Emmi's Pen (6): Knock knock

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.

Knock knock

Like everybody else we leave home each morning dressed in our regular seasonal street wear. I dare say that you would not be able to guess our profession based on our appearance. As soon as we arrive at work however, whether this is in Antwerp at our studios on Eilandje or at a theater, we will undergo a complete transformation of style. Jackets, jeans and sweaters come off and get replaced by close fitting leotards, tights, the occasional sportswear and all kinds of lumpy throw-ons we call warm up clothes. Sometimes while changing, we ask to borrow a skirt from a friend or look for scissors to trim loose threads on new pointe shoes. At times we might be in need for a spritz of perfume. The place that sets the scene for all these very first workday interactions is the dressing room.

The dressing room at our studios has red lockers on the sides and benches with coat hooks in the center. We keep our entire dance wardrobe, along with other important items, in the lockers. They might be compared to one’s desk at an office. In the same way that a desk reveals something of its owner’s personality, so do the lockers. There are very neat lockers sporting self-installed shelves, stocked with every necessity from vitamins to hairspray, just as there are lockers that exist in a constant state of controlled chaos.

Often the loges we occupy at the various theaters we perform at are luxurious in comparison to our home dressing room. Each dancer gets their own makeup table, the mirror of which is usually framed with light bulbs. Along with our costumes, sets and technical equipment, two carts filled with little black leather boxes arrive at the theater. These black boxes serve as our individual suitcases. Here we store our performance makeup, hair products, rehearsal wear, towels and other knick knack. There is a beauty to the routine of unpacking the black box and settling into a theater for the length of the performances.

Naturally the mood and conversation in the dressing room really influences our days at work. This is the place of transformation from leisure to action, the site where joy as well as sadness is being shared with friends and colleagues. Words of encouragement and criticism, inspiration and exhaustion, advice and warning are all being uttered here. Before a performance we might boost the mood with energetic music or calm our nerves with a tranquil melody. Each day we come full circle. The dressing room is the first space we enter and the last space we leave. What happens there is very defining indeed.

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