Emmi's Pen (11): Theatres and mountains

Emmi’s Pen is a blog, appearing on our website every two weeks. Dancer Emmi Pennanen will take you behind the scenes into the daily joys and struggles of a dancer, each time zooming in on a specific aspect of life at Ballet Vlaanderen.

Theaters and mountains

The coming together and undoing of Spartacus had me so swamped up in emotions, that words completely left me for a little while. Existing in the twilight of theatre hours, circling corridors between the dressing room, makeup department and backstage, all actions and thoughts were aimed at those stage-light flooded moments. Tracing my way back home at night, without having fully left the events of the rehearsal or performance behind, only the residue of eyelash glue made sure that my tired eyes stayed open. As much as a performance is a temporary journey to other worlds, stepping out of this time into another, it certainly imposes a strict routine on the reality of everyone involved behind the scenes. The knowledge of having over thousand people sitting in the audience every night is a powerful motivator to set other priorities aside.

Having climbed and reached the peak of the massive mountain Spartacus, we jumped right over to conquer not just one but a number of other majestic, new mountains. In the past weeks we have been working on pieces of no less than six world renowned choreographers and stepping into the whirlwinds and turbulences of the varied languages of all these exciting artists. Directly we immersed ourselves into opposing aesthetics from the ones that where required on stage just a week before. New steps, sensations, images and corrections have been circling our heads like flocks of birds. Especially for the three pieces in our next programme East, a lot of explosive power, speed, coordination and raw leg strength is required. We have certainly been able to feel our muscles very well lately.

Last Sunday I was walking around the cobbled streets of Antwerp, feeling a strong kinship with the light drizzling rain. In a bookshop I picked up a photography publication with the title Abandoned places. The image that really stayed in my mind, was a picture of an old nearly collapsing theatre auditorium. It made me think, what a place a theatre is. All the stories, dream come-trues, momentary elations, disappointments and successes it silently stands to witness. A generous host, a wise observer, an epicentre of magic. The stage its heart, the wings its lungs, the performances its blood. From early in the morning until after midnight a steady buzz fills all its rooms, corridors and corners. Yet, every night it is left standing empty in the middle of the city, waiting for a new day to flood in the people that invade its privacy.

Since the beginning of the season we have performed in seven different Theatres. Last Wednesday we took a break from rehearsing for upcoming productions and brought our Van Manen/Cherkaoui programme to Bonn. With the same production we will also visit Tilburg next week. This adds two more new Theatres to our list. In addition to these tours we had a very special occasion right after Wednesdays performance. A group of dancers traveled on to Wuppertal. There we worked on the legendary Cafe Müller by Pina Bausch, and saw the piece performed by her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal. This time we sat in the audience instead of occupying the stage. What a rare and precious experience.

As you can tell, a lot is happening here at Ballet Vlaanderen. Days are a jumble of continuous movement from one world to another, always giving hundred precent of who we are. Sometimes we might be tired, but everything really is as it should be. We are dancing as much as our bodies and souls can take. Always getting ready to bring yet another thrilling production into the theatres and opera houses, we get the privilege of temporarily lighting up.

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