Stuttgarter Ballett Blog


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Mysterious Bloggerina (Blog Post #15)

DD: The 6 Step Program

Dance has always been a huge part of my life. Training to become a professional dancer was like training for the Olympics, all the time. There really wasn’t much time for anything else. I’ve never had a „normal“ job. The closest thing to a job I ever had was babysitting for our neighbors. Which I did a total of two whole times. Usually after school I’d run straight to ballet class and wouldn’t finish until late at night. By that time I’d be too tired and hungry to do anything besides eat and sleep. Sometimes I feel like I missed out on a few iconic childhood moments, but looking back at what experiences dance gave me instead, I don’t regret it at all.

When you start something so unique at such a young age and continue to pursue it as an adult you sometimes lose track of what’s „normal“ and what’s really not. The life of a ballet dancer is a very short lived career. Regardless of injuries or not, it doesn’t last forever and a lot of dancers struggle with what to do after dance. Life after dance seems so far away, until you blink and you’re suddenly 15 years older trying to find a new career that’s equally as fulfilling. It’s hard because after so many years of doing something so special and so specific, you have no idea what it’s like to work in a more „conventional“ work environment. That’s why I think there should be a „6 Step De-Dance Program“ or „DD“. Six essential steps that help dancers integrate into the normal world.

Step 1. Admit that you were a dancer. If you can’t work the cash register at your new job that’s ok! You’ve been busy twirling around on your toes or lifting girls in the air. You probably don’t know how to count past 8. Just admit that you haven’t been to school in 100 years and therefore forgot all possible mathematical skills. No one will judge you. To your face.

Step 2. Recognize that you aren’t alone. There are plenty of other dancers out there just like you struggling to make it in the „real world“, expecting a round of applause every time they turn in an assignment on time*.

Step 3. Examining past errors with the help of a sponsor. Oh shit, sorry. That’s from another program…The next step is accepting the fact that you are not allowed to be naked in front of your work colleagues anymore. I know it took a while for you to get comfy enough in your skin to strip down in front of everyone for that quick costume change in the first place. Especially when you came to the company as a modest little apprentice. But now it’s time to retire your inner nudist and accept the life of a fully clothed „normal“ human being.

Step 4. It’s not going to be ok to crack your hip while you’re talking to someone (see previous blog post titled „Snap, Crackle, Pop!“). Yea, none of that anymore. That’s considered weird and creepy and people might mistake the cracking noise for a fart and then you’d just be known as the office farter and no one would want to talk to you anymore.

Step 5. Accept the fact that you’re going to have to learn a new set of skills. Dropping into the splits is only appropriate before ballet class or as a cool party trick, not at job interviews. Vagina lifts are now a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen. The sooner you accept this the better off you’ll be.

Step 6. The final step. Always try to concentrate on the positives in life. You don’t have to shave your armpits as often! None of your work mates will (hopefully!) be touching them, so there’s no need to worry about your partner talking about how hairy and sweaty your armpits are behind your back. Isn’t that a relief? Just make sure to wear long sleeved shirts at all times and I’m telling you, you’ll have a mighty fine life after your ballet career. You’re welcome.

 

*We dancers applaud for everything and we constantly receive massive applause for our work from an audience. In class if someone does something well, we all applaud. If someone does something funny, we applaud. If someone does the combination alone, we clap with the beat of the music while that person is dancing. If someone falls (and they haven’t injured themselves) we will most likely applaud them on their clumsiness. Newsflash: in the real world no one is going to applaud you for doing your job. „Bravo! Let’s give a round of applause to Jenny who just sold a T-shirt to some random lady here at H&M. Standing ovation! She also sold some earrings!“


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Mysterious Bloggerina (Blog Post #14)

Ballet-isms

I wanted to write a helpful guide for any outsider that might one day find themselves watching a ballet class and wondering what the hell the teacher is talking about, and how the hell all the dancers seem to understand. So I’ve created a list of ballet related phrases to help out those in need:

  1. „Think up to go down“. This usually refers to when a dancer basically just bends their knees. There’s no such thing as just bending your knees in any given position „einfach so“. Once you’re in a position and you are ready to descend you have to think of pulling up, then, and only then can you bend your knees. Oh and every ballet teacher knows if you’re thinking it or not. It’s a super power. There’s no bull shitting them with this one.
  2. „Feel the floor“ and „the floor is your friend“. Because no one else is. No, that’s not true. This usually means that you need to keep your heels on the floor while you’re dancing and use your plié (the up-to-go-down knee bend thing). Not to be confused with physically lying on the floor and stroking it mid exercise. The floor isn’t actually your friend. No need to feel it up. That would be weird.
  3. „Energy! Presence!“ I think these are pretty obvious. No one likes a dead face or a limp corpse dancing around the room.
  4. „Finish up.“ Finish the combination with your stomach in and chin up.
  5. „Feel the music“. Just listen to the music and be on the friggen counts. It’s really not that hard. Just do it.
  6. „Head, head, head. Yes.“ The dancer probably just did 3 turns in a row and landed it, hence the „Yes“. The „head, head“ thing is just a reminder to spot as you turn.
  7. „Opposition“. I guess this goes back to the up-to-go-down thing. Opposition. Opposites. Get it?
  8. „Lengthen through the knee“. Stretch your knee. It’s probably bent. Simple as that.
  9. „No sickles. Fish the foot“. I don’t even know how to explain this. Ask me to demonstrate next time you’re watching class. It has something to do with the correct positioning of the foot.
  10. „Soft arms“. Make your arms less tense looking. I know you’re probably tensing every single muscle in your body just to get through the exercise but make your arms look like your frolicking through a meadow of flowers. It’s all about smoke and mirrors.
  11. „Shit off the shoe“. This one might just be a Stuttgart Ballet original but it basically just means „push the floor really hard with your foot as if you’re wiping a piece of shit off your shoe“. Others might say „strike a match on the ground“, see where I’m going with this? No? Me either.
  12. „Slice it.“ „Work it.“ „Feel it“. No this is not a Daft Punk song, it’s a ballet-ism.
  13. „Don’t throw it away!“ Meaning; finish the combination well. Don’t just fall out of it and give up. Try to save what you can out of the spazzy movement you just did because on stage there are no „do-overs“.
  14. „Articulate the feet“. The way we use our feet is a huge part of dance and especially ballet. We have to always have them under control and strong to support all of the movement we do. „Articulating the feet“ means being in total control of your feet and using them thoroughly.
  15. „Get out of the mirror.“ This one refers to how we shouldn’t constantly be watching ourselves in the mirror as we dance. Dancers love to watch themselves in the mirror. But it’s mostly because we are constantly correcting ourselves and finding things that we don’t like and need to correct. It’s less in a narcissistic kind of way and more in a self-loathing kind of way. You know, the healthy kind.

There are many other „Ballet-isms“ or corrections that we hear all the time. We all know what we have to do but sometimes we just need a little reminder, and sometimes that reminder can make all the difference. Sometimes a simple „fish the foot“ is all it takes.


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Mysterious Bloggerina (Blog Post #13)

The Fritz 

One frequently asked question we dancers tend to get a lot is how we started dancing. The girls’ answer is usually, „Well I was about two years old and my mom took me to ballet class and I got to wear a pink tutu and a tiara and the rest is history!“ …The guy version? That’s where it gets interesting. The gay guy version is almost identical to the girl version. Just replace the „my mom took me“ with „I made my mom take me“ and you’re golden (or sparkly). Out of all the variations or versions on the „how I started ballet“ stories, no one beats the straight guys. The straight guys have the best stories ever. They’re so beautifully random and casual, some so unabashedly accidental that it makes me jealous I never had a „meet-cute“ moment with ballet. I honestly don’t even remember my first class!

In the pre-ballet classes there’s always that one little boy surrounded by a room full of girls in pink chiffon and rhinestones. He’s always „Fritz“ (the brother of „Clara“ in The Nutcracker), then later as he gets older he’s „The Prince“ (in Every Single Ballet You Do). At the end of the day, he’s probably the only one in the entire class at that tiny private ballet school in the suburbs that might actually have a chance at making it professionally anyways. So how did he get there?

His father was a world champion wrestler, mother was a stay at home mom. He had an older sister who never took a ballet class in her life. His parents wanted him to have an after school activity so they sent him to music classes which were two hours away by bus from his house. The first day of class he gets off the bus and walks into what he thinks is the music room, but turns out it was a ballet class! I guess after only a few lessons, not only did he realize he was in the wrong class, but he found himself totally absorbed in the whole ballet world. He hasn’t left since.

Other ballerino’s were inspired by celebrity male performers. Baryshnikov? Nureyev? Nope. The king of pop himself, Michael Jackson. One guy in the company used to dance around his living room to „Thriller“ and „Smooth Criminal“, knocking over furniture and just generally being a rambunctious little kid. One day his mother, who’d had enough with all of the broken lamps in her home, decides to send him to ballet class to help with his suspected hyperactive disorder. After a couple classes he was hooked, and applied that same amount of energy into the physically demanding work of ballet school. I’m honestly not sure if it helped or hindered the situation though, he’s still totally crazy and hyperactive, only now he gets paid for it.

Although ballet is traditionally associated with girls in pink tutus flying around, being lifted in the air, it’s the guys in white tights behind us that make our work look effortless. It doesn’t matter how they started, we’re just thankful they did. ‘The Nutcracker’ just wouldn’t be the same without The Fritz.

True story bro.


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Mysterious Bloggerina (Blog Post #12)

Doctor Stage

There’s no secret to how hard we push our bodies. Ask any physio therapist that has ever worked with a dancer and they’ll tell you. Our bodies go through hell and back and we rarely take care of it until it’s really bad. From sore muscles to broken bones, from one week off work to a full year. You name it, it’s probably happened. There really isn’t so much humor in injuries. We all know, tragedy + time = comedy. But still, it’s really not funny when someone injures themselves on stage, in class, or even walking on the street. (Ok, I’ll admit. It’s mildly funny when a dancer goes off because they’ve twisted their ankle walking on the street. I mean how is it that we can dance around on our toes all day but we can’t walk on cobble stones? I know. I know. I’m going straight to hell.) Anyways, It’s usually pretty heart breaking for a dancer not to be able to dance. I, for example, can’t hide when I’m in pain. I will let everyone know verbally or through overly dramatic massaging movements on and around the point of said injured spot. I will milk the shit out my injury so that everyone knows that I’m dying a slow and painful death, but I’m still in class. Suffering in silence? What? No way. I’m such a drama queen that way. But some dancers are incredible. They’ll literally dance an entire ballet (with a smile on their face!) come off stage and, oops, turns out they dislocated their knee in that last jump. No joke. It’s that intense. The audience has no idea. That’s why when those soccer players get kicked in the shins or whatever and are curled up in a ball whining I’m like, come on! Get up and stop crying! Go do 32 fouettes with no toe nails and then maybe we’ll talk.

It’s very rare to find a dancer that isn’t in some sort of pain at all times. It constantly feels like once one pain starts to go away, there’s suddenly a new one that creeps up on you from behind with a kitchen knife and a ‚Scream‘ mask. „What’s your favorite scary movie Sidney?“ Boom! Tendonitis in your achilles. I have to say though, there is something amazing about the stage. Once you get on stage suddenly all the pain goes away. My mom calls it „Doctor Stage“ (which actually sounds like it could be the title of a scary movie) but it’s true! You could be on crutches, no, in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down but the second you get on that stage you forget everything and just dance. Ok, that last one was a bit of an exaggeration. But you get what I’m saying. We can barely walk up the stairs in the morning to get to class yet when there’s a show suddenly all the muscle aches and pains, all the over-stretched this, that, and the other are healed and you just go out there and do it. It’s either that or all the Advil we’re all hopped up on. Either or.


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Mysterious Bloggerina (Blog Post #11)

Tour Life

Tours are fun*. They can also be stressful**. Traveling in a huge group one tends to expect and accept a certain amount of chaos. Even within a German ballet company. The chaos may be already factored into the schedule, but it’s definitely still there. There are so many things to organize and so many people to keep track of, it’s nearly impossible for things to run seamlessly.
 
We definitely don’t travel light. We have our director, his assistants, our ballet masters, our technicians, our „maske“, a select few from the press department, our set, our costumes, make-up, and a ton of pointe shoes that all travel with us. Traveling together is part of the fun. We are such a wonderfully weird group of individuals, when put together we forget how to conduct ourselves in the real world. Walking down the aisle of the plane you’ll see legs flying in the air, feet twirling in circular motions. Dancers congregating and stretching at the back of the plane, a free drink in hand (thank you Luftansa), and the stewardesses yelling at us to „Please return to your seats!“
 
Yes, tours are definitely fun. The second we all get to a new hotel and get our assigned rooms we get out our phones and take down each other’s room numbers. You know, because God forbid we should get separated from each other for a few hours! The hotels we stay in are usually pretty nice. Breakfast is a big deal, if the breakfast is good we love the hotel. If the breakfast is shit, we hate the hotel. If breakfast isn’t included, just don’t talk to me, I’m that upset about it and will continue to be for the rest of the tour.
 
It always takes a certain amount of time before you really settle into a place and get your head around things. It’s like traveling anywhere, it takes time to get your bearings. Once one person in the company discovers a cool cafe or restaurant, suddenly everyone’s all over it. „Did you hear? There’s a really good sushi restaurant right around the corner from the hotel. It’s so good, and cheap!“ Suddenly that „really good sushi restaurant“ becomes our canteen. It’s funny because we all pretend like we don’t want to be around each other all the time. We complain about being sick of each other, but I think deep down we know that we’d actually really hate to be completely separated and alone. Especially on tour. Correction: Especially on tours to Asia.
 
Asian tours are always the greatest, well, they make for the best stories anyways. „Lost in Translation“ doesn’t even begin to describe the looks that some people have on their faces the first time they get off the plane and arrive in China. It’s definitely another world from the one we’re used to. We’ve done class in some interesting studios. Some have been massive, so big we could fit three of our companies in one room. While others have been so teeny tiny that some can’t even bend forward without hitting the person in front of them in the butt. The floors have been too hard, too slippery, too sticky. Some stages are tiny, others HUGE. The biggest thing about tour is learning how to suck it up and do your job regardless of the circumstances. Easier said than done.
 
Food poisoning is always a big scandal on tours. Sorry, „on tours to Asia“. There’s always someone that eats the mystery beef stew and suffers the consequences later. I’ve actually never gotten sick on tour, I think it’s probably due to my iron stomach. It seems I can eat anything. Although I tend to steer clear of the mysterious and poorly translated dishes that you find on some menus. „Meat muscle stupid bean sprouts“ or „Meat fried cat ear/the plate“ or my personal favorite „Big dump in vegetable and fork“.
 
This last tour we went on was awesome. In London not much can go too terribly wrong. Besides the fact that the stage was the size of a postage stamp, the floor was too hard, and we didn’t have barres for our first class in the studio and had to use a prop horse instead, it was great! There weren’t any complaints about the food, no need for suggestions on places to visit. People seemed happy. I think the fact that there wasn’t a language barrier helped too. No having to mime the type of animal you’d like to eat to your waiter. „Chicken. Chicken? You know? Cluck! Cluck! (insert chicken dance here)“.
 
* What a revolutionary sentence. I realize, I’m quite the genius aren’t I? …Maybe I should just stick to ballet.
**Ok, would anyone mind if I were to just end this blog entry right here, right now?