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Francesca Hayward

Francesca HaywardFrancesca Hayward, born in July of 1992 in Nairobi, Kenya is an English ballerina and a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in London, England.

Hayward was born the daughter of an English father and a Kenyan mother. At the age of two, she moved to Worthing in West Sussex to live with her grandparents, where she gained her passion for ballet.

Hayward was born to an English father and Kenyan mother, and when she was two she was sent to Sussex to live with her grandparents. She remembers nothing of her life in Africa, and resists being asked about it.

But she does have perfect recall of the moment when her grandparents, looking for ways to entertain the little girl, gave her a video of The Nutcracker to watch. “I loved it, I just wanted to be part of it.

In my head I was on stage and I could hear the applause. I dragged out an armchair into the middle of the room to be my partner.”

Grandpa was soon sent out for more ballet videos. “I’d put one on in the morning, for two hours, and then dance to a whole ballet before lunch,” Hayward remembers.

“And then I would play another after lunch. I’d lock myself in the living room - It just made sense. Even at three years old. That may seem crazy but it just spoke to me, it felt really natural. I couldn’t stop doing it and that was it.”

Francesca HaywardShe started dance lessons and forced her friends to do ballet when they came round to play - “I’m still apologising to them now”.

She was accepted into the Royal Ballet School at age 11 - an experience she thought would be “like a sleepover every night” but turned out to be a fast-track to growing up.

From that point dance became the centre of her life. She attended her first ballet class, in a room behind a carpet shop in Worthing, when she was three.

At 11 she was admitted to the Royal Ballet School and at 18 she was one of a handful of students to graduate into the company.

When she was young, she danced at Le Serve School of Ballet and Theatre Dance in Worthing until her teacher encouraged her to audition to White Lodge, the junior section of the Royal Ballet School.

After being a Junior Associate from the age of nine, she entered the School at the age of 11 in 2003, and progressed to the Royal Ballet Upper School in 2008.

During her training, Hayward was recognised as an exceptionally gifted dancer and after joining the Royal Ballet in 2010, was increasingly cast in more prominent roles during major productions.

She was promoted to First Artist in 2013, Soloist in 2014, First Soloist in 2015 and Principal in 2016. Hayward's talent and technique have received critical praise and acclaim.

Francesca HaywardIn 2012, Hayward danced a pas de deux from The Flower Festival in Genzano with fellow Royal Ballet dancer James Hay at the Erik Bruhn Competition in Canada. She danced Clara for the first time in The Nutcracker at Covent Garden in 2012.

In November 2018, Hayward joined the cast of Cats. She dances the role of Victoria in the film directed by Tom Hooper, as well as singing the song "Beautiful Ghosts" written by Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

To allow her participation, Hayward took a temporary leave of absence from The Royal Ballet until the conclusion of filming. She returned to performing with The Royal Ballet in May 2019, dancing alongside Cesar Corrales in his ROH debut in Romeo and Juliet.

Hayward has also danced as Princess Florine and Fairy of the Songbird in Sleeping Beauty, Rose Fairy in The Nutcracker, in Robert Binet's immersive work, The Dreamers Ever Leave You (in collaboration with the National Ballet of Canada).

She starred in a BBC documentary film Dancing the Nutcracker: Inside the Royal Ballet, and was featured in the BBC telecast of Wayne McGregor's Woolf Works. Her performance as Clara in Sir Peter Wright's production of The Nutcracker was recorded for DVD by Opus Arte.

As a student at The Royal Ballet School, Hayward won the 2009 Lynn Seymour Award for Expressive Dance and the 2010 Young British Dancer of the Year Award.

She was also awarded the silver medal and Audience Choice Award at the 2010 Genee International Ballet Competition.

Francesca HaywardHayward won the Best Emerging Artist in 2014 and the Grishko Award for Best Female Dancer in 2016 at the Critics Circle National Dance Awards.

She was one of fifteen women selected to appear on the cover of the September 2019 issue of British Vogue, by guest editor Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.

The duchess of Sussex, who is guest-editing the British fashion bible’s most important issue of the year, has brought together 15 women whom she regards as “trailblazing changemakers, united by their fearlessness in breaking barriers”.

The Irish diversity advocate, Sinéad Burke, appears alongside Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward, the actors Jane Fonda and Salma Hayek Pinault, the climate-change campaigner Greta Thunberg, the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand. The cover also features the actors Laverne Cox, Jameela Jamil, Yara Shahidi and Gemma Chan, the models Christy Turlington Burns, Adwoa Aboah and Adut Akech, the boxer Ramla Ali.

Royal Ballet principal dancer, Francesca Hayward won the Grishko Award for Best Female Dancer, just two years after winning the Emerging Artist Award.

The ballerina brought an illusion of spontaneity to the choreography in her first official performance of Giselle while mining a wealth of emotion from this gothic ghost story’s fantastical plot

Francesca Hayward, in her first official performance of Giselle, was thouroghly exquisite. Hayward’s special gift, and the one that may push her towards ballerina greatness, is not so much the way she executes the choreography as the illusion of spontaneity she brings to it.

She is one of those performers who is capable of making dancing look entirely natural. What makes her Giselle so extremely good is the wealth of emotion she manages to mine from the ballet’s plot.

Francesca HaywardHayward, the petite, passionate English ballerina who was promoted to principal in 2016, was asked to play the lead role in the film Cats. The leading role in Cats promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her, and one which showcased her fantastic talent to a whole new audience.

The movie is an adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Cats,” based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by T.S. Eliot. Cats received its world premiere at the New London Theatre in 1981, where it played for 21 record-breaking years and almost 9,000 performances.

In 1983, the Broadway production became the recipient of seven Tony Awards including best musical, and ran for 18 years.

Like most dancers, Francesca Hayward - Frankie to her friends, is smaller in real life than she looks on stage - a diminutive 5ft 2ins. With cute features, bright eyes and perfect caramel skin, she looks quite young and after all she is only 23.

And yet Hayward has a calm self-possession about her. She can look at you with an unshrinking gaze; she’s polite, direct and switched on. She just seems so sorted.

An expressive dancer she’s being touted as Britain’s next great ballerina. Choreographers are jumping to put her in their ballets, from Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein, to Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale, in which she’s danced the role of Perdita.

Hayward’s career is skyrocketing and she acknowledges that it’s maybe not the norm for this millennial generation. “It’s amazing talking to people of my age now who are at university studying and they still don’t know what they want to do,” she says.

“That’s mind-boggling to me because I’ve never questioned it, I’ve never thought about doing anything else.”

Francesca HaywardHayward graduated into the Royal Ballet company in 2010 after winning the Young British Dancer of the Year competition. She was quickly promoted and picked out to dance roles above her rank, becoming First Soloist last year. When did it hit her that she was actually living the life she dreamt of as a three-year-old?

“When I did Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker,” she says, “because they were two of my favourites in my living room. I got really emotional actually and I’m not a very emotional person."

"But I stepped on for Juliet and I thought I was going to cry before I’d even begun. I told myself, ‘No, save it for the end!’ I was just, ‘Oh wow, this is it, Opera House, Royal Ballet, me. This is actually happening’.”

It may be the career she’s been preparing for her whole life but there are a few things that have taken Hayward by surprise. “I didn’t expect to be so tired sometimes on stage,” she says.

“There are moments when you’re so tired you could pretty much collapse. I’ve actually seen stars.” Then there are the cramps. “Foot cramps, cramps everywhere, while you’re on stage and trying to hide it. It doesn’t feel elegant.”

She follows an athlete’s carbs-and-protein diet to have enough energy for the performance (and then hits the jelly babies just before the show for a sugar rush) but getting through it is mainly all in the mind, she has learned. “Your body’s telling you you can’t do it but in your head you go, ‘It’s fine, it’s OK, I’m going to get there.’ My biggest catchphrase is: just do it.”

When she’s performing, the most important thing for Hayward is telling the story. “I just want always to move people at every performance,” she says. “If someone cries, that’s brilliant.”

Francesca HaywardShe goes deep into research for her roles, reading books and historical accounts, for example, for the real-life character of Princess Stephanie of Belgium in the ballet Mayerling, a role she found difficult to get to grips with.

“Her personality was completely different from mine. In the pas de deux she’s being beaten around by her husband, he’s violent, throwing her everywhere, and she’s kind of letting it happen. And for me that was really hard, it’s against everything that I am to let someone walk all over you like that.”

Even though Hayward may smile and giggle as she chats, you also get the feeling she’s no pushover. “There are times to hold your breath and times to stand up for yourself,” she says.

“I have learned that if you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Hayward insists that in real life she can be quite shy but when you watch her on stage she seems supremely confident, sailing through the steps with serene ease and composure. She doesn’t suffer from nerves, she says; in fact, the bigger the role, the less nervous she gets.

“I feel in control when I’m on stage,” says Hayward. “Something kicks in and I feel calm.” That tunnel vision doesn’t work so well when she’s not in character. “If it’s Frankie in a tutu, rather than Frankie being another person, then I get a bit more nervous because you haven’t got anything else to hide behind.”

Hayward lives in Stoke Newington with her boyfriend, another Royal Ballet dancer, although she doesn’t want to disclose who — “I think there needs to be a bit of privacy”. She likes a night in the pub or on the sofa with a history documentary or a war film.

She’s also into medical programmes as they put things into perspective. “One of my friends has just become a junior doctor and sometimes I feel completely silly talking to her about my life and my working day when compared to her job it suddenly seems tiny and insignificant.”

Francesca HaywardBut for the audience being awestruck by a ballerina, there’s nothing insignificant about what Hayward does. “I just want people to enjoy watching me,” she says.

“I’d like to get to the end of my career and feel I’d got to experience all those roles that I did when I was tiny in my living room and feel like I’d put my stamp on them. I’d like to be remembered a little bit for my performances.” Even now at the outset of her career, she’s already achieving that.



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