Never Say Never

Just when you think a ballet is behind you, they have a tendency to come back and teach you something new

I have often been proved wrong when thinking I was dancing something for the last time. Just when you think the curtain has gone down on a particular role or piece it ends up finding its way back to you. And more often than not, it’s the ones you were glad to say goodbye to.

❝It seemed like an impossible thing for me to ever dance & I never imagined I would have the opportunity to give it a go❞

Recently this seems to be happening a lot to me and it is proving to not be such a bad thing after all. For this post, I want to share two particular pieces that have found their way back to me and dedicate another to the recent return of our Swanlake and my upcoming shows of Odette/Odile, which I think definitely needs its own mention.

So for now, I take you back to the end of last season when we performed Kenneth McMillan’s ‘Concerto’ in our yearly gala here in Karlsruhe. ‘Concerto’ is a one-act ballet in three movements choreographed in 1966 for the Berliner Ballett and was staged for the Royal Ballet Touring Company in 1967. Our company had to learn it in just two weeks with Julie Lincoln teaching and staging the piece. This ballet was not completely new to me as I performed ‘Concerto’ while at The Royal Ballet School for my graduating performance in 2010. I was part of the third movement assemble, and now, 8 years later, I was cast for the third movement Solo Girl.

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Backstage of the Royal Opera House at the age of 18 during ‘Concerto’ rehearsals

I was delighted, albeit a little nervous to be chosen to dance this role as I remember admiring the girl who performed it at school. At that time it seemed like an impossible thing for me to ever dance and I never imagined I would have the opportunity to give it a go. At that age and time in my life, dancing such a solo was the scariest thing I could imagine.

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Performing Concerto third movement solo 2018 (Photo: Silvano Ballone)

But I guess the piece came back into my life to give me the chance to get over that fear. I went into the rehearsals determined to give it a real go and was very grateful to have Julie coaching me with the ‘go for it/whatever happens, happens’ kind of attitude, so at least I can say I went for it and was proud that I did. I now have more chances to enjoy it during this season and each time I will remind myself of where I started in this piece.

My second recent ‘comeback’ was in Christopher Wheeldon’s production of ‘Swanlake’ in the first act ‘Pas de Trois’ – a role I have even written a post about – Everything is Possible if You’ve Got Enough Nerve. I write about this being my first solo on stage as a professional dancer and even imagined how different it would be if I were to have another chance to perform it. So, I definitely think I brought this on myself.

Anyway, so when the casting went up for this production (7 years after I first danced it) I was written second cast for the Pas de Trois and didn’t have expectations of dancing it as I was also second cast for the main role. But a week before the premiere I got a late-night phone call from my ballet mistress telling me I would have to jump in for one of the girls and dance it for the premiere. So it looked like my chance to find out whether I would handle this role better was here.

❝We should never step away from second chances❞

I actually had to learn the second solo, rather than the first solo, which I was originally cast for and had previously danced. So while away at a gala in Ludwigsburg I learnt the solo and briefly privately worked on it, not putting any pressure on it, even though the first time I would dance it would be during our stage rehearsal that Monday night without any other rehearsals. Joy. I figured the best approach was a calm one and when Monday came it actually all want well. I really enjoyed the solo (preferring it to the first one) and I kind of breezed through it. What do you know, Swanlake’s Pas de Trois was not the hellish dance I remembered.

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Performing Christopher Wheeldon’s Swanlake Pas de Trois in 2011 with Zhi Le Xu & Elisiane Büchele (Photo: Jochen Klenk)

That being said it is a true killer, but I was enjoying doing it. The premiere went as well as a premiere can go and by the second show, I really had fun.

So there we have it, two fears conquered. I am so grateful to have had a second chance at these roles so I can see how much I have grown and improved, if not just by age. We should never step away from second chances – opportunities to overcome past fears and worries, even if we failed them the first time. They can show us where we have improved and where we possibly still need some work. Never say never. Who knows what will come back around and who knows what we can learn from it.

With love,

Harriet

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