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.
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.
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.
But starting in a company was my chance to start anew. Here it’s all about the performances – so performing becomes the norm and it didn’t take me long to get comfortable amongst my colleges and used to the bright lights of the stage.
So when the time came and my name went up on the board to dance the Pas de Trois I was, of course, thrilled to have been chosen and felt ready for the challenge. But the nerves came quickly. We rehearsed a lot and I had plenty of time to work on the steps and stamina, so by the time my premiere arrived I was ready. This, however, did not seem to keep my worries at bay.
On the day of the show I was so nervous and even before and during the performance, I was far too tense. Sadly, I can’t say I enjoyed it. Due to my first time jitters, I was far too constrained to relax and enjoy. But I did survive and was proud of myself when it was over. The Pas de Trois improved each time we performed and I grew calm enough to actually enjoy dancing it.
Since then I have danced much harder and scarier roles, but this first little solo will forever stay in my mind as a nerve-wracking one, simply because it was such a big moment for me as a young performer. I guess if I had the chance to dance it again now it would be so different – I would enjoy it much more and be relaxed enough to dance it so much better.
But at that moment in my career, I did my best and I can see now looking back how much I have grown since then. If that solo hadn’t happened many others wouldn’t have either. Thank goodness I was chosen and thank goodness I survived those awful nerves. I have said this many times before and I will say it once more – I am forever trying to push those pesky nerves down and let the love and enjoyment of my job overwhelm them, but it is still a work in progress.
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.
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.
Have you ever had one of those weeks where you think nothing exciting could possibly happen and then you’re catapulted into a string of days filled with mayhem and excitement? Well, a few weeks ago I found myself in a very unexpected situation which turned out to be one of my most treasured experiences as a professional dancer. Honestly, you never know what each week will bring.
Two weeks before our mid-season break my timetable was quite easy with not too many rehearsals. We had a performance of ‘Anne Frank’ on Sunday so I was preparing for my usual role as Anne’s Mother. However, the girl who was cast for Anne was off sick and as the days ticked by the question was being asked what will happen if she can’t dance.
It was never planned to change the casts in this ballet and therefore the second casts are not prepared. This is obviously quite a risky decision in case situations like this come about – a principal dancer unable to dance, with no one to jump in if required. Unfortunately, the show could not go on and this would be a disappointment not only for the ballet company but especially for the Theatre, and the audience due to attend.
So as Friday came with rehearsals planned, all of us, including the choreographer Reginaldo Oliviera, a dancer in the company, were still uncertain if we would perform. Trying to find a ‘plan B’ Reginaldo quietly approached me and asked if I would be able to learn the role of Anne for Sunday. Without hesitation, I said yes. Of course I said yes. How amazing would it be to dance such an enjoyable yet meaningful role? The yes came from my heart before my head had time to registerthe insanely short time scaleI would have to learn a whole ballet, having not been previously cast for the role at all. That realisation didn’t come till later.Continue reading “Who Knows, This Week May Just Be Your Greatest One Yet”→
The final day of my ‘3 Days 3 Quotes Challenge’ is here. I hope at least one quote I choose during this challenge was inspirational to someone out there. I had a lot of fun taking part and found it a great way to start the new year, encouraging me to think positive and to stay focused.
My quotes for Day III:
❝No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.❞
❝Life is a journey, and if you fall in love with the journey, you will be in love forever❞
Firstly, I must thank Maysa Rose and hitherandyond for my nominations to take part in the ‘3 Days 3 Quote Challenge’. It is my first challenge as a blogger and I thought it would be a great way for A Ballet of Life to start 2017. Through my blog and dance experiences, I always want to encourage and motivate people to find the positive side of situations so the quotes I have chosen will involve the same messages.
Here are the challenge rules:
Thank the blogger who nominated you
Post three quotes each day for three days
Nominate three bloggers per day
Inform the nominees
And here are my quotes for Day I:
❝You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.❞
Another year passed and a new one begins. Happy New Year everyone!
I hope you all left 2016 feeling content with what last year brought you and leapt into 2017 excited for all the possibilities you can bring to the new year ahead.
I learnt a lot in 2016. Being filled with moments of happiness and times of sadness, it was definitely a year of change and growth, which is what every year should involve. I did not only grow one year older (ouch) but I believe my heart grew larger for the wonderful people I hold close and my brain grew wiser due to tough situations and learning how to handle them correctly. You only learn through experience.
It was a year full of dance, like most of my years are. I was promoted to principle and danced my first premiere in the leading role, both being things I never thought possible. 2016 also came with my first injury and unfortunately that will be something I will have to bring with me into the new year: bones take a long time to heal. May 2017 be the year of healthy bones.
I will happily be carrying my blog with me into the new age. Being something I was very sceptical of at first but now am so deep into the joy of sharing my little life with anyone interested, I am more than thrilled to introduce A Ballet of Life to 2017. I hope it can grow and expand even more in the year to come.
A new year is full of potential and will no doubt bring each of us new challenges – offering very different yet very exciting things on the horizon. I want to once again dance my way through the year and am very interested to see what that brings me. I aim to allow all the things I learnt in the year just passed to influence what happens to me in the year at present. I step into January 1st with my point shoes at the ready, all wide-eyed and full of anticipation for what ballet will bring me in 2017.
May your year be full of the things you love most and be brightened by some form of beautiful art too.
A few weeks ago I was asked by Alex if I would like to take part in her interview series about young creatives and their way of life for her blog page ‘Alex In Allem’, and of course, very flattered I said yes.
It was a great experience to work with her interesting questions and in the end, I found answering them showed me how much I have learnt through my life and helped me see my life as it is now. It was a really good exercise for me to express my past experiences and question my future ones. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
Find below the link to the interview – originally in English but translated into German for her page (a treat for all my German friends):