Ravi Cannonier-Watson was accepted to the Royal Ballet School at the age of ten, only five years after he began his ballet practice. “I thought ballet was only for girls when I was really young, but one day I saw my sisters dancing during a lesson. They were doing cool jumps and they looked beautiful. That’s when I knew I wanted to try.” Ravi started off slow, training once or twice a week, but after a while he began taking his training more seriously – practicing up to three or four times per week. His dancing interests took him from ballet to hip hop, Morris (the traditional English dance) and character dance.
Ravi was age eight when he first got on stage. “My friend, Jonah, and I played guards. There wasn’t much dancing for this role, but it gave me my first adrenaline rush as a performer. After that I wanted to do bigger roles with longer parts.” Over the next few years, Ravi took on at least one performance per year, but as he’s grown older, he’s taken on as many as three roles per year. “As a performer, you’re cast for a role two to three months prior to the show’s opening day. We practice during that entire time, but it’s not intense. Practice sessions are usually for reminders and corrections, and, maybe once every two weeks, we perform the full version of the show.”
It wasn’t until Ravi was accepted to the Royal Ballet School that he fully realized that ballet wasn’t just a hobby. “After I started school, I saw that ballet was a worldwide art form. It hit me that this – studying at the Royal Ballet School – was a big opportunity.” A big opportunity, and perhaps, an even bigger challenge. Ravi doesn’t harp on the challenges of being at this prestigious school nor does he complain about his intense academic schedule. He’s in school from 8:30am to 6:15pm, following both dance and scholastic classes throughout the day. “I don’t mind it. It’s a whole day of working, but I always remind myself that the harder I work now, the bigger the pay-out will be later.” What kind of pay-out? Ravi’s number one goal is to be principal or first soloist in a ballet company. Specifically, Ravi is interested in joining the Dutch National Ballet, the Royal Ballet Company, the Paris Opera, or the Munich ballet company.
It sounds like a competitive goal, to say the least, but Ravi says that he enjoys a supportive atmosphere at school and, instead, seems to find that he’s most competitive with himself. “As a group, we work hard together, and we try to be there for each other. As an individual, I sometimes have doubts – especially when a teacher points out something negative. I wonder, am I trying hard enough? That’s when self-doubt sets in.”
Ravi has six more years in school before he’ll begin pursuing his dream of joining a big company. Everything he does in the meantime is preparation. He set out on this inspiring journey when he was only five, but he notes that dancers and athletes can begin at any time. His advice to new students is, “Try to be different than the other students. That’s how you’ll get the attention you need from the trainer. If you aren’t recognized, you’ll probably stay in the pack, receiving the same corrections as everyone else. If you’re different, your training will be very specific to you. Being able to be yourself and not be embarrassed is important. In ballet, you can’t be ashamed of who you are.”