In Brazil being a professional Ballet Dancer is not a common thing at all. In a country with very rich culture, its sad to say, soccer is still the pretty much all people know and talk about (even after the seven-one fiasco), so ballerinas are a hard thing to come across. Whenever I tell someone I am a professional dancer, I get many different reactions, some people ask me what TV channel I work on, others give me a knowing look thinking I mean stripper, but most people ask me if I teach.
I understand how this can be a normal process of thought, in a country with a population of 200,4 million people, there are only five or six successful ballet companies, so unfortunately its almost impossible to live of dancing in Brazil. So dancers are forced to teach on their free time in order to supplement their income.
But no, I don’t teach, I dance seven hours a day, five days a week, give or take, and yes, I can live of that.
At the moment i work at a State Theater in the city of Karlsruhe. In Germany, culture is highly valued and supported. A lot of German cities have Theaters, and a few big cities have numerous successful companies. So Germany is an artist’s paradise.
The Karlsruhe Ballet company is a medium sized company, with 30 dances and 6 production a year.
As a contracted dancer my routine is quite heavy, I work form Tuesdays to Saturdays, having Mondays and Sundays free unless there is a show.
I arrive at the theater around 9:30 (I will try to come in earlier next season) and the day starts at 10:00 with professional ballet class that goes until 11:20. At 11:40 rehearsal starts.
During the week rehearsal goes until 14:00 and than again from 18:00 until 21:00, and on Fridays and Saturdays we come back from 15:00 to 18:00. We have an average of 60 shows per season and shows can vary days, most shows are on the weekends, frequency also varies, sometime we do one show a month and others, up to five on one week.
We have two new productions every season (the new productions is usually what takes up most of rehearsal time) and four productions that come back from the previous season. When a production is already running it does not need as much rehearsal time as a new production. A few hours are usually enough for the body to remember the steps, and a few “cleaning rehearsals” guarantee we are all doing the same steps at the same time. Sometimes we have more than two different shows a week, so that a means we will rehearse three or more different productions at the same time.
Another normal question is how can I remember all the steps. That is a tricky one, because I don’t really know…. I feel muscle memory has a lot to do with it. Sometimes I will be stuck trying to remember a step or a position, and as soon as you get up and try to do it the body remembers a lot more than the brain. Music also plays a very big role, remembering steps with the music is a lot easier than without.
In Karlsruhe we are quite spoiled when it comes to public. Our public really loves the ballet.
Almost every show is full, sometimes we have productions that have been running for three or four years and that are still full. Its really amazing for a city with 200.000 people. Specially because the ballet is not the only branch of the theater. In between operas, concerts, acting, divided in between two stages and a acting house. So basically there is a show on everyday.
And as you most imagine, to keep all of this happening all of the time, there is a lot of people working backstage. I will try to show you a bit more of everything that goes on in the future.
So I hope knowing a little bit more about our routine you will have new questions next time you meet a dancer 🙂