See for yourself: A glimpse behind the scenes

As a Dance is the Word writer, I am privileged to be able to attend a whole host of behind-the-scenes events, including workshops, rehearsals and masterclasses. But never have I enjoyed a day with English National Ballet so much as last Saturday, when I joined a Petrushka workshop for 11-14 year olds, which included a fascinating backstage tour of the London Coliseum.

The workshop explored the different movement styles of Petrushka’s three main characters. The Moor has big, bold arm shapes, whilst the Ballerina is like a wooden doll and Petrushka is floppy and turned-in. This was a great insight into Michel Fokine’s choreography, but it was the chance to explore the theatre’s backstage that really piqued my interest.

The costume room is close to the stage and was filled with rails of outfits for the Nureyev triple bill. There are numerous washing machines and dryers constantly on the go, cleaning the tights, shirts and many other items that need washing post-performance. A gorgeous red Paquita tutu was also sitting out, being repaired for future use.

In the shoe room downstairs, shoe supervisor Julie Heggie showed the boxes of pointe shoes, ballet flats, leather boots and character heels that had been transported in for English National Ballet’s stay at the Coliseum. She looks after a variety of pointe shoe styles – from the English Freeds, worn by most of the dancers, to the hard Russian Grishkos preferred by Vaganova-trained Daria Klimentova. Female dancers get ten pairs of shoes per month and wear them six days a week for 10-12 hours a day. Other costume shoes are made individually for each dancer using minute measurements of the feet.

Then, underneath the Raymonda chandeliers, the company took class onstage. Sitting remarkably still at the side of the stage while the dancers leapt and pirouetted, was a little boy, wearing a police hat and watching an animated film. The morning was completed with a post-class rehearsal of the Black Swan pas de deux by Laurretta Summerscales and Arionel Vargas, which was a real joy to watch.

You don’t have to be a Dance is the Word writer to get an insight into English National Ballet’s work and see what happens away from the main stage performances – sign up for one of the many Department of Learning events coming up and see for yourself – take a look here

Laura Dodge