ALL Alan Foley ever wanted to do was to dance.
From the day he first ambled into a class run by ballet pioneer Joan Denise Moriarty with his sister, he was hooked. But seven years ago, following heart surgery, “the exercise switch” went off in his head.
“Overnight I discovered other things like food and TV. Up until then I didn’t have a TV in my apartment. I had a DVD player for looking at ballets.
“I was a bit obsessive but very lucky to be grounded by being the youngest of eight. Any airs and graces would not have been tolerated.”
Indeed, when he was offered a place in the prestigious Kirov Ballet in 1989 — “I applied for a laugh” — his family couldn’t have been less impressed.
“I ran into the kitchen to tell them and my brother said; ‘pass the milk, will ya’.
Aged 46, Alan is the artistic director of Cork City Ballet and divides his time between Cork and Stockholm where his partner, a banker, lives.
What shape are you in?
My body now is completely different to the one when I stopped dancing. I do play tennis — about three or four times a week — and I swim.
Do you have any health concerns?
Seven years ago, I went to Sweden to have my aortic valve replaced. When they opened me up on the table they discovered that my aorta had dilated by 78% due to ballet. So on top of that I had to get an aortic graft and then three weeks later I developed clots around the heart and arrhythmia and I had to be opened up again. When the consultant went to do the surgery he sawed the sternum open again. He thought he could just prise it open but it had completely fused in three weeks. He said I had aggressive healing powers. I was really chuffed with that.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
I’m a great believer in moderation — a little bit of everything. I don’t deny myself anything. I love good food. I grew up with three veg and meat and I still love that.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Chocolate and tea is my gig. I love chocolate. And biscuits and cake. I don’t drink or smoke.
What would keep you awake at night?
I am a very good sleeper. I am one of those people who always needed lots of sleep. I remember when I had my illness I was very stressed over that — I was awake a lot.
How do you relax?
I play tennis, I swim, I read. I travel a lot. I spend a lot of time with my family — all eight of us are very close. I have six god children and the smallest is five. He’s Swedish and I spend a lot of time with him when I’m in Sweden.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
My parents, Joan Denise Moriarty, Edith Piaf, Frida from ABBA, Barack Obama and Nelson Mandala.
What’s your favourite smell?
Spiced beef cooking at Christmas time. It reminds me of my childhood. Cut grass. I adore the smell of the sea because I grew up near it in Fountainstown. I love CK1, the aftershave. The smell of babies when they come out of the bath — there is nothing like that in the whole world. And the smell of Egyptian cotton sheets — the higher the thread count the better.
What would you change about your appearance?
I suppose I could lose a few pounds. But I’m not particularly bothered because I lost so much weight after the surgery. I actually went down to skin and bone. I always remember thinking I would rather be fat and happy than skinny and sad.
When did you last cry?
At my mum’s funeral last year. They were tears of joy. She developed Alzheimer’s 12 years ago. We minded her for two years and then she went to St Luke’s — that wonderful home in Mahon. We were all around her when she died aged 81. And when she took her last breath I turned to my family and said, finally the dignity has been reinstated.
I also cried when I saw the movie, The Fault in Our Stars.
What trait do you least like in others?
Bad manners. People who are nice to you but not nice to the waiter.
What trait do you least like in yourself?
I consider myself to be a pretty balanced person. I go out of my way to try my best to be a good person.
Do you pray?
I do. I’m not a great believer in organised religion. I think it’s the reason there is so much discord in the world. But I would consider myself a very spiritual person.
What would cheer up your day?
When my small man (godson) in Sweden rings me to tell me the news of the day.
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