We did it! And what a great time we had. After one week in Bangkok, I can honestly say I have made memories to last a lifetime. From performing for special audiences to sharing evenings with influential people, and experiencing it all with friends and colleagues, it has been fantastic.
After arriving safely and settling into the beautiful Dusit Thani Hotel, we had the day to relax before work started. We spent our free time, usually the early hours of the morning exploring the streets of Bangkok. We hunted through markets, admiring rooftop views, relaxed with massages, munched on enticing street food, dined at upmarket restaurants, and even found a Thai/German Bistro we just had to try. Sharing smiles with friendly and helpful locals and each meal even tastier than the next, we were never disappointed.
We performed Youri Vámos’s ‘The Nutcracker – A Christmas Carol’ at the Thailand Cultural Centre, with its large stage and hard working team of technicians, it was great to be back. In this production, there is also a chance for young local dancers to perform with us and I had a great time with a group of bright and polite girls all from Thailand except one from the USA. They all spoke excellent English and wore big smiles all day. The American girl, and her mother, actually knew me through a teacher I had when I was young. The ballet world really is small. The girls were so lovely, and we shared many giggles; I think they had a fun time with us too.
For our first performance, the auditorium filled with over 1600 children, from schools around Bangkok, none of whom had ever seen a ballet before. The gasps of delight and applause that enveloped the theatre when the curtain came up on a postcard-like image of snow covered houses was magical. We felt proud and honoured to be there and filled with as much excitement as the audience. To help make such a memorable experience for these children has certainly given me another reason to love dancing.
At our second performance, we had a distinguished guest, namely Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, a Princess of Thailand. It was a great show and to perform for Royalty, as you can imagine, brought high energy to us all. The Princess had watched our previous tour and for her to choose to see us perform again made her return very sincere; she must have liked us.
My story of our last performance is a little different. With dancers “dropping like flies” due to a stomach virus, it was a real case of ‘the show must go on’. As I was not dancing much in the production and as my injured foot was feeling good, I offered to jump in for someone who was ill. Having danced the ‘Spanish’ before that was no problem. But I also joined the group in the ‘Crystal Waltz’, something I was never cast for. But from just watching I had a pretty good idea of the choreography. With half an hour to go before warm-up, my partner Roger jumped to his feet and together with half the cast, we went through the piece in 15 minutes. After training, Roger and I ran it with music, and in the interval, we placed it on stage, so I knew exactly where I had to be in order to stay in formation with the other dancers.
With new excitement, I danced the waltz bright eyed and bushy tailed. Roger guided me around whispering counts and steps in my ear. It was my first time really dancing on stage this season, due to my foot injury, and I felt like this opportunity had given me a purpose for being in Bangkok with the Company. I actually impressed myself at being able to dance something I have only ever watched, and really appreciated all the encouragement and compliments from my colleagues and Director. Pat on the back for me – it’s a good job I packed all those point shoes!!
After the exciting last show, we were invited to the German Embassy by Peter Prügel, the German Ambassador in Thailand. Originally from Karlsruhe, Mr. Prügel sponsors the Dance and Music Festival and was delighted to have our Company involved. We spent the evening mingling with fascinating people, all of whom had watched and loved our performance. Along with Mr. Prügel, his charming wife and son I shared stories with the Australian, Slovakian and Italian Ambassadors, the Italian First Secretary, (whose two little girls stole my heart), a witty journalist, an elegant pianist and many more lovely people. And despite the painful high heels, I had a ball.
There was just one last thing I had to do before leaving. I had to find someone I met last time on tour; a lady called Pia who had given me the best Thai massage I ever had. She spoke little English, but we managed to share a few tales of other lives. We left marks on each other’s hearts and before leaving I had given her the flowers I had received from the Princess. After searching all week, I found her on the last day. I gave her flowers once more, and she told me she had kept the first bouquet. Even though we have only spent a short time together and live worlds apart, Pia is someone I will always remember. She has so little compared to me but is a lovely person determined to make the best of her life. I was humbled by her and made a promise to help her if I am able.
This was a memorable ending to a memorable week. I have taken so much from this trip that I have to thank everyone who made it happen. Being a dancer continues to give me such wonderful opportunities; taking me to great places and allowing me to meet so many extraordinary people. I will carry the memories of my visit with me forever.