Fatima Brito was born in Angola in southern Africa. She started dancing there at a young age and eventually became a soloist dancer with the National Ballet of Portugal for over 25 years. Fatima now performs character roles and with more time off has started her own company based on a life-long hobby. knitting! She is the founder and owner of FaB Dance Knitwear (www.fab-knitwear.com).
Q. In your career, you’ve been a member of a few ballet companies? What is it like switching ballet companies-the good, the bad?
Quite challenging! You get to know other dancers, choreographers and also you learn to adapt to other ways that companies work.
Q. Do different countries have different ballet styles?
It’s more like other COMPANIES have different DANCE styles, if you know what I mean…
Q. You’ve had a very long and successful dance career. What are your secrets? Your advice for dance longevity.
In very few words. work hard but properly, keep yourself healthy (body and mind), always give your best and most of all, HAVE FUN!!
Q. Everyone in a ballet school or a ballet company is in competition. Are there tricks dancers use to catch an artistic director’s or a choreographer’s eye?
That is a “tricky” question… You must obviously trust yourself and your work, and therefore hope that that should be enough. However, sometimes, when you really want something, I would suggest for instance go to the front when auditioning, or wear something that is striking (FaBs…), and even perhaps chat to the choreographer, talk to him/her about the “weather”…
Q. How did you get your job with your first company?
I auditioned. My ballet teacher, at the time, was one of the founders of the National Ballet Company that was about to be launched in Portugal, so she advised me to take the audition. I did and I got in!
Q. You started your dance career as a young girl growing up in Angola. Was there anything different or special that upbringing gave you?
In Angola, we always seemed to have a lot of fun, and ballet was just one more of those sources of fun. I did, however, know at a very early age, that I really wanted to be a ballet dancer.
Q. Do you have a favorite role and why?
I enjoyed most of everything I danced, every role and every ballet had a special meaning. At different stages of one’s career we tend to enjoy dancing in different ways. For instance, to dance a certain role at the age of 20 and then to dance it again 10 or 15 years later makes a big difference, technically and emotionally. Also very interesting is how distinct it is to dance a classical role or a contemporary one. I was lucky enough to be able to experience both and it was great! You get completely different “kicks”!
Q. What was the most (or some of the most) important thing(s) you learned in ballet school?
I did not really go to a “ballet school” as such. I had several teachers, both in Angola and in Portugal. I learned all the same, however, that it is very important to keep yourself disciplined (body and mind), work very hard and properly everyday. You must know that famous quote. If I don’t do class for 2 days, I notice. If I don’t do class for 4 days, everybody notices…”). Be hungry to learn and learn, and, again, have fun!
Q. What ballet books or videos have you found helpful or very enjoyable?
The ones that teach you something or that give you enjoyment. I will have to admit that I never read much on “dancing” (sorry, I know you are a writer, no offense…), perhaps so busy dancing all day that I would choose to turn off, can’t tell you exactly! I remember reading famous dancer’s biographies. Gelsey Kirkland (wow then!), Lynn Seymour, also Joan Lawson (she helped me out at some point, in England, with an injury, great artist!). As for videos, I did watch them, sometimes for inspiration or for pure enjoyment, but, in my case, never a real craze…
Q. What was the hardest thing in ballet for you to master?
To learn how to cope and deal with injuries.
Q. What in your dance career would you do differently?
I don’t think I would do a lot differently, but I wish I realized (or knew) that it really is a very short career, and you must give great importance and cherish every moment of it.
Q. What advice do you have for a person who wants to be a professional dancer?
Make sure that that is really what you want (apart from a lot of fun, it is also very hard work), ask qualified professionals about your physique abilities (it will avoid too much struggling and even injuries), and everything previously mentioned. work hard and properly, be disciplined, keep a healthy mind and body, have fun, etc.
Q. You now dance character roles. How do you prepare for a character role?
Mainly you try to “be” the character you play and then you use your dancing experience to make it special and fun.
Q. Now, you’ve also started a business. What do you sell and how did that come about?
I sell colourful knitted dancewear. I have always enjoyed knitting, used to do it by hand and for fun. When dancing professionally, I bought a second hand knitting machine, started knitting leg warmers and other colorful garments and people seemed to like them very much. I started asking money for them… People paid! Recently, a good friend of mine made me a beautiful internet site to help getting more clients. And that was basiquely it!!
Q. Did your dance experience help you in starting your business?
Yes, in the sense that I know how dancer’s minds work and what their needs and “fusses” are, concerning dancewear.
Q. Are there similarities to being a dancer and a business woman?
I can find several. both dealing with public, therefore having to please; need to be organized so you get the results you wish for, and also having to fight to get what you want and to cope with the competition.
Q. What differentiates your product from others in the market?
Mainly, FaB Dance Knitwear allows you to choose your own colour combinations, from a large range of choice. Each FaB Model is knitted individually, and to suit each need and temperament. You rarely get 2 FaBs looking the same. Also, the service is very personal and you normally get your garment in less than a week.
Q. Do you have stores? Do you just sell on the internet?
I don’t have stores, I sell on the internet and “by word of mouth.”
Q. What are your plans for you dance career? For your business career?
For the dance career, I am happy with dancing character roles. As for the FaBs, I really would like it to be successful, in the sense that not only does it give me a lot of pleasure to make them, but it fills me up with joy to see how people so much enjoy them.