Nina Tonoli is one step away from becoming a Principal Ballerina. The Belgian born Soloist trained her body to be a storyteller for over a decade now. For her dedication, she’s earned the Special Prize Chausson d’Or in Paris and the Award of Excellence in Dance from the Royal Ballet School in London. Ballet and purpose met early for the 25-year-old. “At 10 years old, I went to a local ballet school to do my first ballet class. Since then, I’ve never stopped.” Nina’s first performance was Sleeping Beauty where she played a dwarf. Today she dances for the Dutch National Ballet.
There’s an energy that comes with stage performance. For Nina, it’s a nervous excitement. It feels like a cocoon. “You alone are dancing, nobody else is there.” Experience teaches that studio and stage is very different. On stage there aren’t any mirrors to guide the dancer, just a black hole to stare in. Bright spotlights and raked stage floors can also be challenging.
When I ask Nina about her life without stage lights on, she reminds me of the routine of a ballet dancer. Weekday and weekend studio and show rehearsals are compulsory. “You can always practice your technique to be better in the studio, but on stage, you just have to let go and show what you worked for.” She becomes her character, sometimes through research and at other times through watching different dancers perform the same role. But she still makes time to spend with her dancer boyfriend and friends including being a borrowed model for the fashion industry. When you take a look at Nina’s Instagram page @NinaTonoli, it’s easy to see why fashion dialogues with dance.
The naturally attractive dancer showcases costume and clothing. Nina mixes an ensemble of casual colours and sweatpants with a ballet pose. It is no longer just an outfit. It’s a message. The beauty of ballet is in the movement of unspoken words a ballerina performs. Film, fashion and beauty are all part of the ballerina’s interests. She would like to use her creativity in collaboration with these industries in the future.
For her profession, Nina wishes there is more public attention drawn to ballet. Through her relationship with the fashion industry, she sees slow movement of increased interest in ballet dancers. For her audience, Nina wishes to leave people with an impression lasting long after the show ends and the lights are turned off. This is the joy of ballet. When the curtains come down, the story stays with you.