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.
❝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.
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.
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.
Main picture: Jochen Klenk
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.
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.
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:
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.
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”
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.
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❞
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”
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.
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.
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”
Tutus… Tippy toes… Elegance… Beauty… Princess… Skinny… Athlete… Flexibility… Strength…
I am sure all of the above come to mind, and it is true, we ballerinas can be all those things, (I try to convince myself I am a princess every day) but in this post, I want to focus on the ballerina and her flexibility.
Flexibility is a very useful and often needed attribute of a dancer but I would not say it is always the most important. Yes, some days, if not all, I would give my right arm to be more flexible but as I have gotten older and (hopefully) wiser, not only have I decided my right arm is a part of me I would not want to lose, I have also come to realise I can be ok the way I am.
My Injury Part 11
As a follow up to my post ‘Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones but Dancing Does Too’, where I wrote about how my stress fracture came about and dealing with returning to work, I wanted to share my ongoing experience with the physical side of the recovery to help anyone else who is struggling coming back from an injury.
I have to say it has not been easy, as I am sure no injuries are, and it took much longer than I first expected for me feel like I am dancing as I did before the injury last May. Originally I came back feeling good, thinking I had done everything needed to have a fully healed foot but since then numerous problems and pains have bothered me, with days where my foot still doesn’t feel ‘right’, even after a year.