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White Doves cast spotlight: Introducing Danila Marzilli as the Dove

Joining us in the rehearsal studio this week, Danila Marzilli is an Italian-Scots ballet dancer who has performed across the world. We caught up with her ahead of her Northern Ireland debut in White Doves at The MAC Belfast from 3-5 August 2023.

Danila Marzilli wearing a black ballet tutu. She is seated on a high stool.

Danila Marzilli as a White Dove, wearing a white Yumiko leotard with long mesh sleeves. She is en pointe in a low arabesque, off balance.
Italian Scots dancer Danila Marzilli as the 'Dove'. Image by Krzysztof Mystowski.

Introducing Danila Marzilli, guest professional dancer who joins the White Doves cast as one of two Doves.

Italian Scots Danila Marzilli trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland on the BA Modern Ballet course. During her graduate year, she was selected to tour with Scottish Ballet and was selected as one of the top 5 ballet finalists in the televised BBC Young Dancer 2019.

Following her graduation in 2019, Danila toured with Ballet Cymru, dancing 'Juliet' in Romeo and Juliet, touring England, Wales, China, Bermuda and New York. Since 2020, she has been with the Baltic Opera Ballet of Gdańsk,performing notable roles including the title role in Cinderella and 'Mercedes' from Don Quixote. Passionate about dancer’s versatility and expanding artistic horizons, Danila is also developing a passion for choreography, with works performed with Ballet Cymru and the Baltic Opera Ballet. Danila has been ivolved with White Doves since 2021, when she worked on the research and development phase. She has since performed in several works by choreographer Ruaidhri Maguire including After/Before at Irish Modern Dance Theatre's festival last year.. White Doves will be Danila's Northern Ireland debut.

Danila was a BBC Young Dancer 2019 finalist.

How did you discover dancing?

I have always been a super active kid. I loved sports and especially dancing, not even necessarily just ballet. Any style of movement. I started off in a dance school in Frosinone in Italy, where I decided to abandon my competitive swimming training for kicking-my-height and wear pointe shoes for a living! At age 14, I moved with my mum to Glasgow to pursue further advanced training for my ballet. I remember this as a very difficult stage in my life as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave my Italian life behind and everything was new and scary. Little did I know that it was a crucial decision for my development and career later in the future.

Baltic Opera Ballet's Cinderella. Image by Krzysztof Mystowski.

How has the industry been for you?

It can be a tough industry and I think my athletic competitive spirit has also helped me a lot in my journey. There’s a lot of hungry-for-dancing dancers out there and you have to really want it. A massive benefit of the profession is that I get to travel a lot! By age nineteen I had the incredible opportunity of touring to Asia and USA, with plenty of European opportunities which have been big destination dreams of mine. Now I work with Baltic Opera Ballet in Poland, where I have also had great opportunities of exploring new roles, works and ballets within their repertoire. Recently I’ve also received my qualification as a Personal Trainer. With this I hope to train and help dancers with their athleticism and evolve into the best version of themselves, mentally and physically. I look forward to what my career has in store for me in the future. Is there a proudest moment for you?

Danila will perform as one of the White Doves at the MAC from 3-5 August. Image by Krzysztof Mystowski.

There are many proud moments in the life of a dancer but the one I won’t ever forget was my first bow to my first audience as a professional ballet dancer. That was a very special one. Even with the years passing, the stage nerves that won’t probably ever leave me, the curtain call at the end of a performance feels like the proudest moment ever.

What are you most looking forward to about the performances? A career highlight was one of my company tours to China in 2019 with Ballet Cymru. I performed the role of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet in Shenzhen on one of the biggest stages I had ever seen. I just remember standing onstage before a rehearsal looking into the massive auditorium, wondering how I would ever manage to project any sort of emotion to the back row and how on earth I was humanly, possibly ever going to cover all that stage with dancing.

Everything had to be performed bigger with lots of travelling across the floor to cover the space which requires a lot more energy than usual for a smaller area. I remember that show being a sort of miracle for me as I was almost blacking out half way through from how tired I was and the high temperatures. I relied on my colleagues that evening, there was a lot of team work that gave me strength to push through to the end. It was definitely a memorable show and a highlight in a way for me, as I probably won’t ever experience anything similar again. I will always keep sugar close to stage now!

You've been delving into creating choreography. Does this change how you approach new work? I have evolved in the matter of picking up choreography, not only for the physical movement but the essence of it also. Especially in a story ballet like this one, asking yourself ‘why’ am I doing this step? What does this step mean in the ballet?

Image by Krzysztof Mystowski.

Ballet isn’t just a bunch of steps put together for a story, they all make sense. Dancers tell stories with their bodies. That is why finding the essence of each step is so important for the overall performance.

Are there any particular challenges of being a dancer? Personally I am a very ‘family’ person. One of the biggest challenges of this career is that dance will always be your biggest priority over many many other things and sometimes this means being far from comforts in life, friends and family. It might also mean starting over many times even in different countries. The truth is: a dancer’s life is always unpredictable, messy and insanely exciting all the same time. It is a journey full of sacrifices but also life achievements that make it so worth it once you look at just how far you have come.

Danila performing as 'Mercedes' with Ruaidhri Maguire as 'Espada' in the Baltic Opera Ballet's Don Quixote. Image by Krzysztof Mystowski.

In this production, you'll be working with Ruaidhrí as a choreographer to dance one of the work's title Dove roles. You've also worked with him as a dancer in several performances. Does this affect your approach?

It definitely does help having danced and worked with Ruaidhrí on different occasions, embodying his style and choreography better. It can take a while for a dancer to get into a ‘headspace’ for a certain role/style and having a connection to White Doves since my involvement in the research and development in 2021 has definitely allowed me to develop his movement further and experience a deeper connection to this production.

Danila will perform in White Doves alongside Leigh Alderson and a cast of pre-professional dancers from across the island. Catch them at the MAC Belfast from 3 - 5 August 2023. Learn more and book tickets here.

White Doves web banner reads 'Six Dance Collective presents White Doves, a new ballet for Belfast. 3-5 August 2023, The MAC Belfast. Tickets on sale now.'

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