Royal Ballet principal Marianela Nuñez tells us about her collaboration with Belgravia fashion brand NRBY
Words: Cally Squires
As luck happens, the day I meet ballet superstar Marianela Nuñez, and I have just booked my one and a half year old son into his first ballet class (we already gave football a shot, he was underwhelmed).
There is nobody better to share my future stage mother enthusiasm with. “Oh my god well done you!! That is a great choice!” Nuñez exclaims.
“Even if he doesn’t end up doing it professionally it’s so good for him to engage with the music, the posture, the focus on being mindful and the concentration” she encourages.
It turns out that a professional career might be a little ambitious for Wylder at this stage, but he’ll thank me later given he’s the only boy in class full of tutu-wearing girls.
It’s a scenario that would be familiar to Nela, who started dancing at the tender age of three, no doubt already showing the promise to become the person who my friend, when I mentioned this interview taking place, described as “the most exquisite dancer I’ve ever seen, she made me sob.”
Now aged 40, she still “wakes up every morning and I still feel like that passionate three year old. Which is amazing because that was a very long time ago” she jokes. “And of course sometimes you have pain, because I’m using my body, which is my tool, to the extreme. But the fact I wake up every morning and am still excited to be at the bar, that is pure passion. I’m so grateful to have found my passion at such a young age.”
She admits that “of course at some point this career has an expiry date, and I don’t know if I’ll ever find anything as meaningful to me as dance is.”
One potential avenue could be fashion, as she has just collaborated for a second time with fashion brand NRBY. “I had always wanted to create my own fashion line, but I didn’t know how to go about it.”
Step forward NRBY founder Jo Hooper. Nela met Jo, who is a real ballet lover, after she came to see one of Nela’s performances before lockdown. “She decided she couldn’t just be sending flowers all the time, so she decided it would be nice to send me a beautiful jumper from the brand instead.”
It was a smart gifting move. “The jumper was super cosy cashmere with a little hood, that was perfect for on the plane, so I wrote her a thank you note straightaway. We stayed in touch but of course then lockdown happened, and the first lockdown I spent in Argentina, so I didn’t get to meet her properly until we came out of lockdown.”
When that happened, Nela finally visited “the beautiful boutique on Elizabeth Street. We just clicked and I loved Jo right away. We kept chatting, and when she came to performances there would be another bag for me at the stage door.”
Finally Hooper said to Nela, ‘let’s just do this” and the collaboration was cemented. First was an autumn/winter collection in 20XX, and the spring/summer collection launched in March.
“The colours are gorgeous I’m super happy with it. Because I work with really tight clothes in my professional life, I like to be comfortable when I’m not working, and the shapes of this collection tuck in in all the right places to still look good.”
Versatility is another reason Nela loves the brand. “I love that with my crazy life travelling a lot, that the pieces are so easy. Because of course my luggage is full of point shoes and all my ballet gear, so I can only pack a few pieces that will work for a relaxing day, or to go out. I love the quality too.”
The NRBY team surprised Nela with some fun details on pieces in this new collection, like her cat Romeo immortalised on the scarf as the theatrical Greek tragedy and comedy masks.
She struggles to pick a single favourite item, but recalls that “every time I wear one of the silk dresses I always get stopped, and I think it’s because of the prints. I remember wearing a pink silk dress from the earlier AW collection, and everybody was stopping to compliment it.”
“The sleeves I love how you can wear them long or short, it’s so well thought out. At the same time despite all the details, the look is really effortless, I don’t know how Jo does it” she says.
Despite her hectic schedule, she has been to Elizabeth Street many times. “It’s a really special place. I love the little cafes and I always stop to buy flowers.”
A typical day however, would be based at the Royal Opera House, where she has been principal ballerina since 2002. “I arrive at the theatre at 9.30am for Pilates, and then I have ballet class. At the moment we are rehearsing three productions at the same time. I just finished Sleeping Beauty, I had my debut for Woolf Works in February and then we opened Cinderella in March with whole new sets and costumes.”
“Woolf Works is stunning, it is pure poetry for a few hours on the stage. The buzz, the lights, the people standing in the wings – it’s a privilege to be in that world. We just did a full rehearsal, and as I was standing on stage at the end I just didn’t want the moment to finish. I didn’t want to burst that bubble and go back to the real world. It was so strange to go outside and get on the Tube.”
Is she excited for the coronation which is happening soon? “I have danced for King Charles many, many times and he is an incredible supporter of the company. We’ve met him many times, and I also met the late Queen and a few members of the Royal family. Every time it’s a total pinch me moment.”
Long may those moments continue.
Shop the Nela for NRBY collection at 34 Elizabeth Street