World Ballet Day!

Many of the dance pages I follow on Facebook have been going on about the World Ballet Day this week. Yesterday morning, the excited posts reached peak hype intensity, so I decided to google World Ballet Day and see what all the fuss was about.

Fortunately, I had just run out of work to do, because I spent the next eight hours drifting in and out of the fascinating live stream. In case you missed it, the World Ballet Day is a day where five of the world’s leading ballet companies live stream their classes and rehearsals to give viewers a unique view behind the scenes. The entire live stream goes on for 22 hours, so I hope no one was trying to marathon that. There’s a video archive on their site, too. The trailer for 2017 might give you an idea what this is all about:

Time zones being what they are, I jumped in at the very start of the Bolshoi part and watched some of the Royal Ballet in the afternoon. I was surprised to discover that the part I most enjoyed watching was not rehearsals but the company class and the kid’s classes.

The company class at the Bolshoi was quite the revelation. I was not aware of this, but morning class at a ballet company is not exactly the place to learn things but rather the dancers’ warm-up for the rehearsals to come. Unlike the kids enrolled in the ballet school, the company dancers don’t wear uniforms to class. All classes and rehearsals are accompanied by live piano music, which is wonderful.

My mother told me about an article in which the author described Bolshoi dancers all but crawling into the studio in the morning, complaining of aches and pains everywhere, but then going on to dance beautifully. This is to be expected if you push your body to the limit all day, every day. But it’s a different thing entirely to see and hear it from the dancers themselves.

The company class at the Bolshoi was taught by a wonderful ballet master, Boris Borissovitch Akimov, a former dancer and director of the Bolshoi. His teaching style was very sweet and he praised his dancers after every combination. It was also quite impressive to see a man only a year younger than my grandfather lift his legs higher than I ever have.

From an adult beginner’s perspective, company dancers are pretty much gods. Therefore, I was surprised that many of the corrections they got were the same ones we get in the beginners’ class. It’s just that the professionals are off their mark by millimeters, not miles like us. I certainly couldn’t see most of the mistakes the ballet master was pointing out.

The Royal Ballet’s company class was very similar. It was taught by another senior ballet authority, Olga Evreinoff. She was also very, very sweet, but did give lots of targeted corrections to her charges. Very impressive with both ballet masters was the fact that they can remember every dancer’s name and that they change up the exercises every day. Equally impressive was the dancer’s ability to do a combination perfectly (although not always) after a minimal demonstration and a very fast verbal instruction.

I was especially awed by men’s technique. Both teachers would give slightly different allegro variations for male and female dancers and, especially with Olga, I felt like the men got to suffer a lot more. I mean, how is a tour en l’air even physically possible?!

All in all, it was a very educational and fascinating event with lots of impressions. I also loved watching the kids’ classes, from the really tiny ones at the Bolshoi to the girls just starting en pointe at the Royal Ballet. It’s amazing how much hard work goes into a dancer’s career. The rehearsals at both companies showed just how much that work pays off!

Did you watch World Ballet Day? Which part did you enjoy the most? What were your impressions?

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