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”

“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.””

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”

Dancing with Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Keeping dancers’ emotions in check and learning to handle feelings in and outside the studio to improve as a dancer, artist and person

I often hear artists being portrayed as very emotional people but I ask myself if we are actually more exaggerated and eccentric when it comes to feelings than the average person? Yes, we care a lot about what we do for a living and we are asked daily to bring all sorts of emotions to the surface, but I wouldn’t say we are more sensitive than non-dancers, it just depends on the person and their own personality. I think we are all emotional when we want to be.

❝I can also bring my own feelings and experiences onto the stage with me to help develop a character❞

Dance is a way of expressing emotion so I think it’s quite normal if once in a while we subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, take those feelings out of the studio and into our daily lives, and vice versa. As for me, I love to get emotional and really into a role. The stage is a place where I am put into many different situations I wouldn’t encounter in my normal life and I can also bring my own experiences onto the stage with me to help develop a character.

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Performing as Anne Frank in the most emotional scene I have ever been a part of in Reginaldo Oliveira’s ‘Anne Frank’ with Pablo Octávio as Kitty (Photo: Jochen Klenk)

Continue reading “Dancing with Your Heart on Your Sleeve”

Everything is Possible if You’ve Got Enough Nerve

Remembering back to my first solo as a professional dancer and how much I have grown since then

As the applause subsides and silence falls throughout the auditorium, there’s chance for one last breath in the wings. Then the smile is adjusted and the walk to centre stage begins. The moments before performing a solo can be very nerve-wracking ones. Time is up. It is only you and the music, and all eyes are on you. You can’t practice that pirouette one last time, you can’t work on your stamina anymore. All that work is done. It’s go time.

❝With my confidence hitting rock bottom at times, even stepping on stage was terrifying❞

When I remember back to the very first solo I performed in my first year as a professional dancer all I recall are the nerves. I was part of the Pas de Trois in Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake and my little solo was the biggest thing I had done so far in my career. It was my first chance to dance alone on stage, and it was scary.

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Dancing alongside Elisiane Büchele & Xhile Xu (Photo: Jochen Klenk)

During my younger education, I danced plenty of ballet, tap and jazz solos as a schoolgirl as part of our school productions, but back then it was no big deal. Being young and innocent made it all amazing good fun. ‘Bring it on’. But when I joined The Royal Ballet School things changed a lot and nerves grew inside me. There, I was never the ‘chosen one’ and with my confidence hitting rock bottom at times, even stepping on stage was terrifying. Being part of a group was just enough for me to handle. I had little stage experience and wanted to avoid any spotlight as much as I could. Continue reading “Everything is Possible if You’ve Got Enough Nerve”

My Unforgettable Debut as Giselle

Finally I am sharing my wonderful time returning to The Hammond School to be a part of their 100 year anniversary production of Giselle

You may all know from my post ‘A Chance to Return to The Hammond School’, that during May I spent a week in England at my childhood dance school, The Hammond, as I had been invited to take part in the school’s 100-year anniversary production of Sir Peter Wright’s ‘Giselle’. My years as a student there were so wonderful I couldn’t wait to return to where it all began. And of course, it was even more memorable than I could have imagined.

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First day back at school with Flavio (in my original Hammond uniform)

Arriving at the school, I had butterflies in my stomach. It was so strange to be back. How the school has changed in ten years I have been away, with its own in-house theatre and brand new studios replacing the portacabins I danced in. However, once my dance colleague, Flavio Salamanka and I found our way into the theatre and spotted my old ballet teacher, Miss Jane Elliott, working with her pupils, the familiar, friendly atmosphere I remembered was still ‘in the air’. Being introduced to her pupils as ‘my Harriet’, Jane had me feeling like I never left. Continue reading “My Unforgettable Debut as Giselle”

Goodbye My Friend

I wanted to show my appreciation for this great person by dedicating this post to him and his work. Including a short interview about him, his past and his future. Flavio Salamanka, you will be missed.

Last Sunday we danced our final performance of the season which is always an exciting evening – another year completed, another year survived. However this year, not only was it a great one, it was also a very sad show for Karlsruhe StaatsBallett, as it was the last ever performance of our Kammertänzer Flavio Salamanka, a dancer who has been with the company since the beginning and who I have had the chance to dance many roles with and learn so much from.

Flavio dancing Petrucchio in Taming of the Shrew (Photo: Jochen Klenk)

We have had the pleasure of watching Flavio in numerous classical leads such as Swan Lake and Nutcracker to the more modern lead roles in A Midsummers Night’s Dream and Rusalka. Flavio has done it all. And he has done us proud. He has been such a big part of the company and many members of the public have followed his career over the 14 years he has danced here. Continue reading “Goodbye My Friend”