Galien Johnston-Hattori

  • hometown: Edmonton, Alberta
  • years as dancer: 17 years (student); 13 years (professional)
  • favourite ballet/performance: Giselle
  • ballet school: Canada’s National Ballet School
  • dance companies: National Ballet of Canada, Hamburg Ballet, and Alberta Ballet

My Story

I am an artist. I am a protector. I am motivated and driven. I am passionate about ballet. 

Watching the Royal Ballet in their performance of Swan Lake, when I was just three years old, was all it took for me to fall in love with ballet. Although watching the performance was incredible, it was the interactions with the principals backstage, and the hidden world that I got to see behind the scenes that got me hooked! 

Beyond the theatrics, performances and roles, my love of ballet has grown over the years, fuelled by the pursuit of perfection and the challenges I faced every single day. Time and time again it has validated for me that if you work hard to achieve something … you can do it.

Q: What is the greatest accomplishment of your professional dance career?

A: Every dancer has different goals and aspirations at various points in their career. Some work towards becoming a principal dancer, some may be driven to earning the lead in a particular ballet, and others may simply want to stay healthy throughout their career. Regardless, each dancer is unique. Although my answer would be different if you asked me while I was still dancing professionally, today (looking back on my career) simply being a part of the Hamburg Ballet was a considerable accomplishment for me. Earning a place with this prestigious company, and working along side the exceptional level of dancer and artist that were there, is pretty amazing! I had the pleasure of being with the Hamburg Ballet for 7 years … and I am so grateful for that part of my professional journey!

The Hattori/Williamson School of Ballet exists because we love seeing kids succeed and we want to see them take off in this career.

g2

Photo by: Tim Johnston

 

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching? 

A: I love teaching, in general, but I especially enjoy working with dancers in their early to late teens - the ones who are dedicated to the art and developing at a fast pace. These dancers have a drive and a goal in sight and I love helping them get there. Watching them push themselves and discover how great their abilities are and assisting them through this process is an honour and responsibility that I take quite seriously. I have such a sense of pride and achievement when I see things “click” and watch them soar.

I also really enjoy watching the students put everything they have learned into a performance. The minute the curtain goes up, and I see them onstage, I feel like I am up there with them…sharing that experience. I think I have cried at every show I have helped set because, knowing all the hard work that went into it, I feel overjoyed for their accomplishments.

 

 

g1

Photo by: Tim Johnston

g4

Photo by: Holger Badekow

Q: What is the most challenging experience of your professional dance career (and how did you grow from this experience)?

A: I think one of the things I always found difficult in this career was the constant saying of goodbye. At the age of nine, I left home to attend Canada’s National Ballet School and I had to learn at a very young age how to cope on my own. There were many teary phone calls when days were hard, or I was just that little bit too tired, but I learned to find strength in my friends, my family (over the phone), and most importantly, in myself. This experience repeated itself once more at the age of nineteen when I left Canada to join the Hamburg Ballet in Germany. Once again I left the safety net of the school, my friends, my family, and even my country and language to pursue my dream. Strong bonds are made in both the training for and the living of this career and there is constant movement of people between companies, cities, and countries so we are always saying goodbye to those we love. The beauty of it is that even if I haven’t seen these friends for years, when we finally meet or speak it is as if no time has passed. Our bonds are so strong and unique that they seem to last a lifetime and this is a real treasure. Also on the upside… I have great friends all around the world and a very rich fabric of culture in my life.

 

 

g8

Photo by: Holger Badekow

Director of Ballet