Not so long ago, I was privileged to watch a fantastic film directed by Michael Damian called High Strung. As I was enthralled with the immensely diverse music and dance, one of the characters stood out rather prominently to me–April. She was the villain, but there was no denying her astounding abilities as a dancer. Upon further investigation, I discovered that she was played by the vivacious and talented Anabel Kutay. Recently, I had the opportunity to find out a bit more about this lovely young lady and her extraordinary journey that culminated with her being featured in one of the foremost music and dance films of all time.
Please tell us about your journey to becoming a dancer? What inspired you? What kind of training have you had?
When I was seven, my dance teacher, Joy Nicholson, noticed that I had the natural physicality suited to ballet and seemed to be deeply passionate about dance, even at that age. She suggested I audition for the Royal Ballet Junior Associates! I got in, and it set me on my journey! I’m eternally grateful to her for that.
I didn’t come from a theatrical family, but my mother enrolled me in so many extracurricular activities, and when I singled out dance as my passion, she did everything she could to allow me to follow that path.
I was quite a geek at secondary school and put my studies before dance until I was sixteen and realised dance was seriously what I wanted to do as a career. By this point, I was quite far behind technically, but I miraculously managed to get a place to study ballet at The Northern Ballet School in Manchester, England. I had a lot of work to do and had some excellent training there! There were a lot of tears and moments I thought of quitting, but the hard work paid off, and by the time I was nineteen, I was performing in Phantom of The Opera in the West End!
How did you get involved in acting? Had you done any shows before High Strung?
During those early years of my dance career, I realised that the thing I love about being on stage is playing a character and storytelling through movement.
I began to experiment with acting and trained for about three years whilst performing each night in various West End Shows and for Matthew Bourne’s Company NEW ADVENTURES.
How did you get involved with High Strung?
I had been auditioning for movie roles for a while, but when I heard about HIGH STRUNG, I knew this was my big opportunity to combine two things that I have worked so hard for. I was performing in The Shakespeare play MACBETH at the time, so I felt like my acting muscles were so strong. It was great timing. I was more worried about the dance audition, but I was so determined. I didn’t know about the role of April at the time. In my audition, I read for Ruby and Jazzy. I left feeling disheartened because I felt that I didn’t connect on a deep level with either of the characters. When my agent phoned to tell me I had got the part of the mean girl, I just had this euphoric “ah-ha” moment. I was so happy!
Please tell us your impressions of Michael Damian as a director and as a person. Also, what did you think of Janeen? What was it like working with them?
The moment I met Michael and Janeen, I just fell in love with them. They are the most wonderful couple – so kind and caring and fun to be around.
Michael was so calm and trusting on set. I hung on his every word because I knew from the audition, he knew how to bring out the very best in me.
I can’t begin to tell you how valuable it was to have Janeen watching every take. I completely trusted that as long as she was there, the camera wouldn’t catch a bad dance moment. I remember her saying to me, “Straighten your wrist in that pirouette.” It is a detail that only a dancer would pick out, but I would have been so upset if no one had corrected me.
Michael Damian, director
Janeen [Damian] and I thoroughly love working with Anabel! She is a true professional and a delight to have on the movie set. Her amazing talent and passion for what she does is truly inspiring! As a director, I thought she was a dream to direct, and as a producer Janeen and I were very impressed with her commitment to the promotion side as well. Most young actors don’t realize it’s equally as important to promote the film as it is to perform in the film.
We can’t wait to work with her again in the near future and see what wonderful things are in store for her.
How did you get into character for your role? Since she’s a villain, was it a challenge to play that role?
I felt that once we began filming I couldn’t hang with Keenan [Kampa] and Sonoya [Mizuno] as much as I would have liked because it would have been hard to cover up our friendship on screen. I loved playing APRIL so much – I kind of felt sorry for her! I had to try and really understand where she was coming from and why she behaves as she does. It DID make sense to me … Nobody likes a new girl arriving at school and taking the limelight! Every teenage girl can relate to that–I think especially if there is a cute boy involved!
What was filming like? How did you get along with your co-stars? Any special memories or filming stories?
I loved being in Romania. We had some great times exploring the city, but some of my favourite memories were had with the whole cast just chilling by the pool at our hotel!
Any idea whether you’ll be in the sequel to High Strung?
I don’t know – it will be very much dependent on what my schedule is and if the characters are new or not! Either way, I will be so excited to see it!!
Any other upcoming works you can mention?
I have just completed a run of Jekyll and Hyde at The Old Vic ( a very prestigious theatre here in London). I am auditioning for a few TV and film projects, so who knows what’s next!
It was my first film role, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Right after I finished shooting it, I won my second role in a film called YOUTH. I feel like HIGH STRUNG prepared me for every role I will ever play!
What is your daily dancing regimen like?
Whilst I am performing in a dance company, it will consist of a ballet / contemporary class at around 11 A.M., then rehearsals until we perform at 7.30 P.M. It is a gruelling schedule.
TRUTHFULLY now that I have finished the run, I probably won’t exercise at all unless I have a dance audition. My body needs a break, and I find that my fitness returns quite quickly! WARNING: if you are a dancer, this is not advisable!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have just bought a house in London, which is my greatest achievement!!! Now my free time will be all about decorating it!
After discovering more about this incredibly gifted, humble, pragmatic young lady, I am certain we have not heard the last from her. She is gracious beyond her years and fully grounded in who she is as a dancer and as a person. I have often said that when I encounter young people of her caliber and disposition that it makes me feel better about the future of this world. With Anabel in the world of dance, acting, and more, I would say the artistic universe is going to be left in safe and capable hands. Be sure that you follow her dazzling journey as her future unfolds, and don’t forget to check out her film debut, High Strung, as well!
Check out 4High Strung: