We are very happy to announce the long awaited return of Mignonnette Tea Talks - where we speak to some of the fabulous Mignonnette women who inspire us and explore what it means to be a modern day enchantress.
Our guest today is the lovely Natascha Mair - award-winning principal dancer with the English National Ballet. Since starting ballet from the age of seven in Vienna, she has performed all over the world, from St. Petersburg and Beijing, to Spain and finally London - where she has lived since 2020.
From playing a magical dream-land Clara in The Nutcracker to the lovestruck Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Natascha has enchantment woven into her every day work. Who better to talk to us about how to unleash our inner enchantress…
Natascha, did you always want to be a ballerina when you were very small?
I actually didn’t! I started dancing when I was five years old, but as I remember I wanted to be a pilot, and after that an actress. Only at around 14 years old I started to really dream of becoming a ballerina.
What was it that attracted you most to a life of performance and dance?
I think the movements and telling stories. I always loved adventures, experiences and challenges. Slipping into a different character gave me these feelings and pushed me to limits I needed to explore.
Being a professional dancer isn’t really like a job that you can leave at the end of the day - it’s more a way of life. Are there other professions you could imagine yourself doing?
That’s very true. I played with the thought of quitting quite often. There were moments I really questioned my identity. If I wasn’t a ballerina anymore, who was I? But I came to realise that I will always be a ballerina.
I have many interests but currently my biggest dream is to open my own gym one day and pass on the ways to archive the physical and mental strength I have archived over the years.
You’ve played some incredible roles, which ones have you loved the most and why?
Probably any of the most dramatic roles, such as Romeo and Juliet, Olga in Onegin, Marie Antoinette, Lady of the Camellias... But I loved pretty much every challenge.
With Mignonnette London, deeply embedded in the core of our brand, is that when you put our clothes on, they bring our your inner enchantress, you transform. It goes right through from our design process, down to the way the finished clothes move on the body. When you are preparing for a role, you are literally becoming another character. Can you talk a little about that process and the ways in which you make that transformation?
Slipping into a role is just like slipping into a dress! That’s why there's such a big part in getting ready for a show, putting on make up and a costume. Feeling confident in ourselves is so important. Before every show, that getting ready part is my favourite. It calms me down and makes me feel empowered. That’s how we should feel every day.
Do you think through performing, there are elements of your own personality that have changed or evolved over the years – through being a different character?
I actually haven’t thought much of it. But now that I do, I am certain it did. We spend so much time creating a character and making it ours, that it is hard not to take on certain elements. It’s basically a life chapter that leaves a print on us.
Ballet performances come across as perfect visions of beauty and grace, but when you are up there with all eyes on you, do you get nervous and if so, how do you deal with that?
I sometimes get nervous before going on stage. But I’ve never been nervous while I am out there. It is something beautiful that happens while performing. I am so focused and in my world, I don’t think of anything else. And that’s how I prepare myself. After years of experience, I just know how it will be and remind myself that the feeling will take over anyway!
After a performance, how much of your characters do you carry off stage into real life – whether that’s from costume elements or a mood?
It depends on the piece we performed, I don’t always get inspired by the costumes! But the times I do, it’s often colour schemes or personalities that show in dresses that I subconsciously start buying while working on a role.
Are there any tips you can give women to feel more confident in their own skin?
Be you, be authentic. Confidence is key. If you believe in yourself, everyone else will too!
Off stage, what do you love to wear?
I love to wear dresses when it’s not too cold. Classy and simple looks that can be worn fancy or casual make my life easier when I don’t know what the dress code for certain events or places is. Having an elegant every day look just makes it easier to be spontaneous as well - and it always leaves a great impression and sets your standards higher.
What does style mean to you?
It is really important. Feeling stylish makes us more confident. And confidence is so important to achieve your goals. I believe dressing up for occasions is for us personally rather that anyone else.
Who are some of your personal style icons?
I actually don’t have a specific one. I get inspired every day, looks I see on the street, on friends or social media. If I see something, I take a picture or remember it so I can recreate similar looks in the future.
What’s your favourite Mignonnette dress?
I love the Odillia dress. When I found out it was inspired by black swan, it really made sense. It seems very powerful but still elegant and classic. It reminds me of a more casual version of dresses from the Vienna Ball Season which used to be a big part of my life.
I definitely love dresses that are to be remembered!
You can discover more about Natascha and her work at:
Photography: Johannes Straus & Marek Wojciak