English National Ballet, the agony and ecstasy

By Laura Dodge

Watching ballet dancers in their daily class is the epitomy of agony and ecstasy. Whilst performing beautiful movements with incredible flexibility, grace and strength, you can also see the aches and pains that never translate into stage performances, as dancers massage joints or grimace as they stretch an overworked muscle.

At the London Coliseum last week, a few lucky observers including myself were able to gain an insight into this critical part of every dancer’s day. The 75 minute class is a chance to focus the mind in preparation for upcoming rehearsals and performances, warm-up the body and refine ballet technique.

Commencing at the barre, dancers seemed wrapped-up as if ready to face an Arctic Winter with padded coats, thick boots, woolly leg-warmers and numerous other layers of clothing. But as movements expanded, progressing to high leg extensions, pirouettes and jumps, they peeled off their layers, eventually revealing the exquisitely-contoured and muscular frames that are unique to dancers.

Somehow still energetic after this lively morning routine, company members then rehearsed for The Sleeping Beauty. Lead Principal, Vadim Muntagirov, took to the stage first, spinning impressively and rapidly, but evidently dissatisfied with his prowess. The female corps de ballet then had the tough job of perfecting the ballet’s group choreography with artistic staff Jane Haworth, Loipa Araujo and Hua Fang Zhang scrutinising every angle for corrections.

I left as rehearsals of the Prologue fairies began, feeling exhausted just watching the dancers working so hard. If you haven’t yet been lucky enough to see English National Ballet in class or rehearsal, then I recommend you do. It gives a fascinating glimpse into the effort required to make each and every performance such a delight.

Laura Dodge