Dancing Queen in Quarantine

With us all going through something very scary right now, I wanted to spread some positively about what us artists are doing while we can’t work

Never would I have thought I’d be writing a post about this. With the world on lockdown due to the quickly spreading Coronavirus, it has been one of the strangest and scariest times any of us have experienced and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.

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❝The entertainment and theatre industry is taking a huge hit❞

It is causing us all to go through our own difficult times and creating a worrisome atmosphere of what is to come and the possible effects it will have on us all. We have all been advised to say indoors and avoid contact with others, not to mention the unfortunate people that are having to actually deal with the illness and lives being turned upside down because of it.

The entertainment and theatre industry is taking a huge hit, with performances being cancelled for weeks due to the crowds and dancers all over the world not being able to work for the foreseeable future.

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Training and exercising in the living room while under quourentine

As a dancer myself, who is writing to share my dance experiences and seeing as we are all at home needing to find our own source of entertainment to fill the days, I wanted to share with you, if you can find the time, what I and fellow dancers are doing to get through this time and to come out the other side as healthy as possible.

❝Something pretty amazing is happening within the dance community❞

It was at the end of last week when we were informed that our theatre in Salzburg would be closing for at least two weeks due to the virus. It was not long after that the government announced the city itself would be going into shutdown; taking the necessary precautions to keep us all as safe and healthy as possible.

And just like that, we could not work any more. We were not allowed to train in the studio or even be in the theatre. All shows were cancelled and the only option was to go home, leaving the dancers deflated and heavy-hearted. You may know that as a group, dancers are not the kind of people to give up and go home, we are constantly striving to keep the shows going so this was a situation where we literally didn’t know what to do with ourselves. And with is happening all over the world we are all now at home trying to find solutions to be able to stay in shape and motivated, not knowing when we can be back on stage working. It’s not like we can do home office…. or is it.

Something pretty amazing is happening within the dance community; something unique and could only have happened in a situation like this. Teachers and dancers are offering live video classes from their studios and homes for other dancers to take part and be able to feel like they can train and not be alone while doing it. Giving us all the motivation and discipline we might lack when home alone.

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Doing class the only way I can… at home following a teacher online

I find it amazing that we have all come together to help each other stay fit and entertained. We are all in the same boat so why not join together and do something we all love and are eager to keep up with. I think it is bringing a lot of joy to whoever takes part and is a great way to connect with people.

This whole experience is surreal but it can be a time we use wisely by doing the things we can never find the time to do, or trying out something new, like an online ballet class. I am a person who loves being at home so, for now, I am filling my days with things I love and getting in touch with people I love. I want to focus on some studying and maybe also try out a few online classes.

I am also trying to put life into perspective. Now that we have all been forced into a state of isolation I hope we realise how much we have and should want to treasure the little joys in life more. Right now we all wish life would go back to normal, wish we could get back to work. And yeah, maybe work is not too bad after all. Maybe we shouldn’t complain too much about the silly things while we have them.

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Looking forward to being back in the studio and everything being back to normal with the world (Working on the ‘Romeo & Juliet’ pas de deux with Flavio Salamanka, coached by director/choreographer Reginaldo Oliveria)

We should also be kind and helpful in these times. Share and spread love in any way you can and don’t let the fear and the unknown create greed and loneliness. Do as us dancers are trying to do, share the things you love and keep each other smiling and dancing.

Stay safe and healthy,

Harriet

Finding My Feet in Salzburg

Want to know how things are going here in Salzburg? Read about the new and wonderful time I am having with the Landestheater Salzburg

I have been part of the Landestheater Salzburg for almost two months now and am definitely on my way to feeling settled. The new routine is becoming my norm but still fresh enough to be interesting, and the people that now fill my days are all making life enjoyable and welcoming.

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In our rehearsal studios in Salzburg

I feel cosy in my cute little apartment, filled with leftover furniture and comforting photos of friends and family. I am adapting to the very different timetable here where we work through rather than having a split working day. We begin at 10am with training followed by morning rehearsals till 14pm, a half-hour lunch break and continue with rehearsals until 5pm. When we start performing it will be a little different, but for now, I am really liking this way of working.

❝This is a big ballet to create so a lot of interesting work is going into this part of the process❞

Before I joined the company I admit I was a little worried about this change as I couldn’t imagine not having the long afternoon break I have grown comfortable too, but now I really appreciate having the evenings to relax and recover for the next day. Our bodies have so much more time to recuperate and it also gives us the feeling of a ‘normal life’; work is done at 5pm, time to enjoy dinner, meeting friends or an evening at home. Continue reading “Finding My Feet in Salzburg”

Grabbing on to that Second Chance

Sometimes life gives you a second chance, even in ballet, and it’s always what you do with those moments that counts. So when my second chance to dance a huge role came around I really wanted it to mean something

Second chances. Moments we wish we could redo. Turn the clocks back and try again. Another opportunity to improve on experiences or approach them at a different age to see how we would handle it now. Who doesn’t want a second chance at moments in their life? And as a dancer I can tell you, it is often a wish of mine to have the chance to perform a role once more for these exact reasons.

Little did I know it wasn’t quite the end of that chapter

In my previous post, ‘Never Say Never’, I wrote about my fortunate moments of getting second chances and what I gained from them, but I think having Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Swanlake’ come back into my life this season is possibly the biggest chance for me to see what has changed after six years of professional performing.

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Performing as Odette with Zhike Xu as Prince Siegfried (Photo: Jochen Klenk)

Continue reading “Grabbing on to that Second Chance”

Never Say Never

Just when you think a ballet is behind you, they have a tendency to come back and teach you something new

I have often been proved wrong when thinking I was dancing something for the last time. Just when you think the curtain has gone down on a particular role or piece it ends up finding its way back to you. And more often than not, it’s the ones you were glad to say goodbye to.

❝It seemed like an impossible thing for me to ever dance & I never imagined I would have the opportunity to give it a go❞

Recently this seems to be happening a lot to me and it is proving to not be such a bad thing after all. For this post, I want to share two particular pieces that have found their way back to me and dedicate another to the recent return of our Swanlake and my upcoming shows of Odette/Odile, which I think definitely needs its own mention.

So for now, I take you back to the end of last season when we performed Kenneth McMillan’s ‘Concerto’ in our yearly gala here in Karlsruhe. ‘Concerto’ is a one-act ballet in three movements choreographed in 1966 for the Berliner Ballett and was staged for the Royal Ballet Touring Company in 1967. Our company had to learn it in just two weeks with Julie Lincoln teaching and staging the piece. This ballet was not completely new to me as I performed ‘Concerto’ while at The Royal Ballet School for my graduating performance in 2010. I was part of the third movement assemble, and now, 8 years later, I was cast for the third movement Solo Girl.

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Backstage of the Royal Opera House at the age of 18 during ‘Concerto’ rehearsals

I was delighted, albeit a little nervous to be chosen to dance this role as I remember admiring the girl who performed it at school. At that time it seemed like an impossible thing for me to ever dance and I never imagined I would have the opportunity to give it a go. At that age and time in my life, dancing such a solo was the scariest thing I could imagine. Continue reading “Never Say Never”

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

Continue reading “Pain as a Constant Companion”

Can’t Keep Those Dancing Feet Still

Dancers literally never stop moving, whether at work or not, our feet find rhythm in silence. But apart from never sitting still, we are constantly trying to move in more ways than the obvious one. The best kind of dancers are forever trying to improve themselves and their work – never wanting their performances to stop developing and because of this, ballets themselves are steadily growing and changing each time they are performed.

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In ‘Anne Frank’ rehearsal with Andre Shatalin 📷: Admil Kulyer

Ballerinas are often never satisfied, and even though they may look perfect to their adoring audiences, there is always something they will have wanted to be better, even the best of them. But that is what makes them the best.

❝I am always hoping to do it better than the last time I did it❞

Continue reading “Can’t Keep Those Dancing Feet Still”

Finding the Perfect Frame for the Picture

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.

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Back in school with fellow classmate & pas de deux partner Ashley Whittle (so sorry about the knee in your face Ash)

Continue reading “Finding the Perfect Frame for the Picture”

What Do You Think Of When I Say Ballerina?

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Performing The Sylph in La Sylphide (Photo: Pablo Octavio)

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.

 

Continue reading “What Do You Think Of When I Say Ballerina?”

Making the Comeback After a Setback

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.

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My routine of exercises to strengthen my foot

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.

Continue reading “Making the Comeback After a Setback”

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”