March 25, 2012

Behind the Scenes at FNB: Company Class

It was early, and I was getting somewhat nervous.. I had told the receptionist of my appointment with the Press Manager and that she would come and pick me up. There was still time to sit on the nice couch in the elegantly restrained foyer of the National Opera building and watch personnel coming in, mostly dancers. It was already a quarter before 10 A.M., morning class time. You cannot mistake ballet dancers for any other professions, not on the street, not among a big crowd. But here it was far too easy and I didn't want to stare. I was trying to be cool, you know (to cover up a sudden onset of shyness). Even when the famous, popular and stylish Minna Tervamäki, soon to be retired étoile, walked in. I'm lucky I'll get to see her farewell performance on the 31th of March - she is dancing the role of the bayadére Nikiya. Should have asked for her autograph! Next time, enough with the being-cool cover-up. ;)

Costumes for the upcoming La Bayadère.

Ten minutes before ten Heidi Almi, the very friendly Press Manager of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, walked in and gave me a warm welcome. She then escorted me trough a security-gate, down a long marble-paved corridor, small stairs up, where we took the elevator down into the basement. The Opera building has four dance studios, but the ballet may also use the smaller stage of Alminsali and two rehearsal spaces of the opera. The big basement studio has only been in use for about a year. It used to be a storage space for the stage sets, hence the the two-story-high ceiling. You could easily build a cheering-pyramid in that studio!

Alas, no cheerleaders but a room filled with about thirty ballerinas, clad in as many different warm-up clothes, some still drinking their morning coffee. No men, as this was pointe class. I took a furtive look around, and noticed a few curious glances into my direction. I felt oddly out of place in my jeans, as I have never been in class where I did not dance myself! I really wanted to be in sweats instead, and join everyone on the floor to do some stretches! It was weird, to say the least. But at the same time fascinating.

Ms. Almi asked me if I had met the teacher before, and since I did not, she introduced me to Barbora Kohoutková (click here for her bio) - guest principal dancer and pointe-teacher for the day. I'm a big fan of Kohoutková, she is one of those rare dancers who makes brilliant technique look both effortless, elegant and soulful. So you can imagine that I was a little star-struck.. Thankfully, I managed to utter something about how happy I was that I got to observe her class. Ms. Almi then introduced me to the dancers, saying how she had given notice of my visit earlier and that I was the one who writes several ballet-blogs. I just said hi and gave a big wave. Sudden onset of the shy, again! But, class was about to start anyway. The dancers limbering up for the first exercise, and the the charming pianist, Dmitri Pavlov, ready to play some inspirational music. And me sitting in the corner, all eyes and ears, notebook in hand!

To be continued..

This "Behind the Scenes at Finnish National Ballet" -serial would not have been possible without the interest and help of quite a few awesome people! Thanks go to the lovely Mira Ollila (soloist at FNB), the friendly Press Office, the Artistic Director Kenneth Greve (for giving permission to observe company class), and finally to all the dancers who were happy enough to answer my many questions!


  1. Yay! :) It all sounds so marvellous... I'm super excited to hear more. Thank you for writing this to us.

    1. Thanks, and you are welcome! It's so awesome that I get to share this experience with you! :)

  2. How exciting! I can't wait to read more!

  3. I can't wait for the next installment. :)


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...