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.
Through the wings
The performances for our next programme West are so near, that we can almost see the premiere audience arriving at the theater. These next few weeks, our rehearsal building at home at ‘t Eilandje will have to cope without us while we occupy the opera house in Ghent. In the dressing rooms, the female dancers lay out lipstick, rouge and hairspray on their makeup tables. We bring our foot rollers and water bottles backstage and take the daily ballet class on stage, with a view of the beautiful auditorium. Clothing racks with costumes line the hallways. Stage calls and announcements are being made through the speakers and our cast lists and schedules are pinned on the notice board next to the stage entrance.
In our rehearsal building we have five ballet studios and a small stage divided between five floors. As we were preparing for this program, that consists of three very different works, we nearly always had rehearsal in the same space for each piece. For Approximate Sonata 2016 rehearsals were on the fifth floor, Pond Way on the third floor and Shahrazad, our world premiere, on stage on the ground floor. Each of these pieces presents its own style, atmosphere and a different set of challenges and tasks for the dancers. Walking up and down the stairs from one rehearsal room to another almost felt like a transition between different worlds.
Working on a dance performance is like mental time travel. As we go through the pieces and concentrate on the moment, we hold in mind past mistakes that were already corrected, while also envisioning how the steps should work out in the future. All these intentions, the memory of the process behind us and the goals we have in mind stay present between the four walls of the studio. Entering that familiar space, committing to re-creating and experiencing the world of each choreography day after day, allows us to take ownership of the material. In this way we become masters of the piece, the group of bodies and minds ready to transmit the choreographer’s vision into a very special space. A space not enclosed by walls, but open and surrounded by wings on three sides and the auditorium on the fourth.
The magic of the stage of course, is not only created by us. There are lights from many directions, sets, costumes, an orchestra and a fantastic team backstage monitoring and controlling everything, every instant, every change. Thanks to all these elements, we too get to live through the wonder of the moment. Many things culminate here, visions come alive, years of training and months of rehearsing get rewarded, fabric has turned into clothes, the installing and assembling of technical elements enhances and illuminates. And, one more thing. The most important ingredient of stage magic, the audience. So far there has only been a handful of people following our stage rehearsals. Now, we cannot wait for the full house, the rush, the energy of so many faces directed one way, ours. We are ready.