A day in the life of a dancer

James Forbat in his dressing room James Forbat in his dressing room - © Rob Greig
Posted: Thu Jan 14 2010

English National Ballet soloist James Forbat is having a busy week, dancing in 'The Snow Queen', 'Giselle' and new piece 'Men Y Men'. We find out what he gets up to on a typical day

I never get up before eight, which sounds really good, but we don't finish till late. Cereal for breakfast gives me the most energy, then I take the bus from my new flat in Battersea to our rehearsal studios near the Albert Hall.

Class is the first thing you do in the morning, six days a week. It's the same structure every day: you start on the barre, repeat the exercises in the centre with variations and turns, then move on to jumps at the end. Although it's a bit of a chore, you have to get warm for the day. I'm only 23 and it's already harder than it was when I was 18 to get the joints moving in the morning.

After class there's usually a short break, 15 minutes when the studio's available, and we'll put on some music and try different steps and tricks. Everyone feeds off each other - if you see someone else doing something cool or difficult you want to have a go at it. There is competition, but it's friendly. After that it's rehearsals. I'm in the all-male piece 'Men Y Men', which has been choreographed by Wayne Eagling to go alongside 'Giselle'. It was nice to be working with just men; it's a different atmosphere and energy in the studio. You get things done in a different way.

If I'm doing a walk-on role I can get ready in 20 minutes - although a girl would tell you an hour - but if I'm doing a lead dancing role I start getting ready at about 5.30pm. I'm sharing a dressing room with two other soloists I get on with really well, Zhanat Atymtayev and Esteban Berlanga. As you get promoted you get better dressing rooms - being closer to the stage is the main thing. Before the show we'll all be doing our make-up together, with bit of music on - lots of Michael Bublé at the moment.

I have to say I don't get that nervous. It sounds silly but I almost don't see the point. There are a certain amount of things you've got control over before you go on stage, once you're on it's down to fate. In the wings I'm trying to focus, going through the steps in my head. Then when you get on stage it's almost autopilot. Those moments on stage are unparalleled; it's a feeling you can't describe. Sometimes you're very aware of the audience but some ballets are played within your own space. When you get the atmosphere right it feels very private, as if it's just you in the whole world.

After the show you sometimes feel exhilarated but usually I'm just tired. We might go to the pub next door to the theatre for a drink. If I had the next day off I might go clubbing, but with people that I dance with all day long, it's nice to sit and chat. Midnight I'll be in bed between 12 and one. I'm quite good in that if I don't get to bed till three I'm usually okay the next day. I know some people who like to get ten hours every night. I just wouldn't have enough hours in the day to get that much sleep.