A unique window into the life of the dancers

They look like they float effortlessly over the stage, defying the laws of gravity. To do so, ballet dancers go through a demanding routine every day. A small but faithful audience is about to find how, and I consider myself lucky to be among them.

With Training on Stage, the Bayerisches Staatsballett offers a special gemstone as part of its Ballet Extra series: the audience is invited to join the dancers on stage of the Nationaltheater and view close up and live what a real-life ballet training looks like. Facing the beautiful auditorium, the audience takes their seats around the ballet barres.

Sitting on the other side of the curtain for once, gets me thinking and comparing the training to the performance: We all know the feeling of watching a graceful ballerina dance from one side of the stage to the other, letting every centimetre look like she is much more floating than actually touching the floor; or have seen jumps that make us wonder how on earth they can jump so high and so lightly. How does such level of perfection actually come to be? Training on Stage is a great opportunity to educate the audience and to give them a rare glance at what ballet dancers are made of. Director Igor Zelensky, renowned former dancer himself, is leading the class today. After a brief welcome, he gets started right away as the dancers find their places side by side at the barre.

Pianist Simon Murray accompanies the exercises, always in close contact with Igor Zelensky and adapting the tempo immediately and smoothly whenever requested. At the barre exercises include for example pliés, tendus, ronds de jambs and developpés.

After an hour of sweat-dripping and back-banding the barres get removed to open up the space for some jumps. At this point the audience is captivated by the level of strength, stamina, flexibility and coordination the dancers have presented, and yet with Zelensky’s playful announcement “Let’s dance!” a new level of excitement spreads across their faces.

Usually, the daily training takes place in one of the theatre’s studios, where the dancers face a large mirror to check their movements. On stage, this is missing, so it gives a little extra to the dancers, at this allowing them to fully focus on their movements, giving them the freedom to simply move and feel their body.

It’s hard to describe the uniqueness of the situation: with the beautiful ambiance of the auditorium in the background, the audience bears witness to the coordination and patience taking place before our eyes. Every single exercise and small choreography are being repeated by groups of dancers, each in their row. While watching the precision and – at the same time – speed with which movements and exercises are being executed, one might feel like comparing dancers to an athlete. But frankly, even though dance is a very physical endeavour, we can’t forget the goal here is not a finish line or a trophy. Dancers are artists – they are telling stories, they inspire and disrupt the commonplace.

As I look around, seeing the fascination and admiration in the faces of my fellow members of the audience, I realize that Training on Stage offered me this unique window into the dancers’ lives and helped me understand more about what dancers do, understand more about their profession beyond the sheer entertainment.

Author: Diana Dimitrova
Diana Dimitrova studied Scandinavian Studies and German Philology and Art History and completed a 3-months internship at Bayerischen Staatsballett in the press and marketing department.

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