Pain as a Constant Companion

Reflecting on my interview with Sarah Nagel about my career and life as a ballet dancer

When Sarah Nagel, a journalist and friend, asked if I would like to be interviewed by her for the Sunday newspaper here in Karlsruhe I jumped at the opportunity. It was a pleasure to wake up this morning with my face on the front page and a beautifully written article to read while sewing pointe shoes on my day off. I have to admit reading about yourself over morning coffee is a joy, but another part of doing interviews I really appreciate is getting the chance to remind myself of where I have been and where I am now.

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‘Pain as a Constant Companion’ is the translated title of Sarah’s article in ‘Der Sonntag” as Sarah wanted to know the personal difficulties I have faced as a student and professional dancer and we talked about the hardship of physical and mental pain ballerinas face.

Things that affected me so much at a younger age seem so small now

While talking to Sarah I reminisced about the wonderful times I have had and of course the difficult ones alongside them. As I shared my story and seeing the chosen title of the piece this morning, I considered my past pains and difficulties compared to my current ones. Upon that, I realise how things that affected me so much at a different time and younger age seem so small now. How through time and experience, I can see how differently I would handle my past ‘pains’ now. It wasn’t necessarily wrong how I coped with them then but if I were to be put back into situations from my past I know I would be stronger and less defeated by them now.

Of course, these experiences made me who I am today, and now at this time in my life I can see the bigger picture and know how things turn out so it is easy to reflect on them – it’s just remembering to do so that may help me benefit from them even more. Life can get so busy and the difficulties we face in the present are forever the focal point, but taking some time to remember what each of us have gotten through before may help us get through the next hurdle in life. Maybe if we all did an interview about our pasts once in a while it would help us with the problems of today.

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In rehearsal for Swanlake (Photo: Admill Kulyer)

Yes, pain can be a constant companion, and definitely not just for dancers, but hopefully remembering difficulties we have already faced will encourage us to overcome the next one.

I want to thank so much Sarah for asking me to be a part of this interview, I took a lot from it, and thanks to ‘Der Sonntag’ for publishing a small part of my story.

I hope people will enjoy reading it:

Der Sonntag – ‘Schmerz als ständiger Begleiter’

I have added this link but unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work. Alternatively, here is an image of the article and if this is unreadable try entering ‘Der Sonntag Karlsruhe’ into Google and find the article from the date 04.11.18. My apologies for the inconvenience.

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With love

Harriet

 

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