WORLD BALLET DAY 2018

🌸🌸HAPPY WORLD BALLET DAY🌸🌸
I hope everyone enjoys dancing around in their tutus and tiaras or even socks and sweats – joining together to celebrate one of the most beautiful and special art forms there is.
Stay tuned all day with companies around the world streaming life from the studio and stage:
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Performing as the Sylph in Peter Schaufuss’s La Sylphide

With love,

Harriet

The Dressing Room of a Ballerina

Oh to be a fly on a ballerina’s dressing room wall. A space just for us amongst our tutus and friend

The theatre becomes a dancer’s second home, a place where we spend at least 50% or more of our daily waking hours. We work there, we eat there, we shower, dress and sleep there. Our friends are usually with us and its the place we do what we love most, dance.

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My first year at the Hammond School with my fellow dancers at our end of year production – Ruth Bailey, Risa Nakagawa, Anna Haresnape, Katrina Budzynski

It’s because of all these reasons that it becomes a very important building for us, and one of the most important rooms in this building is our dressing rooms.

This is where the beauty of ballet meets the ugly on a daily bases

When I was younger and performed once or twice a year in a theatre the dressing rooms were already one of the best parts and when I was part of a dance school, I remember it being so exciting to get our dressing rooms, all the girls together just like the professionals – we were just so grown up. And I was probably deep down even more excited when I first joined a professional company and found my own permanent spot in the dressing room. I had made it. Continue reading “The Dressing Room of a Ballerina”

Goals of the Dancer

Setting your own personal goals to get you from one company goal to the next

Each season ballet companies have the exciting chance to work towards and bring to life premieres. Whether that’s a world premiere of a new creation or the first time that particular company performs a ballet, they are always a huge highlight of the year.

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❝The goal that has been the main focus within the whole ballet company is reached❞

The process involves resident or guest choreographers/teachers coming to the theatre and working with the dancers – creating or teaching the steps and staging the whole production. Weeks if not months are spent putting the piece together and it will be the main focus of the company the majority of that time. Other performances are often performed during the preparation time but there will be much happening behind the scenes for the premiere.

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Working towards our La Sylphide premiere in 2016 with the choreographer Peter Schaufuss

The hype leading up to opening night is very exciting. After weeks of studio time, we finally start having stage run-throughs and orchestra rehearsals, then costumes are added, with lights and sets filling the stage, bringing everything together. The dancers get comfortable with the new space and atmosphere during a week of dress rehearsals and corrections. The days quickly tick by and we find ourselves on opening night.

The moment is here. The curtain goes up.

And then… it’s all over. Everything you have worked for is behind you. The goal that has been the main focus within the whole ballet company is reached. The focus must now shift and it is always a strange time. To come back to the barre after a premiere is often a little difficult. So you have to find the next goal to work towards.

Which can be much easier said than done. The excitement that has gotten you into work for the past few weeks is now gone. The quiet ‘after’ the storm. And although I think a little ‘calm’ is good, if not needed, especially if the body has been under a lot of stress, it can become mundane and I think this feeling should not last too long.

I have noticed throughout my years of working, it always helped me to have something to aim towards. Whether that is at work or not, having goals help me get out of bed in the morning and focus my mind to keep pushing to improve.

❝I have passions outside of dance and finding achievement in those areas of my life still gives me a boost❞

In the studio, this can be working towards a new role, but we can’t always count on being given this option, so I like to set personal goals in the studio or within roles I am already dancing. Working on steps you know can be improved in class or focusing on an upcoming performance and finding new ways to develop there. Nothing is lost and then you can take that improvement into the next goal you set.

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Teaching has become a new passion of mine (Working at KNT Danceworks in Manchester)

However, recently I am enjoying finding goals outside of dance (but possibly still connected). Putting my energy into other things has given me energy for work too. Learning I have passions outside of dance and finding achievement in those areas of my life still gives me a boost.

Keep it interesting. It is never good to be too focused on one thing. Dancers can tend to get wrapped up in our world but breaking out of it can help it grow and develop something that can always be improved. Keep reaching for new goals, it always feels so good when they are reached and will keep the post-premiere lul at bay.

With love,

Harriet

 

Main picture: Jochen Klenk

 

Can’t Keep Those Dancing Feet Still

Dancers literally never stop moving, whether at work or not, our feet find rhythm in silence. But apart from never sitting still, we are constantly trying to move in more ways than the obvious one. The best kind of dancers are forever trying to improve themselves and their work – never wanting their performances to stop developing and because of this, ballets themselves are steadily growing and changing each time they are performed.

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In ‘Anne Frank’ rehearsal with Andre Shatalin 📷: Admil Kulyer

Ballerinas are often never satisfied, and even though they may look perfect to their adoring audiences, there is always something they will have wanted to be better, even the best of them. But that is what makes them the best.

❝I am always hoping to do it better than the last time I did it❞

Continue reading “Can’t Keep Those Dancing Feet Still”

A Week at the Ballet

One week. Thirty-three dancers. Five productions. Here we go.

Ballet Week has arrived.

One of the hardest weeks of the season is upon us – Ballet Week, and there is no turning back now so we might as well go for it full force. During this time the company will perform every evening of the week a different ballet from this seasons repertoire, finishing with a ballet gala on the final night.

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Celebrations after a past Gala evening

It is always a tough week for the dancers but often a very rewarding one, especially once we have survived it. We have rehearsals in the mornings preparing for the next show or Gala pieces followed by a break in the afternoon to rest before that evenings show. It is a time we are pushed to our limits both physically and mentally. Throughout the week, we must judge when to push our bodies and when to hold back, in order to be fit enough to last another show. The change of styles and choreographies each day can be difficult, and to set the mind up for a new atmosphere and emotions every morning is challenging, not to mention finding the will to get out of bed after another late, energy filled night.

It may not sound so difficult – we are performers, it’s what we do, but in my company, it is a big change of pace for us. During a normal week, we may only perform once or twice, having rehearsal days in between. Yes, it is often a different show each time we are on stage, with some weeks having three different productions in it, but to have a new show every night within quite a small dance company is asking a lot.

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In the studio

This season seems to be a particularly hard one. We have been so busy beforehand, preparing new creations for the gala and having had two premieres last month, we have worked a lot of overtime just to fit everything in. We are so focused on the new pieces – two new creations from Thiago Bordin and Jonathan Dos Santos and a premiere of McMillan’s Concerto, that we haven’t really had the time to think about the productions we are doing the rest of the week – it may be a case of the dancers reminding each other what they are about to dance just before the curtain goes up.

Having said that we have had quite a few weeks this season that have felt like ‘practice’ ballet weeks, with many shows and hard situations, so I think we are well prepared for the stress ahead. This season we have an array of shows to perform:

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BALLETT: RUSALKA
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BALLETT GALA
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Carmina Burana
So as hard as it will be we are doing what we love and will enjoy every moment I am sure. Let’s hope for not too many surprises along the way and a smooth journey till the end – when we can enjoy our four days off as a reward. Toi Toi Toi, chuckers and break a leg to everyone involved and I wish the public a week of enjoyment at the ballet.
With love,
Harriet

That Premiere Feeling

Ever wondered how dancers feel on an opening night of a production? Well you are about to find out…

Opening nights are always full of excitement for both the performers and audience, with a mixture of emotions flying through the theatre. When that curtain goes up the stage is filled with the productions highs or lows but today I wanted to share with you the emotions we dancers feel once the curtain comes down. The ones the audience never see.

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The whole company & choreographer after the successful premiere of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

A few weeks ago Staatsballett Karlsruhe had our third premiere of the season performing the colourful creation from Youri Vámos, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. With this piece being pure entertainment (not only for the public) it was another premiere I will remember always. Continue reading “That Premiere Feeling”

Sharing My Stories with Terry Hyde

Terry Hyde first contacted me after noticing my Twitter page and all my posts on dance and being a professional ballerina. He then told me about his past career in dance and what he does now to support dancers and their mental health.

https://counsellingforperformers.com/

He asked if I would like to be a part of his blog and write a guest article sharing some of my experiences in the dance world up until now and particularly a difficult time I went through when it was hard to keep going.

It didn’t take me long to decide which issue I would write about, especially as Terry mentioned aiming the thoughts to dance students, and now we have finally got the article up and running. I talk about losing all my confidence at school and finding happiness in other places outside of dance. Here is a link to the article.

 ”My weight was a problem for the ballet school but not for me”

Harriet Mills, Principal with Staatdballet Karlsruhe, talks about how she survived the toxic regime and weight issues during her ballet training

https://counsellingforperformers.com/weight-problem-at-ballet-school/

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Whilst you’re there have a read and look around on Terry’s website. The issues he is confronting are very difficult and dancers, like everyone, need as much support throughout their schooling, careers and post-careers and I thank Terry for letting me be a part of it.

With love,

Harriet

“For Never Was a Story of More Woe Than this of Juliet and Her Romeo.”

After last night I just had to share with you all the wonderful experience I had during my premiere of ‘Romeo & Juliet’. I don’t know if I will be able to put it into words how much the evening meant to me or how many emotions I was feeling but I am for sure going to try.

There were moments when Juliano Toscano and I thought our chance to perform as Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t come – our fate was for some reason not written in the stars and as more and more performances were crossed off and our names still not appearing to dance the next one, we felt the opportunity slipping away from us. Then suddenly with just two weeks notice (an insanely short amount of time to prepare for such a big ballet), our director gave us the date and we were moving, full steam ahead.

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During rehearsal time, the Balcony pas de deux

We worked so hard in the studio, with the guiding hands and eyes of our ballet mistress, often having eleven hour days in the theatre, not only preparing for this but learning another new ballet alongside it. However, despite the long hours and other responsibilities, it never really felt like work. We were both so eager to do it, pushing any doubt out of our minds that we couldn’t. We found ourselves supporting each other endlessly, which was a welcomed surprise as we hadn’t danced so much together previously. The chemistry found between us when learning the choreography at the beginning of the season with all the other casts was still there. Along with that, each day the technical aspects improved as well as us both slowly finding ways of developing the characters.

Continue reading ““For Never Was a Story of More Woe Than this of Juliet and Her Romeo.””

Finding the Perfect Frame for the Picture

Taking a look at dance partnerships & the work that goes into them to make them great

One of my favourite aspects of dance has always been pas de deux. From a classical grand pas de deux to modern creations, I just so fond of sharing the work, technicality and especially the emotions of a dance partnership. I have been lucky enough to have had some fantastic partners over the years and I have loved working with these young men and performing together.

❝What does actually make a good partnership in dance? What can make it or break it?❞

As a student, during my time at The Hammond School, we studied simple pas de deux and I took a liking to it straight away, but it was not until I joined The Royal Ballet Upper School, where we had pas de deux class two-three times a week, that I really started to enjoy it. It began a little shakily but after a few weeks I was randomly partnered with a classmate called Ashley Whittle and not only did we immediately click and work well together, but we had so much fun. This must have come across to our teachers as for almost two and a half years we were always dancing together. Pas de deux became my favourite class of the week and it was the first time I felt 100% trust and confidence in my partner, and I think he felt the same.

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Back in school with fellow classmate & pas de deux partner Ashley Whittle (so sorry about the knee in your face Ash)

Continue reading “Finding the Perfect Frame for the Picture”

Saying Goodbye to a Ballet

Ballets that come and go throughout a dancers career should leave something behind they can cherish

First of all, a Happy New Year to everyone reading and I hope we are all off to a good start in 2018.

As it is a new year I am sure we have all welcomed in new experiences and challenges, as well as said goodbye to and learnt from old ones. This has actually become the topic of this blog post and although sounding like quite a sad one, you know I am forever finding the positive in all my endeavours.

❝Never have I been involved in such a ballet that carried so much meaning and responsibility due to the history and story it told❞

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Happily dancing as the Sylph in La Sylphide (Photo: Pablo Octávio)

Last month Badisches Staatstheatre Karlsruhe sadly said goodbye to two of our ballets for the season 2017/2018. This commonly happens as companies need to make room for new productions each season and in our theatre ballets are often only with us for two-three seasons at a time. An out with the old in with the new kind of thing. Although I wouldn’t like to think of ballets as old, more renewed or revived in the next company who puts them on. Continue reading “Saying Goodbye to a Ballet”