On Monday 16th March 2020 we received a Company email telling us to no longer come into the ROH. I initially thought this would only be for a couple of weeks and little could I have foreseen this was going to be the case for a long time. I was very sad not to be able to perform my scheduled performances of Odette/Odile in Swan Lakein May and June 2020. At least I have beautiful memories to treasure from my performance as Tatiana in Oneginwhich was my absolute highlight of this Season. My last appearance on stage was on 25th February 2020 when I danced Dances at a Gatheringand I don't know when my next performance will be.
I am able to keep fit via regular zoom Company classes but this cannot replace the work I do when physically present in a large studio space: I cannot practice my jumps nor my pirouettes nor can I work with a dance partner on pas de deux's, and all this results in losing stamina. I am confident this will return as soon as we can start practicing again. All Company members are currently on holiday until 13th July 2020, the date when we can use the ROH studios on a voluntary basis as we are all still on furlough.
I am very much looking forward to seeing all my colleagues back at the ROH when the time is right again to do so.
I am sending my very best wishes to all the members of the Ballet Association.
Principal, The Royal Ballet
Hi Everyone from the Ballet Association, it’s been too long!!! I hope you are alright and safe wherever you are!
Matthew Ball and I have been isolating together ...
It has been a very strange time for everyone, but we are trying to stay as positive and productive as possible whilst in lockdown for now, away from work and everyone ... We have been taking zoom classes with the Company to try and keep in some sort of dancing shape and give the days some routine, as well as taking some eerie walks through empty Central London.
Matt and I together live near Holborn Station, and everyone seems to have moved away from us ... quite sad to see all the theatres, museums and universities completely shut, it feels like the artistic life has been taken away from here :( ... on the other hand it feels nice to find some quietness and peace around this area), but again this has been going on for too long!
I was getting myself ready for my big debut in Swan Lakeas ‘Odette/Odile’ an opportunity that I have always dreamed of, and only two weeks before my performance the whole ‘Covid’ kicks in ... how sad it was to throw all the work of a season away... but never mind, I have been keeping strong and confident that this will end very soon and things will go back to normal ...
I truly hope you are all taking care of yourselves too ... We have come to ‘the official’ end of a season, unfortunately not the best way to end it ... How surreal that we got to be away from our so loved theatre for over three months now!! Just insane! I hope this ends soon so we can be back all together in that gorgeous space dancing our hearts out for you, helping to take you all away from all this sadness spread in the world during the past few months.
Thanks a lot for all the love and support! We miss you all very much,
First Soloist, The Royal Ballet
Things sure do change. On March 2020, after dancing Swan Lakeat the Royal Opera House, I felt the warm applause of 2600 enthusiastic fans. Just a few days later, I began performing for a not-so live audience of one: my fridge. Like bankers pitching a deal, or a bunch of friends having digital cocktails, I too have joined the Zoom world. With one hand on a clothes rack, I’m careful not to knock a picture frame off my nightstand as I ‘grand battement’, all the while squinting at my laptop to follow Brian Maloney, who’s teaching company class from his kitchen in Milton Keynes. No full mirror means no form of self-correction, no teacher present means no reliance on the essential, discerning eye that will tell me to turn out or put my shoulders down. Jennifer Homans of The New York Times recently said, “Dancers are a kind of urban wildlife, and as they crop their bodies to Zoom squares we can almost feel their horizons shrinking.” The last time I felt this cramped while dancing was in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’— scene eight, where Alice grows and the room shrinks. It is disheartening — class is not only our time to get stronger, it’s also our time to bond. Covid-19 has reduced this ancient and revered daily practice to a confined, solitary event. But when I see my colleagues on the screen, some of whom are overseas, making the best of their respective tight spaces, I’m filled with pride. There is no willpower that ebbs and flows through a community like that of the dance community.
I’m proud to have stayed on top of my strength and conditioning. But without the extensive facilities of our ROH gym, I’ve had to improvise a bit: half-gallon water jugs with handles are now dumbbells. Sofas and chairs are now low, but willing, substitutes for equipment. My body, however, is still getting the kick and fine-tuning it needs from our trainers, who are also accessible by – you guessed it – Zoom. A lot of us have also taken up running in an attempt to keep our stamina levels up. Stationary rowing and the cross trainers are my preferred in-season low-impact, heart-rate machines, but lately I’ve been lacing up my sneakers (for the record, much more comfortable than pointe shoes) and tracking my miles on a GPS running app. To my mind, nothing keeps a dancer at peak fitness like dancing does, but I’ve been doing as much as I can to fill that void, not just for my body, but also for my head.
Speaking of my head... shouldn’t there be some positive cranial knock-on effects from this lockdown? Absolutely. Pre-Covid, my free time was occupied by the essential triad: sleeping, eating, and laundry. The lockdown, however, has allowed me to properly reconnect myself with a reliable and dear friend: reading. I particularly enjoyed ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles. It’s an exquisitely written novel that chronicles the story of a 1920's Russian aristocrat under house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. How appropriate, no? The elegantly rendered scenes and sparkling cast of characters made it a perfect lockdown escape. I felt a certain Corona-based kinship with the protagonist, in that although he was unable to leave the lavish (in his case) hotel, he strove to give purpose and significance to even the smallest details of his repetitive day-to-day.
I try not to perseverate on the uncertainty of the times, but when I do, I think of our House—our jewel-box of a theatre, once buzzing with pre and post-show chatter, now eerily empty, silent, and still. Earlier this season, I debuted the role of ‘Jacqueline du Pre’ in Cathy Marston’s new work ‘The Cellist.’ It was my first performance after three months of injury, during which time I was unable to do what I love. In perhaps another bit of foreshadowing, I played a character whose passion, albeit in much more tragic circumstances, was abruptly taken from her. Today, I’m once again unable to do what I love, but for different and strange reasons. So I’m breathing deeply and trying to take each day as it comes. The world is in flux, and there are significant challenges ahead. I’m concerned about the precarious position of the arts in our cultural landscape and I’m not sure what things will look like. But for me one thing will always stay the same, and that’s the need to dance. I’m hopeful that we will come back stronger and more in love with this art form than we’ve ever been. So until then, I’ll keep dancing.
First Soloist, The Royal Ballet