June 2, 2012

HIBC: About Sitz Bones and Nerves

Popo down! It's one of the more frequent corrections we get in ballet class, meaning that we have to keep ourselves properly aligned to create that beautiful ballet line. I haven't had class since the Helsinki International Ballet Competition (HIBC) started, but my popo has been down every evening - and I mean sitting down! Seriously, you need some strong sitz bones to make it through the daily competition rounds. The first dancers step on stage a few minutes past 19:00 hrs, and the last competitors take their bows a little before 22:00. Wich comes down to almost three hours of variation after variation, with one 30 minute intermission after two hours. But we all do it for the love of ballet! It is a wonderful treat to see all this young talent, and the audience has been showing their appreciation night after night. I hope the dancers feel it too, that we all want them to succeed and enjoy their time on stage!

Maria Baranova (Finland). Just look at her eyes!
Photo: courtesy of HIBC / Sakari Viika.

Competitions are nerveracking, for sure, but somehow the dancer has to channel that excitement and adrenaline into a positive force. If you let your nerves get the better of you, it turns into a killjoy - and the audience can tell. A week ago I performed in my dance school's spring show, and although it's all for fun, I was nervous as hell. I worried too much about failing and looking bad, instead of trusting myself and enjoying the experience. Luckily, I wasn't on stage alone and my initial fear and tension was swept away by our joint energy and joy! Looking back, I now understand how important it is not to sabotage yourself. Believe that you can, no matter what. When you step on stage there is no stepping back, not until you've given it all you've got and received the audience's applause!

Yun Wang (China) in her variation from Nutcracker.
Brilliant technique and artistry! Also one of the prettiest tutus.
Photo courtesy of HIBC / Sakari Viika.

Watching the competitors this past week has really inspired me. The poise before pressure, the smiling faces, the drive and determination. Ballet is incredibly hard, contracts even harder to come by, yet they persist and dance on. Someone who doesn't know about ballet would probably wonder if it's really worth all the aches and pains and nerves and sweat and tears, but it is. I know this, even though I'm looking from the outside in. Ballet is an art full of wonder, and a learning experience from the first step until the last. Ballet pushes you, tests you, and on occasion kicks you into the butt. Ballet is also a gift that keeps on giving, to the dancer and the audience. It elevates us all.

Ryo Shimizu (Japan), in his variation from La Sylphide.
This junior has amazing ballon and elevation!
Photo courtesy of HIBC / Sakari Viika.


  1. I never did a single competition, so I really admire the dancers who do. I wish I could have been there to watch all those variations.

    By the way, I love the pictures, especially the first one.

    1. It is both a learning experience and a great opportunity to present yourself - but there's plenty of talent outside of competitions too. Some dancers thrive on the stage, but fail at competing. Which is fine, since dance is foremost a performing art!

      About the variations.. after the tenth Aurora or 12th DonQ, you start to long for something entirely different.. ;)

      The pics are courtesy of Mr. Sakari Viika - he's the National Opera's official photographer. I've watched him work, and it takes hundreds of shots to get pics this good!


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, ...