A Three-Dimensional Look at English National Ballet’s Beyond Ballets Russes

“Participants at English National Ballet’s behind-the-scenes event were promised a look Inside Ballet. What they got was more than just that…

Watching the Company dancers in class is equivalent to delving deep into the inner workings of the Company – it is an incredibly revealing glimpse at the work ethic and discipline of each dancer as well as the sensibility and individuality with which they work.

Scenery and props had been pushed aside to clear the stage for barres and an aged upright piano. The dancers arrived, clad in layers of well-worn practice clothes in a jumble of colours. Nothing could be further from the glamour and sparkle of the performance to come in just a few hours from now.

Dancers’ bodies are their instruments; they know them down to the last bone and muscle fiber. A central part of a dancer’s everyday regime, company class offers them a chance to improve their technique. Each dancer has their own focus; perhaps a wobbly pirouette in last night’s performance that needs fixing, or a twinge in an ankle that signals an impending injury if not treated gently. Unlike an amateur ballet class where every student performs the same exercises in unison from beginning to end, these professionals tailor the class to suit the specific needs of their bodies.

Coming out of their grotto in the pit, six members of English National Ballet’s orchestra, under the leadership of principal timpanist Kate Eyre, breathed life into the spellbinding melodies written by composers Stravinsky and Debussy. The euphonious music the “chamber orchestra” played was enhanced by the intimate setting and took on a life of its own – one that can be overlooked beneath the action on stage.

Completing the all-encompassing morning, Jane Pritchard delivered an engaging and informative lecture. Her fluid and authoritative delivery recalled the inherent grace of a dancer, as she drew participants to look beyond English National Ballet’s current production to the rich history that served as its inspiration.

Armed with eyes of a hawk and ears of a bat, the Inside Ballet participants entered the theatre – expectant, exuberant and excited. As the afternoon unfolded, their enhanced senses were arrested by the viscerally charged Rite of Spring, subtly teased by regal Faun(e)s’, and taken to soaring heights on the wings of the Firebird.”

Germaine Cheng, Elizabeth McLean

Take a peak at another ‘behind the scenes’.