March 28, 2012

Company Class: Pointe

There I was, at the Finnish National Ballet, sitting on a cushioned chair, tucked between the grand piano on my right and the wall-facing barre on the left. The first dancer was so close I had to glue myself to the piano to avoid getting grand-battemented. But it was a great spot, as I could watch every dancer in that huge studio. And guys, before they even started I had to check out all the dance-wear! Old sweats, loose and baggy, sleeker wool-acrylic warm-up rompers, leg warmers, down-vests, down warm-up booties, wool socks, crocheted scarfs around the hips, skirts, lots of yumikos in all colour combinations, black leggings, a few cut-off pink tights, some in other colours too. My favorite of all has to be the "I Love Nutella" t-shirt. It's really not your average work-wear - unless you're a dancer of course.

But let's steer away from class-fashion (which really deserves a post of its own), and get back to the actual dancing! Barbora Kohoutková demonstrated the exercises, but to my surprise she didn't stop there. Instead of doing the rounds, observing and correcting the dancers, she joined in and did the same barre with them! Which makes perfect sense, however, when you know that Kohoutková is still a dancer herself, and on the stage as Gamzatti this coming Saturday. And like every other professional dancer, she needs morning class to check in with her body, to limber up, to maintain technique and get ready for the day's rehearsals and performances. For us adult recreational dancers, class is usually all we get - but for the pros it's just the start of the day. Amazing and seriously hard work, really.

And that hard work started with a 30-minute long barre, which is about 10-15 minutes shorter to what I'm used to. But again, it makes sense since their morning class lasts only 75 minutes (followed by rehearsals) - and you would want to spend most of that in center anyway. It was a good barre too, lots of variety in the phrasing of the exercises. I tried to write some down into my notebook (the paper version), but there is no pause-button on a live class! Suffice to say, it was a speedy barre. And to my delight, one that I could have managed myself! Of course, you have to keep in mind that company class is first and foremost warm-up and keep-up. Pros don't need to learn new technique at the barre like us students do. The really challenging stuff comes in center, and with repertoire and new choreography. But I gotta tell you - it's an awesome sight to see thirty+ ballerinas extending their legs in developpé ecarté up to their ears! Wow.

After barre on came the pointe shoes - and here's where I would have scurried into a corner and out of the way.. Far too difficult for my skill-level! Which of course made it all the more fascinating to watch. Again, Kohoutková demonstrated full out and on pointe herself - but this time she remained in front of the class and gave corrections and advice. I was suprised that they repeated the same exercise as often as four-six times, that is if I counted right. As one group finished, the next one was already taking first steps.. and the pianist kept playing, changing tunes to keep them motivated and entertained!

There were only pro dancers in the room, except for yours truly, but even the pros don't nail every balance nor land every pirouette all the time. That's kind of comforting to know, you know? :) But when they do stay up, up, up or go for the quadruple, it's such a thrill! I saw one of FNB's étoiles, Salla Eerola, finish her enchaînement with a quintuple pirouette. Just like that, as if it were as simple as walking down the street. Yikes.

I wish I could have recorded that class on video. How often do you get to watch the étoiles, principals, soloists and corps do their morning class on pointe? What I loved was the talent and the skill, the sheer beauty of it all, but also the variety. On stage the corps de ballet has to dance as one, but here you could see individuals, along with the soloists, of course. They all have the prerequisite look and technique, but still there was variety in the quality of their movement. Something distinctive in their épaulement, someone with more bouncy ballon, another with fearless pirouettes, one dancing with intense purpose, another with relaxed calm. Some with the softest of pliés, one with the most elongated of extensions. Different colours and nuances, all beautiful.

I still feel inspired after that class. And even more in awe of the talent, hard work, determination and drive it takes to be a professional ballerina. As an adult recreational ballet student, I can only day-dream of working days in the ballet-studio and on the stage.. but I do share the same passion and love for ballet. And I know you do too.

Until next time, dance and pointe until you happily drop!

Salla Eerola's feet and shoes after pointe class. Photo: ©PTYD.

10 comments:

  1. I loved it :D I want a post on class fashion!!!

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  2. Thanks to the both of you! This has been such an awesome experience, and I'm so happy I get to share it with you guys!

    Lalatina - I have an idea for a class-fashion post, but it depends on how keen the dancers are to go public with their dance-wear.. :)

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    Replies
    1. Oh! I hope it works out :) In any case, thenks so much for doing this and sharing it with all of us!

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  3. Sounds awesome, wish I could have seen it.

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    1. Elizabeth, did you see the Royal Ballet's live stream last Friday? The highlights of company morning class can be watched on youtube:

      http://youtu.be/6yedCccj8vI

      Okay, it's not quite the same as being in the same room - but I think this is pretty great nonetheless! :)

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  4. Really enjoyed this. :) I'd love to see a professional company class someday!!!

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    1. Thanks, Hannah! :)

      There are some really good excerpts of company classes on youtube, some of my favorites are here:

      Bejart Ballet Lausanne in Morning Class
      http://youtu.be/B9AF1zIJoPU

      PNB's company class
      http://youtu.be/c8p_VB6Q7fE

      This one in Cuba (with international stars)
      http://youtu.be/uLo_0J_iemw

      Enjoy! :)

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    2. Yes! Your blog is awesome. I started ballet class 1 year ago and I am 40. I love ballet and hope to do it forever. Thank you for posting the Royal Ballet live stream and other links. They are so inspiring and so is your writing. Can't wait to hear more about the dancewear :)
      Ali

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    3. Hi Ali!

      Congrats on joining the adult ballet dancer community - better a bit late than never! :) I know how you feel, dance is such a major part of my life. I can't imagine not dancing!

      Royal Ballet has an awesome site, and I also recommend you check out Australian Ballet. Especially their "Behind Ballet" -blog is awesome, well written, lots of photos and great videos!

      http://www.behindballet.com/

      The dance-wear post might be harder to realise than I thought.. It's not that easy to convince hard-working dancers to do a lot of extra stuff on the side. And I can imagine that having someone take you picture first thing in the morning isn't that much fun either. We will see.. :)

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