Emmi's Pen (5): In transit

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.

In transit

Our performances are in full swing right now. As you envision what our days are like, you might be harbouring a series of cinematic images about performing-life. You picture us checking our reflection in the dressing room mirror, just before running on stage. Hear us exchanging final words of encouragement as the curtain is already rising. You sense our concentration during the performance, perhaps envy the elation we are feeling as we receive the applause at the end of a show. You are not mistaken in thinking of these instances. All of it really does occur. There are however many more sides to the whole picture. For example, last week we spent at least two hours a day traveling on a bus between our home theatres in Antwerp and Ghent.

The many personalities, interests and hobbies of dancers come out on the bus. Headphones stream music, ranging from electronic beats to classical music, into the eardrums of dancers who prefer their own bubble to the general chatter and laughter. Recently the ladies of the ballet launched a bookclub, which significantly boosted the number of readers on our commutes. Naturally you can spot the sewing of pointe shoe ribbons, and in the case of men, sewing elastics onto their soft ballet slippers. There is also studying of languages, management, orchestra scores and millinery skills as well as activities like napping, meditating, sketching, writing, sudoku and word puzzles not to forget, watching dance and ballet videos.

The atmosphere on the bus is certainly very different before and after the show. Already the big contrast in what is seen through the windows sets the mood for each drive. The first ride is accompanied by a view on small towns, farmland and countryside, whereas the second mostly features the front and backlights of passing cars engulfed in darkness. This quietness accurately mirrors the landscape of our mind. At first we are in silent preparation for the performance, later in reflection of our moments in the spotlight. No matter what activity or conversation we might be immersed in, the main focus, the underlying point of concentration on these bus rides is always the performance.

I believe that all this time spent on the road binds us together tighter as a group in many ways. We learn to give space, to honour each other’s varying moods and needs. Especially towards the end of the performances when everybody is tired and the importance of focusing only on the essential rises, the existence of good camaraderie is imperative. In Finland we have a saying that goes: You don’t know your friends before you travel together. I feel privileged in being able to affirm that we really are a good team. No doubt this also translates on stage.

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