Laura Bösenberg and Kim Vieira are senior principal dancers with The Cape Town City Ballet. Between the two of them they have over 30 years of professional ballet experience. Currently Laura and Kim are starring in Peter Pan and Tinkerbell as ‘Tinkerbell’ and ‘Wendy’ respectively. They have both spent countless hours working on their craft and have tackled some of ballet’s most challenging roles, yet despite reaching the highest position in the company, they still rehearse almost every single day. Next year they will alternate the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet at Maynardville. We were please to sit down and get to know the women behind these iconic roles.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?
Laura Bösenberg: I started doing ballet when I was young and I just fell in love with every aspect of it, the physicality and the acting and dancing to music and having fun with my friends. That’s what drew me in. I have such a passion for it so I decided to stick with it as my career.
Kim Vieira: My sister is five years older than I am and I joined her in her classes, much to her dislike, obviously. As Lau said, the music, the physicality as well. Also going to watch the older dancers dancing on stage and falling in love with the actual theatre side of being on stage and seeing how they do things.
Did you have a moment when you were starting those dance classes where you realised you would do this as a career or did it just happen organically?
Laura Bösenberg: I kind of went with the flow when I was younger and I started doing well in some competitions when I was in my late teens and I think that inspired me to push harder. From there I just carried on.
Kim Vieira: There was never a point where I thought, “Ok I’m good at this and I will carry on.” It was just “that’s what I am going to do.”
Laura Bösenberg: It is such a passion you kind of can’t think of doing anything else. It’s easy that way.
What do you find to be the biggest misconception about dancers?
Laura Bösenberg: A lot of people who aren’t educated in the dance-world think of a ballerina as a five year old in a tutu twiddling on her toes but it is so much more than that. It is so athletic. It’s like a sport. It is not just pretty-pretty. It is hard work.
Kim Vieira: I also think that they sometimes think that we are stupid. When they actually come and see that when a teacher sets the class once and the dancers are actually picking the stuff up, when you just see it once, they are like, “Well how did you do that? How did that happen?” Actually dancers aren’t stupid. You are not writing and doing things like in an office.
Laura Bösenberg: There is so much that goes into it.
Kim Vieira: You have to listen to music. You have to portray the music as well on top of it. That for me was a large perception.
How do you have to structure your lives outside of the dance studio so that you can maintain your career?
Laura Bösenberg: Obviously you can’t go crazy if you have shows coming up like relax on the weekend and have wine and go to parties with your friends. It is very much a full-time job so 10am to 6pm during the week, sometimes Saturdays till 2pm, and dancing in the evenings with shows. And obviously because your body is your tool, you have to listen to it and be healthy.
Kim Vieira: You have to take the time to relax as well but it is a balance. You can’t party the entire week and then expect to do a good show. And also certain kinds of routines where you know “in two weeks time I am performing so maybe this week I will party a little bit but next week I will calm down a bit.”
What has been your favourite roles that you have played?
Laura Bösenberg: I love Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and Carmen.
Kim Vieira: I think mine too but I also really enjoyed Black Swan.
Do you have any dream roles?
Laura Bösenberg: I think, one that I have always wanted to do which I haven’t is Kitri. I’ve been lucky enough to do most of my dream roles but I’d like to do Kitri in Don Quinox and I like Phrygia in Spartacus.
Kim Vieira: I am actually quite happy with what I have done. I never thought that I would actually do as much as I have. For me, it’s been a nice surprise because this is my first time as Juliet and I am much older, so that was quite a nice surprise. I am pretty happy with what I have done.
What is something that you have found to be your biggest challenge?
Laura Bösenberg: I think where I am at the moment. I didn’t realise that when you are young you go for it and you don’t really care but as you get older, going back to roles, it is more nerve-wracking because it’s like will you be able to do it as well? Or must you do it better than the last time? And people are watching. I think nerves and stage fright creep in being older. It’s a challenge getting over that and psyching myself up in these typical things on stage. Also, if I am nervous about a step or something I have to keep it together. It is very much a mental game performing in front of 2,000 people and you are scared to do a step or something. You have to do it. That for me has been challenging.
Kim Vieira: Bodywise its been challenging. I’ve hit a certain point where I am actually really sore and everyday is a challenge. It’s like, “How am I going to work it today so that I can carry on and give as much as I used to give when I was younger?” As Laura says, when you are younger things are a little bit easier. You don’t actually realise that you have to look after your body when you are younger.
Laura Bösenberg: You don’t think you are going to feel different because you feel great because you are in your twenties. We are both in our thirties and I’ve never had a serious injury but I had a hip operation last year and I’ve never had anything big. I was off for six months and I’ve never been off. Physically it’s a challenge when you get older.
Laura, I watched a video that you did with Discovery about a day in your life and you spoke about staying healthy and eating. In my conversation with Elizabeth (Triegaardt) we chatted about the importance of encouraging dancers to maintain a healthy body perception. What are your thoughts on that?
Laura Bösenberg: I think it is so important to be healthy as a dancer. There is another misconception that in the olden days dancers used to live on cigarettes and coffee. Their careers were shorter. Now that dancers are looking after themselves, and it is seen more as a sport and we are athletes, there is more for us to help us along, like nutritionists. Your body is your tool so the stronger it is, the longer and the better your career and the more you can do on stage. It is really important to be healthy.
Kim Vieira: I think you need to find what works for you because everybody’s body is different. I might be able to eat what Laura cannot and she might be able to eat what I can’t eat. You need to find what you can eat that is going to…
Laura Bösenberg: Funnily enough we are quite similar.
Kim Vieira: We are very similar.
Laura Bösenberg: We eat the same things. If it agrees with us and if we feel strong with it whereas with someone else, another girl came up to us and said “how can you eat lamb and potato before?” But that’s what works for us.
Kim Vieira: They might need something else.
Laura Bösenberg: And they might need something like yoghurt or salad. It’s very personal.
Kim Vieira: But it’s important for that body to have the right kind of food. You shouldn’t starve yourself because that also, in the long run, is not going to do you any good.
Personally, I find that dance can be a very empowering thing for women. What advice would you have for younger women?
Laura Bösenberg: Don’t sit back and think that you are second to men. We are capable of so much more.
Kim Vieira: Just as much.
Laura Bösenberg: Just as much, if not more. I think women are extremely strong.
Kim Vieira: I agree. You shouldn’t sit back. If you have an opportunity, take it.
Laura Bösenberg: We are just as capable. Go for what you want.
Who are some South Africa women in the arts that inspire you?
Laura Bösenberg: Career-wise the ones that inspired me when I was younger were: starting with Phyllis Spira who was the first Prima Ballerina and then just coming to watch the principal ballerinas in the company when I was young. They were my inspiration in the art growing up.
Kim Vieira: Also a prima, her name was Catherine Burnett. Unfortunately, she is not with us anymore but she was also my inspiration. She had married one of my mom’s cousins once removed so it was nice to go and watch her and know someone on stage and we could recognise her.
Laura Bösenberg: I am also inspired daily by the members of our company knowing what we are dealing with and what we go through. Some people struggle more than others but just seeing what they do in the studio and they are still here and they love it. It is very inspiring.
Kim Vieira: Because it is a hard career.
Laura Bösenberg: With arts, everyone has something you can learn from. Artists are eternal students. I think if you think you’ve made it…
Kim Vieira:…It’s time to give up.
You can catch Laura and Kim in the following The Cape Town City Ballet productions: Tickets for Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, which is currently in performance can be purchased here, tickets for The Cape Town City Ballet‘s New Years Eve performance of A Stairway to Heaven can be found by clicking here and tickets for their production of Romeo and Juliet at Maynardville can be found here. The Cape Town City Ballet can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Special thanks to Elizabeth Triegaardt.
Laura was born in Cape Town where she was trained by Natalie Swanepoel before joining the UCT School of Dance in 2002. As a student she performed the Grand Pas from Paquita and also the Le Corsair pas de deux. Laura became a member of the CTCB Apprentice Programme in 2002, with whom she took part in many productions with the Company. In 2003 she was the winner of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Bursary Award in Cape Town, which enabled her to travel to London in 2004 to participate in a two-week performer’s course with the RAD, where she received the Performer’s Course Tuition Award. In 2004 Laura joined the Cape Town City Ballet and has subsequently performed many soloist and principal roles. She was promoted to soloist in 2006 and to Principal Dancer in 2009. Laura has danced a wide variety of roles, including the Peasant pas de deux in Giselle, Michaela in Carmen, the pas de trios in Swan Lake and Valencienne in the Merry Widow. Leading roles have included Clara and Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Eurydice in Orpheus in the Underworld, Swanilda in Coppelia, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, the Sylph in La Sylphide, Odette in Swan Lake and the title roles in Carmen, Cinderella and Kami.
Other ballets Laura has appeared in include Les Sylphides, La Bayadere and Anna Karenina, as well as more contemporary works, Vier Letzte Lieder, Entre dos Aguas, Swingtime at the Ballet, Tango Nights, Queen at the Ballet, African Landscapes and Poetry in Motion.
Laura was a finalist in the 1st South African International Ballet Competition held in Cape Town in January 2008 and toured with CTCB to Ireland in 2006.
Awards include the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Balletomanes Award for the Best Female Dancer, the Phyllis Spira Memorial Award in 2009 and the Sir Geoffrey Nieman and Brian van Rheede Award in 2009, 2010 and 2013.
She was promoted in April 2014 to the rank of Senior Principal Dancer with the CTCB.
Kim was born in Johannesburg and studied at the National School of the Arts. After Joining the State Theatre Ballet in 1997 she was promoted to Soloist in 1999. At the end of 2000 , Kim joined the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam where she worked with many renowned choreographers.She joined Cape Town City ballet in 2010 as Senior Soloist and was promoted to Principal in 2013. She has excelled in the roles of The Girl in Solitaire, Queen of the Willis in Giselle, Aegina in Spartacus and the title roles in Carmen, Raymonda, Camille and The Firebird. Kim was awarded the Balletomanes Best Female dancer in 2013 and was promoted in April 2014 to the rank of Senior Principal Dancer.