Oh to be a fly on a ballerina’s dressing room wall. A space just for us amongst our tutus and friend
The theatre becomes a dancer’s second home, a place where we spend at least 50% or more of our daily waking hours. We work there, we eat there, we shower, dress and sleep there. Our friends are usually with us and its the place we do what we love most, dance.
It’s because of all these reasons that it becomes a very important building for us, and one of the most important rooms in this building is our dressing rooms.
❝This is where the beauty of ballet meets the ugly on a daily bases❞
When I was younger and performed once or twice a year in a theatre the dressing rooms were already one of the best parts and when I was part of a dance school, I remember it being so exciting to get our dressing rooms, all the girls together just like the professionals – we were just so grown up. And I was probably deep down even more excited when I first joined a professional company and found my own permanent spot in the dressing room. I had made it. Continue reading “The Dressing Room of a Ballerina”
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”
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.
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.
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”
Six years of dancing The Nutcracker and still learning
How is it already the second week of December? My advent calendar is slowly emptying, snow has already fallen, Christmas markets are buzzing like always, and as the days tick towards the 25th (24th here in Germany), the music of the much-loved ballet ‘The Nutcracker’ is filling theatres all over the world and Karlsruhe is no exception. Tis’ the season to be jolly and what better way to get in the festive mood than dressing up as a snowflake and jumping out of giant presents.
We have been dancing Youri Vámos’s ‘The Nutcracker – A Christmas Story’ since the first year I joined the company. The storyline combines the original Nutcracker with Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. It was actually the first premier I experienced back in 2010. I had just graduated from the Royal Ballet School, and after performing my last Grand Defile with the school and a night celebrating with fellow classmates for the last time, I flew to Karlsruhe to spend a week with the company while they started learning the ballet.
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.
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”