless.”
What role is on your wishlist that you haven’t yet danced?
“I will enjoy dancing them all again and again, but I believe that I have fulfilled my wishlist of roles. My husband and I are currently working on projects with Red Bull that I believe will breathe new life into ballet and shine more light on the athlete that lives within us all. These projects live on the pages of a wishlist that I never dreamt possible, so for this I look forward to sharing with the world.”
What piece of advice or quote keeps you going when times are tough?
“I am lucky to wake up every day and do something that I love only to come home and share it all with my supportive husband, so tough times are better left to those who see the glass as half empty, because I find it to always be full. The advice that I would offer to anything relative to dance is just that: It’s only dance; brush it off.”
Do you have a morning and/or evening ritual?
“I have a ritual for every moment of every day, but to be specific: I wake up early so that I can enjoy a proper breakfast prepared by my husband before class, where he always ‘accidentally’ makes extra so that our English bulldogs, Scud and Desmo, can dine with us. I grab a Red Bull, and we enjoy the world’s worst traffic in some of Boston’s most unusual vehicles on the way to work. After work, I rush home where we cook dinner if we don’t go out to eat and immediately after put on sweats to spend the rest of the night together with our bulldogs, watching trash TV, internet shopping, playing Call of Duty and working on things to come. During the summer, we spend a lot of time in the garage together listening to music and working on various cars and motorcycles.”
What’s your favourite thing to eat?
If you weren’t a dancer, what do you think you’d be doing?
“I don’t believe in plan Bs, so I never considered any other career path, but if I were to select a position that I would like to conquer it would be that of a Smoke Jumper. Smoke Jumpers skydive into the heart of forest fires, where they remain for days on end fighting the fire at its core until it is no more, at which point they evacuate location. The lack of a challenge bores me, and no career sounds more challenging than carrying my body weight in gear as I leap from a plane into the definition of a danger zone to save anyone who may be affected or in harm’s way otherwise. I believe in setting goals so large that people feel uncomfortable hearing them, and if a ballerina diving into a fire from 30,000 feet doesn’t make you uncomfortable, what does?”
What advice can you give to young dancers looking to be professional ballerinas?
“One day, your life will flash before your eyes; create a film worth watching. Never settle and never sell out, because at the end of our journey we will walk away with many memories, none of which are more valuable than our dignity.”
To learn more about Dusty Button, visit www.worldofdusty.com.
By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.