Dusty Button has always been known as the stereotype-breaking ballerina who plays by her own rules. After training at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and London’s The Royal Ballet School, she joined the Boston Ballet corps in 2012, was promoted to soloist in 2013, and to principal in 2014. Throughout her career, she has also taught and trained aspiring ballerinas around the globe. Dubbed “a new brand of ballerina” by En Pointe Magazine, Button has blazed her own trail in the world of ballet. We recently caught up with Button as she prepares to return to Australia and New Zealand as the International Guest Teacher in International Ballet Workshops’ (IBW) summer 2019 series. After a successful tour with IBW in winter 2017, excitement is building to work with this inspirational teacher again. Here, Button tells us what drives her passion for teaching, how she never has a typical day and what she is looking forward to the most in her return to IBW.
How did you enjoy your last tour with IBW?
“Teaching is technically a ‘job’; however, my previous tour with IBW felt nothing like ‘work’, and that speaks volumes to how much I enjoyed the country’s culture and, most importantly, my students.”
Part of ballet’s charm is its historic and classic appeal. What do you think are the stark differences between the past and present ballet scene?
“While most would disagree, I don’t believe the ballet industry has evolved very much at all, especially in comparison to other genres of dance or the performance industry in general. Sure, there are more choreographers and new pieces that are more ‘contemporary’, as well as new versions of a ballet that were created many years ago, but the evolution of ballet seems limited by the willingness of those involved to accept change. There are many who believe the history of ballet has been tarnished or is ‘not what it used to be’, but, like every industry, each generation should improve and evolve rather than repeat and regress. As each generation improves, it is only right to challenge each previous so that we inspire the next to do the same. There are choreographers and dancers pushing boundaries now just as there were then, but with social media these leaders are more accessible. The one difference I see more of now than I would have in the past is that people are less afraid to ‘break the rules’. It’s good to make noise, and I think some dancers are becoming much more independent and free of what can seem like a ‘cultish’ mindset at times. I encourage those dancers to continue that journey. We all call ourselves artists, but by definition an artist must create, not just follow direction.”
What’s the best part about teaching young ballerinas?
“When I teach, I always remember that I am not only shaping these kids as dancers and improving their technique, but I am also, for a brief time, influencing their character. It is so important to me that each student leaves feeling like they gained something from me that they can take with them for the rest of their lives, in whatever field they choose.”
Was there a favourite teacher of yours that inspired you when you were a ballerina in training?
“I had many teachers that influenced my training and I am so grateful to each of them. I don’t know that I was necessarily inspired by this particular teacher but the one person that comes to mind when I remember my training is the late Gailene Stock, former director of The Royal Ballet School. She was the director when I was at school there and was by far the most honest teacher I’ve ever had. She made me feel like I always had more to offer that I wasn’t taking full advantage of and that was something I always respected and will carry with me as I progress in my career now.”
What is the most memorable performance that you’ve done in your career?
“I have been fortunate to perform around the world and experience dozens of cultures so while factoring all of that into my experiences performing its hard to just one. Last year I performed as a guest artist at Ballet Minnesota for The Nutcracker and there was young girl who came to watch who was fighting cancer. I met her a few years prior to her diagnosis during one of my master classes and saw her again once she came back stage before my performance. She was so full of life and excited to be in that moment which is more than I can say for most since most of us at times forget to stop and live in a moment. It was impossible to express through my performance exactly what I wanted but I had hoped that she could see how much she had inspired me and that would resonate with her during her fight reminding her how strong she really is. Leah Nelson is her name and she is responsible for making that my most memorable performance. I am happy to say that she is now in remission and dancing again so I hope to see her on stage inspiring many others soon.”
What is your dream role, if you haven’t performed it yet?
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a “dream role”, as I continue in my career there are many roles I don’t have knowledge of that come to be my favorite. A role that I aspired to do that I have had the chance to perform is the role of Gamzatti.”
What’s a typical day like in the life of Dusty Button?
“I try to avoid any association to the word typical whether it be in life or my career so I am happy to say that I don’t have a typical day. My schedule is constantly changing since I submerge myself into various industries and being a freelance artist allows my days to manifest in various ways. Typically I find myself performing, choreographing, teaching, traveling, at car shows & races with my husband and our collection or casually playing video games while hanging out with our English Bulldogs (Desmo & Scud). There is never a dull moment.”
If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?
“I never had a ‘plan B’ so I couldn’t imagine being in any other profession. I believe if we allow ourself a backup plan we are more likely to accept less than our best and default to this option rather than pushing as if our dream is our only destination.”
What are you looking forward to the most coming back to teach at the IBW workshop?
“There is a disconnect from one country to another in regards to work ethics and this can be a good thing as dancers are at times unable to gauge their ethic base upon others which in IBW’s case gives me students with “all or nothing” mentalities and that allows us all maximum growth from this experience.”
In your opinion, what is the most important thing aspiring ballerinas should know?
“Ballet is an art not a lifestyle so never neglect living you real “life” outside of creating your art, otherwise your art will create you.”
International Ballet Workshops’ Summer 2019 “Blaze Your Own Trail” Series with Dusty Button, and supporting teachers Brett Simon, Crystal Wong and Iona Marques, takes place on the following dates and venues: Melbourne on January 7 – 9 and 11 – 13 at Rain & Lucky Academy of Dance; Auckland, NZ, on January 15 – 16 and 17-18 at Wellesley Studios; Sydney on January 21-23 and 24 – 26 at The Conlan College; Hobart on January 28 – 29 at the Hobart Dance Academy; and Perth on January 31 – February 2 at The Perth School of Ballet. Some cities are already sold out, so register now at . IBW is supported by Dance Informa, Capezio, EnPointeOrthotics and DanceSurance.