Meet Yasmine Naghdi, First Soloist of The Royal Ballet
Yasmine Naghdi has long been declared a “rising star”, but now that she’s a first soloist for The Royal Ballet, we think it’s safe to say that this star has risen.
This month we at YCB teamed up with Dancewear Central to catch up with the 24-year-old as she took her break during rehearsals at The Royal Ballet’s Covent Garden studios. Wearing a stunning floral leotard in a striking green colour, Yasmine was all smiles as she talked Dancewear Central through her life as a ballet dancer.
“I started dancing when I was probably six to seven years old, and did my first performance on stage around seven or eight,” Yasmine Naghdi said.
And things have only gone upwards from there; dancing for The Royal Ballet for the first time at just 10 years old in Cinderella, she was bound to find success.
Yasmine talks about her ballet journey
“I joined The Royal Ballet School at White Lodge at the age of twelve years old.” Yasmine told Dancewear Central.
“The school trains you in the lower school until the age of sixteen. I did an audition to get into the upper school here at Covent Garden and successfully joined. Technically the training is three years, but I was really fortunate after finishing my first year at the upper school, being moved up to the last year, and half way through my last year I was offered a contract at the age of seventeen by Dame Monica Mason (artistic director of The Royal Ballet) to join The Royal Ballet in April. So it was a very quick transition, but very exciting for me at the same time.”
There is no surprise at Yasmine’s quick ascent through the ranks. Watching her dance, she is graceful, poised, and simply beautiful. Her first promotion to first artist took her just two years, and within another two years she was promoted to soloist. Now a first soloist, those childhood dreams must seem so far away.
Realising ballet was what Yasmine wanted to do with her life
“I was fourteen when I realised ballet was what I wanted to do with my life. I had been selected with three other girls in my year to represent The Royal Ballet School in a little exchange programme in Russia with The Vaganova School.” Yasmine said.
“It was a great opportunity dancing alongside the Vaganova students in their annual performance, and being taught by Russian teachers.
“That acknowledgement and trust that was put in me gave me the confidence to believe that I could maybe get a professional career out of this, and that excitement and fire really sparked something within me to work even harder and strive to make it a career for myself.”
A typical day for first soloist
“A typical day here at The Royal Ballet for me would be waking up at 8am, having a substantial breakfast in the morning, then walking and jumping on the tube to come to Covent Garden. I would then do some pilates and body conditioning in the studio to make sure my body is substantially warmed for the day ahead. Class would begin at 10:30, and is an hour and 15 minutes, then we have a 15 minute break, where rehearsals would start from 12 onwards.
“We’ve got an hour lunch break from 1 or 2 in the afternoon to keep up energy levels through the evening rehearsals, and then we are straight back in to rehearsing until 6:30 on a day without any performances.
“When we have a performance we would stop rehearsals at 5:30, have a two hour break, and start the performance at 7:30. Typically a performance would finish at 10:30 in the evening, then it would take a good half an hour to take off makeup, hair, any wigs, any body makeup, jump in the shower, and head back on the tube home. So I’d usually arrive home around 11:30-11:45.”
The long, active days don’t end there, and there’s not a lot of time to chill out. “It would become quite late by the time you’ve had some food, unwound, and relaxed, because if you try and sleep straight away, it usually doesn’t work! So I like to read to take my mind off the day, and calm the body down before going to sleep.”
Performing the role of Juliet
However, the hard work has certainly paid off. “A highlight for me last year was performing the role of Juliet in Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s my first principal role in a full length ballet, and it was an incredible honour to dance this role.”
“I learnt so much from the experience; I learnt more about Shakespeare, more about interpreting a role and really becoming a character, and I look forward to having more roles similar to that in the future.”
So what are Yasmine’s dream roles?
“I would love to dance the main role of Tatyana (from Onegin) one day, and Manon is another ballet I would love to dance. Odet Odille and Nikiya in La Bayadère – those are a few roles that I would be passionate to do one day.”
Yasmine has already danced in Onegin as Tatyana’s assistant, Olga. “It was a really great experience to play a role in a narrative ballet, to express emotion: happy, sad, anger, loss.
“I really enjoy roles where I can be a different character and escape reality for a few moments.”
It’s not just the incredible roles Yasmine has to look forward to either. The Royal Ballet often tours, giving the dancers the opportunity to experience new cultures in new countries, with past destinations including America, Russia, and Shanghai. This summer, they hit Japan, and it was Yasmine’s favourite tour destination so far.
“I love the culture, and I find the people very kind and warm. The audiences are very welcoming, and there’s usually a huge queue outside the stage door of people waiting for signatures, and it can take you probably half an hour to get out the stage door! But it’s good fun, and we feel very appreciated and welcome.”
So where can we look forward to seeing Yasmine next?
“At the end of this season we will be touring to Kazakhstan, Beijing, and Brisbane, Australia, which I’m really looking forward to.”
Yasmine has plenty of tips to offer budding ballerinas, and is quick to tell us what qualities she thinks any dancer needs in this industry.
“I would have to say dedication, determination, sheer hard work, passion, drive, intelligence, and a sense of humour, because you cannot take yourself too seriously, and you have to always be able to laugh in a bad situation!”
Yasmine’s genuine warmness shines from her as she offers this final piece of advice: “Don’t lose sight of who you are, always work as hard as possible, and don’t be afraid to dream, because if you work hard and if you want something bad enough, you will achieve something great.”
Still curious about what a typical day in the life of a ballerina at The Royal Ballet might be like, watch the video below: