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. Depending on the production, the stage can be filled with highs or lows while the curtain is up 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”

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”

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”

How a Fairy Gets Her Wings: An Unexpected Chance to Fly

Working with the ballet legend Peter Schaufuss to recreate his La Sylphide.

With the premiere of Peter Schaufuss‘s La Sylphide at the end of the week, things are really coming together and getting exciting. We had a few dress rehearsals last week and I had the unexpected chance to dance the Sylphide.

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A beautiful painting like picture taken during a dress rehearsal (Photo: Flavio Salamanka)

Originally being the third cast for the main role and just coming back from injury, I was not expecting to be dancing it for a while. But things changed when Peter asked how I felt about giving it a go in the next day’s run through. I was feeling good and knew the role pretty well so why not. With this ballet, there is surprisingly no pas de deux choreography so it is very easy to mix up the casts. Peter told us he wanted to change the dancers around so we all had the chance to dance and he also had the chance to see us in each role.

After the run, they were happy enough to give me another chance to rehearse it again the next day on stage. This rehearsal also went well and it was beautiful to dance with the live orchestra, which always brings another depth to the piece. I was then surprised last Monday morning when Peter set the cast for the first dress rehearsal and I would dance the Sylph. Continue reading “How a Fairy Gets Her Wings: An Unexpected Chance to Fly”

Anne Frank

Telling the Diary of Anne Frank Through Dance

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Anne Frank  1929-1945

Tonight will be this season’s first performance of our ballet creation ‘Anne Frank‘. And it will be a pleasure to bring it back to life. Since premiering last season, ‘Anne Frank’ has been a great success which means a lot to the company because it was created by one of our very own dancers, Reginaldo Oliveira. I have briefly mentioned this creation before and as I am sure you can tell from the name it is a piece with so much meaning and history.

Originally from Brazil, Oliveira moved to Germany to join Karlsruhe Staatsballett 10 years ago and discovered his talent for choreography while working within the company. He has had the chance to create many pieces with the dancers here but ‘Anne Frank’ was his first full-length ballet.

When I first heard we would be creating the story of this little girl’s diary from the Second World War I was very intrigued. I had a feeling Reginaldo would find a new interesting way to tell such a tragic tale. I have heard similar comments asked by the public, wondering how someone would portray such horrific history with ballet. But after experiencing the ‘holding onto the happiness while heading towards darkness’ opening scenes and the ‘hear a pin drop’ silence during the concentration camp second act, their questions were all answered. Continue reading “Anne Frank”

Ballerinas in Bangkok

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.

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Before a performance, The Nutcracker-A Christmas Carol

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.

 

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First evening meal at a local restaurant North-West (with Sujung & Larissa)

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. Continue reading “Ballerinas in Bangkok”

Bringing Misia to the Stage

Today the new season officially starts with our first performance back on our big beautiful stage. The company will perform Das Kleine Schwarze/The Roit of Spring, a modern ballet by Terence Kohler portraying the lives and relationship of Coco Chanel and Igor Strawinsky. It is always great to return to stage and there is always such a good energy in the theatre.

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All the girls in Das Kleine Schwarze/The Rite of Spring (photo: Jochen Klenk)

Unfortunately this year I will not be part of this excitement due to an injury (post coming soon on this), which I am very sad about. Who wants to be off before it has even started? But I am realising, one must not dwell on things they can not change and in order to be part of the excitement I decided to share with you my wonderful experience of creating this production instead.

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Best friends Coco & Misia

Last season, when the piece premiered I got the chance to work with Terence in creating the role of Misia Sert, Coco Chanel’s best friend. And oh how I loved becoming this lady. She was confident and sassy, and a socialite among the upper class. Her relationship with Coco was very passionate: insinuated by similar interests, a lethal wit, and drug usage. There was almost rivalry between the two and without Misia introducing Coco to the world of art and beauty, she would not have become the icon she did. Misia often gave Coco ideas for her production in fashion and perfume, telling Coco that fashion changes but perfume is forever: introducing Chanel No. 5. Continue reading “Bringing Misia to the Stage”

Another Fest in October – O’danced is!

And what a nice Theaterfest is was… For that reason, I would like to share some impressions of a marvelous day with you.

Already on arrival people were in a festive mood and once again I was surprised how many people who came to the theatre that day.

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We had a fun and successful open ballet training and rehearsal of La Sylphide with Peter Schaufuss.

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Continue reading “Another Fest in October – O’danced is!”