When her mother was told that she was “too hyper-active for gymnastics,” Danielle Gould found herself getting her first taste of ballet. That first taste was all she needed to be hooked for life. Now an adult, Danielle’s ballet career has taken her from her Canadian hometown and across the Atlantic Ocean, where she currently dances with the Hungarian National Ballet. Despite the distance, Danielle was able to connect with Ballet in the City to talk about her dance career, what she loves about Europe, and why she feels organizations like Ballet in the City, for which she serves as an International Ambassador, are especially important for North America.
Ballet in the City: Tell me a little about your childhood training and when you knew you wanted to pursue dancing as a career. Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?
Danielle: My first introduction to ballet was after my mom was told I was too hyper-active for gymnastics and she had to find me another form of activity. She was driving home and saw that the local ballet school was accepting applications for new students. Even though I was too young for the first level, they let me audition and said I had potential and could join the older students.
I think when I first went to Toronto for my first summer school at Canada’s National Ballet School at age 10, I knew that this was what I wanted to do as my career. In the following years, I got the opportunity every Christmas to work with Alberta Ballet when they toured in Vancouver as one of The Nutcracker the party children and, in my last year, at age 12 dancing Clara, I really knew that being on stage was something I couldn’t live without.
You grew up and began your training in Canada, but eventually moved to Europe, where you are now. What was the catalyst that brought you to Europe, and what made you stay?
In my graduating year in Vancouver from Goh Ballet Academy, I competed at Youth American Grand Prix finals in New York City. In the final round, I was offered a full scholarship to the John Cranko School in Stuttgart, Germany. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try to stay in North America or make the leap across the pond. But, now that I look back, I am so happy I made the choice to move to Europe. Europe has kept me now for six years, and I think the combination of performing experiences and living in a different culture has been what has made me stay. Here in the Hungarian National Ballet, I have had the opportunities to perform such a variety of full length classical ballets, which has given me the opportunity to grow my repertoire very quickly.
Was assimilating into the European lifestyle and a European ballet company a challenge for you? What was or has been the biggest culture shock for you in moving to a different continent, both at a dancing level and just in your day-to-day life?
I feel that already the lifestyle I lived in Vancouver is similar to the European way of life. Back home in Vancouver, we try to walk most places when it is possible and not rely on a car, which is very typical in Europe – it is definitely something I love. In terms of the ballet company, I also never really had a problem assimilating. In terms of culture-shock, I guess at first when I moved to Budapest I would say the food was very different. As Hungarian cuisine is predominantly meat-based, being vegan, for me at first it was a bit more difficult to find all the organic and vegan options that are so easily available back home at shops like Whole Foods and vegan restaurants. But, in the past four years, Budapest has really developed its vegan food scene, which has been nice for me. I also came to find all the best bio shops, markets, and Hungarian versions of vegan and natural products. Of course, the language is very unique and difficult. I studied Hungarian my first year, which helped for basic language and conversation, but sometimes anything more complicated can be interesting if there is no one who speaks English!
How do you hope your career continues to grow? Do you see yourself continuing to dance in Europe for an extended time, or do you hope to find a way to transition your career back into Canada if you can?
I hope my career continues to grow in terms of the repertoire I learn, my ability to continually gain new experiences, and improve both artistically and technically. I do love dancing in Europe, but Vancouver is a long way away and eventually I do hope to be closer to my family in North America; my career is, of course, very important to me, but in the long-term, family is just as important. Without them, I would definitely not be where I am today. They support me through everything and are always there when I need them. Even living halfway around the world, they are just a phone call away. I am very lucky for that. So yes – a way to transition back to Canada or North America, if it presents itself, is definitely something I hope for in the future. But who knows? I never like to say anything, as life can be unpredictable and sometimes the things and places you least expect to do or move to can be the best decisions you can make.
I read on your website that your own choreography has been presented in a few instances at Hungarian National Ballet events. Is choreography something you want to pursue at a deeper level at any point during your career?
Yes, I have had a passion for choreography every since I was young. It’s something I continue to work on and develop all the time and I thoroughly enjoy it. Currently, I am creating a new work which premiered on April 3rd for eight dancers. Certainly choreography is something that I hope to continue to pursue to compliment my own dance career, and afterwards (or during) to go further with my choreography if the opportunity presents itself.
What has been your favorite role that you have danced thus far in your career, and what is your dream role to dance?
I believe any chance to be on stage and perform is a beautiful moment, and I enjoy the diversity of roles, especially ones that require acting. I can’t say actually what a favorite role or even dream role would be, as I have several that come to mind and the list keeps growing. So, maybe at the end of my career, I could come back to that question, but for now I hope to continue to learn and experience new roles, with even larger characters and variety.
Jessica at Ballet in the City told me that you performed with Seal this past November. What an experience! Tell me more about this performance and how it came to be.
Yes, it was really fun to meet him. I actually didn’t perform with him, just in the same performance as him. It was a gala for the OTP Bank here in Hungary, and every year they rent the Opera and hire performers. We performed a excerpt from the ballet Spartacus (the first act), and then we got to watch Seal’s performance, which was the rest of the show.
I was also told that you are filming a movie with Sergei Polunin and Isabella Boylston. What can you tell me about the movie, and what has it been like to film with these two?
It was absolutely amazing experience. It is a new Jennifer Lawerence film directed by Francis Lawrence, and it’s called Red Sparrow, so we also got to work with Jennifer, Isabella, and Sergei. The movie is coming out sometime this coming fall. The entire experience was a dream come true, to work on a Hollywood movie and meet such a talented cast of actors. I am very much looking forward to seeing the movie now!
You are serving as an Ballet in the City International Ambassador. Tell me about what this will entail for you and what made you interested in the role.
It actually all began through Instagram when Jessica connected with me through my photos. I’m excited to keep collaborating in any way we can across the miles. It’s a great way to show people in the states what ballet is like in Europe in a real way.
Why do you think it’s important to have organizations like Ballet in the City, that seek to bring dance to the greater community and give them an inside look at the world of ballet?
I think organizations like Ballet in the City are something the world, and especially North America, needs so that people continue to support and promote the arts. Ballet and dance is something that can speak to people on so many levels. I feel movement and dance are things everyone should have the opportunity to participate in, as no matter where you are from or what language you speak, everyone can understand movement. When you learn to dance and tell a story with your body, it’s the most enriching and inspiring thing, and I hope everyone can experience the pleasure I find in dancing. Even if it simply means jumping up and down to a good beat, it’s still dance.
Is there anything you think that Ballet in the City readers should know about you and your career that hasn’t been asked?
I just would like to say to everyone to take a moment to get up and dance, every day if you can, and most importantly, continue to support the arts, ballet, and dance in your local communities and beyond. I would not have the fortune to do what I love every day if it wasn’t for the support of the ballet community and dance audience.