20 Questions with Damien Johnson
Editor’s note: A special thanks to The Ballet Bag (@theballetbag) for tracking down Damien Johnson and conducting DancePulp’s ongoing 20 question interview with him. In The Ballet Bag’s previous guest post, they discuss ballet’s crossover to other artforms, particularly pop music.
Damien Johnson is a dancer with Ballet Black in London. As the longest serving member of Ballet Black, Damien has been featured in many Company works by choreographers that include Irek Mukhamedov, Antonia Franceschi, Liam Scarlett, Richard Alston and Bawren Tavaziva.
1. What is your breakfast of choice?
“I pretty much have the same thing everyday, I have porridge and a banana, plus I drink an espresso.”
2. What is your pre-performance ritual?
“Usually I get my iPod – I use NY teacher Willie Berman’s ballet music CD – I give myself a barre again.. then just get in that corner, stretch, get everything together and warm up. I usually do another barre an hour before when all is ready… with the make up on and everything.”
3. Last passport stamp?
4. Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see dance in 10 years?
“In 10 years I don’t know if I’ll still be dancing but hopefully I’ll be teaching. I teach once a week for Ballet Black’s associate program and I enjoy it a lot. As for dance, it just keeps evolving… I’m sure the younger generation will have higher legs and be doing more pirouettes.”
5. What gives you inspiration?
“A lot of the music that we dance to gives me inspiration. Classical music in general. Mozart is my absolute favorite.”
6. What are your biggest vices or indulgences?
“Red wine and a hot bath. Together!”
7. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
“Trying to be constantly improving, staying fresh… not just hitting a rut. To keep going is always a challenge but doing things outside of the studio like Pilates and Gyrotonics help keep you in the studio for longer.”
8. If you hadn’t chosen this career, what might you be doing?
“Growing up I always said I’d be a lawyer (up until I was about 14!) or maybe I would be a cook… I love cooking.”
9. Favorite book?
“Growing up I really loved The Catcher in the Rye but my all-time favorite is Gelsey Kirkland’s Dancing on My Grave.”
10. What’s your favorite non-dance activity or hobby?
“I love to cook! My signature dish would be homemade meatballs and I also like to do lemon and oregano chicken. And I always bake cookies and banana bread.”
11. Pet peeves?
“It drives me crazy when I’m talking and trying to make a point and someone just jumps in and starts to talk over, completely dismissing what I was saying. I usually grunt when that happens.”
12. Where do/would you most like to travel?
13. What’s your idea of relaxation? What’s your idea of fun?
“I love just being on the sofa, remote in my hand and just vegging out, watching Brothers and Sisters. Fun is going out for a nice dinner. My favorite place in London is this fantastic Argentinian steak house called Marina del Sur.”
14. Do you get bored?
“Yes, if I have too many days off work!”
15. Are you more introverted or extroverted? Do you need long periods of time alone, or are you energized by interaction?
“I’m pretty energized by interaction, let’s say I don’t need too much time by myself in a corner…”
16. What’s your average bedtime?
“I try to go to bed by eleven. But on performance day I’m lucky if I am in bed by one because by the time you get out, home, shower, have dinner… but at least then we get to sleep in the next day.”
17. What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
“That my father is a Baptist minister!”
18. Where would you like to live long-term?
“I would love to have a place in London, another in New York and one in Santa Monica… I lived there when I was with LA Ballet and it’s just so laid-back, so nice… I could walk to the beach every morning before class, it was great, so different from the rest of LA.”
19. Last song you listened to on your iPod?
“Katy Perry’s Firework, which is kind of embarrassing…”