TORONTO—What is it about “Romeo and Juliet” that brings audience members back again and again as they seek to experience the feelings that first touched them? What makes it one of the most enduring love stories of our times? And why can’t we get enough?
For National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Heather Ogden it is a story that many people can easily relate to, a story of love breaking barriers.
“I think that seeing people fight for the one they love and seeing that it makes a difference in the world is timeless,” says Ogden.
The dancer knows how to fight for what she loves. She has soared to the top of the ballet world, fulfilling the dream that many little girls share of becoming a principal dancer, and also realized another dream that many girls share—that of one day becoming a mother.
In January, Ogden gave birth to her little girl Emma and it’s truly been a dream come true.
“It’s my favourite role yet. Even as a younger girl, I always knew I wanted to be a mom and now I know I was just waiting for this opportunity my whole life,” she says in a phone interview.
Back from maternity leave in June, Ogden is now dancing the lead in “The Winter’s Tale” while also getting ready to return as Juliet, a role she has danced several times in her career, including with her husband Guillaume Côté, also a principal dancer with the National Ballet.
Ogden feels she shares much in common with Juliet.
“I can relate to her passion. I can relate to her curiosity and passion and exuberance. I think that when she falls in love, she just gives it everything,” says Ogden, who as a dancer has had to sacrifice a lot to do what she loves.
Returning from maternity leave and adjusting to the demands of professional ballet hasn’t been easy, but it is something that has made her stronger.
“Being a mom has given me this different feeling of importance and I think I bring that to the studio,” she says.
The balance also makes her more focused.
“When I’m at work, I work really hard all the time. I don’t want any of my time to be wasted. I want it to be useful when I’m here,” she says.
“If I’m going to be away from Emma, I want to be productive and get the most out of myself that I can, and then when I go home, I leave my work at the studio, and I give her all my attention and love while I’m with her.”
Ogden adds that her love for Emma provides inspiration for her role in “Romeo and Juliet.”
“I think for Juliet, you’re exploring the feeling of love and losing something that you love, and fighting for it, and if I need any inspiration, I think of Emma. My feelings for her and the love that I have for her are so deep that if I apply that to any of my roles, it just makes me more in tune with the drama,” she explains.
“The love I have for my daughter is the strongest thing I’ve ever felt. Once you’ve felt that, it brings another facet and I think that when I’m dancing Juliet, I carry that with me, even subconsciously now. I have a different layer.
“I’m really excited to get on stage and see how that develops.”
The National Ballet of Canada’s “Romeo and Juliet” runs Nov. 25–Dec. 5. For more information, visit: http://national.ballet.ca/