The world is a very small place and with the other side less than a day away, it’s no surprise that talented performers from all over the globe are setting off for pastures new. This month I catch up with dancer Simone Sault, currently starring in Sinatra at the London Palladium to talk about a career that spans all disciplines and to discover just how a girl from Melbourne gets to open a top West End musical six nights a week!
Simone, can you tell us a bit about your background – your training, the jobs and what first inspired you to become a dancer?
As corny as it sounds, I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to dance. I started ballet when I was 7 and left school to train full-time at the National Theatre Ballet School in Melbourne when I was 14.
My first job was as a dancer for the Australian Opera in Sydney when I was 18 years old. I remember seeing the audition advertised in the paper. I was so excited because it was my first trip away from home, and the Opera was the perfect stepping stone from being a student to being in the professional world. I was required to dance different styles and the roles were very character based, it also wasn’t as strict as a full-time ballet company. We had class everyday, but as a smaller company it relied on the individuality of the dancers and I never felt as though I had to aspire to be someone else.
I left Australian Opera after two years, and went straight into Phantom of the Opera. I’d actually auditioned for Phantom 18 months earlier in Melbourne, but didn’t get it because they asked me to sing and basically I opened my mouth and died in the clacker! So, I auditioned again having spent a year and a half really working on my singing voice.
I was with Phantom for about 6 years and played Meg Giry in the last year, which is a principal singing/dancing role. I started to think about the other options out there for me, but because I had been classically trained I really wanted to be in a dance company. So, after Phantom I moved to Sydney and was offered a place with Sydney Dance Company a month later. I just started doing classes there and when a dancer left SDC due to an injury they asked me to join.
You seem to have done so much off your own back. Have you ever had an agent?
The first time I had an agent was during the last 3 months in Sydney before I came to London, and since being in London. I’m still very proactive though, because I’ve always been proactive and the truth is that although the agents do a great job, they don’t really know me and I’d never want to leave the big picture of where I want my career to go up to somebody else.
It’s nice to hear from them when they have job offers and auditions but what I’ve found especially since being in London is that it’s a very small circle. Many of the jobs I’ve done I’ve got through the people I’ve met as opposed to the agencies.
So, what brings you to London?
Job opportunities. In this industry you really can’t stay in one place. You have to go where the work is and the amount of work in London is phenomenal. As a dancer you know your career is limited so really it was a case of now or never.
Have you spent much time ‘resting’ during your career?
I’ve been knocked back more times than I’ve been given the okay signal for a lot of things, but I’ve kept a positive self-belief and kept myself in shape and luckily have managed to go pretty much from job to job. Looking back, there were times when I didn’t get a certain role that I wanted so badly and it didn’t seem to make sense but it worked out perfectly in the end.
I’ve been in London just over a year and spent the first four weeks getting my CV up together and sending it out, but apart from that I’ve worked the whole time. My first job was through a friend who knew a choreographer looking for a commercial dancer for a show in Holland. It was such a new experience to hop on a plane for an hour, do a gig bopping around in hot pants and be back the same night. My first proper job though was in Les Liaisons Dangereuses with ex-Royal Ballet principal Adam Cooper. I just turned up to an open call I saw advertised. That job was such a highlight.
From there I joined the company at Sadler’s Wells and went on to dance in The Midsummer Marriage at the Royal Opera House, then on to Sinatra. The jobs have been really diverse, all very different but all character driven and what I love about Sinatra is that I get to be myself. I feel very much that I’m a woman who just happens to dance in this show.
Is there ever a point during the audition when you think ‘yes, I’ve got this gig’?
No, not at all but maybe it’s a fine line. I am very strong about my belief and my self-belief but that should never cross over into arrogance or cockiness. You can’t afford to have that in this industry, or you’ll set yourself up for a great fall. You might think they are interested, but then you walk out and somebody ten times better walks in. In an audition my focus is on trying to get across in the 15 minutes that they’ve given me why I think I’d be right for the job. I would never want to lose the vulnerability of never quite knowing if I’ve got the part until I get the call.
Do you have anything planned for life after Sinatra?
Sinatra finishes at the Palladium mid-September and is going to Las Vegas. There will be a UK and European tour that I hope to be a part of, and then I don’t know.
I strongly believe that the right thing will attract itself to me and vice versa. I will just have to put myself back out there again. I’m just as hungry to work now, as I was when I started 15 years ago, and I’m just as passionate and just as driven.
I take singing lessons and ballet classes even throughout a season of work because I don’t know what job is around the corner. It could be something that entails a lot more dancing than Sinatra or it might be a singing show or an acting show. I take classes in television, film and theatre at The Actor’s Centre because I don’t want to rule anything out. If something exciting comes up I want to be able to say “yes”. I feel that anything is possible.
Do you have any words of wisdom for those just starting out on their dance career?
As a dancer you are always tired, that’s just a fact of life!
I can’t emphasise enough the importance of training. It’s just paramount, and the great thing is the training in Australia is so strong. It holds you in good stead anywhere in the world and you need to think globally if you want to work consistently.
Also, be prepared mentally and emotionally. Very rarely do the jobs pay well, the accolades aren’t always there and the work can vary. Opportunities can come your way and pass you by and it can be soul destroying, especially when you are not offered something you feel so right for. Bitchiness and backstabbing and gossip can also be part and parcel of it, but just try to use those experiences constructively to thrust you forward because that is what builds you as a performer.
But as a career there is nothing like it. Ask the average person working the 9 to 5 job and it’s a fantasy world to them and we should hold on to that and feel privileged that we are the chosen few who are given that gift. We are living the dream and I wouldn’t swap it for all the money in the world.
Simone is starring in Sinatra at the London Palladium, for more information visit www.sinatra.com.