We had the good fortune of connecting with Toby Batley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Toby, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am from a rural village in the UK. The school I attended had around 15 kids in my whole year group and my closest neighbor growing up was 1 mile away. I guess I grew up with what you might call an idyllic life, playing in the countryside and not really worrying too much about anything. That had a profound effect on my character and I think made me quite resilient when it comes to stress and worrying about things out of my control. I also had very artistic parents who both graduated art college. My mom was a jewelry designer and my dad a television production designer. I am sure this is the reason I was able to pursue a career in dance. They were very open minded to me doing whatever I enjoyed or wanted to do and didn’t worry too much about whether it was going to make me tons of money or anything like that, so long as I was happy.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am now a ballet teacher and artistic director. Martha (My wife) and I run Southern California Ballet, a non profit ballet school in the Carmel Mountain area. The school is an amazing place (Martha actually grew up and trained at this very school) where everyone is very involved as a community. Many of the students spend most of their time (when not at school) here, some of them up to 18 hours a week of training. Ballet is an art involving extreme athleticism, making the training very intense. From a young age the students learn the art of ballet, meaning they must have physical strength, control and agility, mental acuity and concentration, discipline and the ability to express themselves. This is a lot to ask, but with patience and over years of training the students all have the potential to get there. We pride ourselves on our syllabus and system of training. The system was developed to introduce the different concepts of ballet at a reasonable rate and in sync with a child’s development. It builds year upon year so that the students are ready (if they wish) to enter the professional ballet or dance world by the time they graduate. We also have a strong background in healthy dance training, meaning ballet technique that doesn’t put the stresses on the body that are traditionally associated with the style. In the last 15-20 years ballet training around the world has come a long way from the days when retired ballet dancers often required hip or knee surgery. Martha and I have a strong understanding of these developments and encourage all dancers to work holistically, gently pushing their own physical limits and not comparing themselves to others. This last trait is one of the hardest in today’s culture, it is the reason we don’t encourage competitions and try to push everyone to dance for themselves.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Well this is easy as we have had many people visit from the UK! The first place we always take someone new is the San Diego Safari Park. The beach is also top on the list, usually Del Mar as this is my favorite. Whilst we are in Del Mar we will probably go for lunch at Jake’s and boogie board on the waves there. Our favorite restaurant is Cucina Urbana in the Bankers Hill area, downtown. We used to love the antique stores in Ocean Beach, however many of those have closed now and I am sure that since Covid 19 even more are now gone. Julian is another highlight for us, again we like the antique stores there and going for lunch with some apple pie for desert. When my dad visited last year we asked him what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to just drive into the dessert. We obviously don’t have any Desert in the UK and so it was really fun just to drive out to Borrego and look around. Lastly, we love Disneyland! We have theme parks in the UK but nothing like Disney. The theatricality of the whole place appeals to our artistic side and the attention to detail there is just amazing, it really is like walking into a different world.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My wife Martha Leebolt. Martha was also my dance partner for most of my career as a principal dancer in Northern Ballet in the UK. Together we had fantastic careers creating ballets together, traveling around the world and performing in some of the greatest theaters in the world. We even met the Queen of England! Martha was such an amazing support on and off stage and eventually we ended up together. It was amazing to share a special journey like a career in dance with the person that you love. She always pushed me to be better and work hard. when your career is intertwined with someone else like that, it also pushes you to do better for them. There is a lot of trust needed when partnering in ballet, this also helped both of us succeed as we trust each other so much.
VZPix (Vladimir Zabezhinsky)
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