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Sleeping Beauty — The Pre-Show Class

As we approached and entered the venue, I nervously clutched my clipboard, upon which were the names of all the people involved in making this moment possible.

I felt sure that someone was going to stop me and gently inform me that this was all a big confusing mistake and I am not actually allowed in to watch the dancers in their pre-show class on stage.

I had my reply all worked out and running on repeat round and round in my head, for when they tried to tell me the dream was over.

So it was a pleasant surprise when we entered and asked for Hans, the production manager, and the woman behind the desk simply got up and walked us up some stairs all nonchalantly.

She asked us to wait outside the auditorium while she went to find Hans.

We waited. I ran more thoughts through my head about how ridiculous this whole idea was. And how Hans was sure to laugh at my bizarre request.

So I was even more surprised when a bubbly Hans walked out of the auditorium towards me, shook my hand and said: “Zoe! Ali told me you’d be coming today. So you want to come and watch class? Come on in.” And then continued to guide hubby and I through to the auditorium.

What? Just like that… I’m in? Seems to easy.

SPOILER ALERT: Nothing bad happened. No nets. No traps. No quicksand. Just a lovely afternoon stargazing at amazing dancers.

As we walked, Hans chatted calmly about menial (to him) things like what time the production crew had arrived and what time the dancers had arrived. When we finally got within view of the stage he chuckled and commented about how tiny the stage here was. And that this meant that they had to rearrange parts of the show so that they could fit on the stage.

I was pretty amazed by how difficult it would be for the dancers and choreographers to adjust their whole show in such a short amount of time — and then remember those adjustments the whole night long.

I asked Hans: “So the dancers have to learn all those changes between now and tonight’s show?” And Hans replied, with a smile: “Yeah. But they’re good at it.” The reply came with an air of intense confidence and struck a chord within me. A chord that was to remain poignant throughout the rest of the day and night.

Hubby and I found ourselves a seat in the auditorium. As there were no other spectators, I wanted to find a seat out of the way, where I wouldn’t feel so noticeable. But that just wasn’t going to happen. The lights were shining brightly down on all the seats — there was no safe zone. I just had to sit and enjoy.

Enjoyment didn’t take long.

As soon as I sat down my eyes were glued to the stage. Glancing off only occasionally to observe other crew members and ponder what their role might be.

The barres were set for class, the dancers lay about on the floor stretching every inch of their bodies while their conversational chatter bubbled away.

As the teacher started verbally running through the first combination, I was surprised to see that several of the dancers took their places at the barre to begin, while others continued to stretch a while longer before joining in. This casual approach, joining in when they felt ready/warm enough, wasn’t what I was expecting. Yes, clearly I am a novice to the pro-ballet world!

It wasn’t long before I had that magical moment that I have heard other dance students talk about. The moment when the language of ballet crosses the boundaries of all other languages.

I was listening to this thick Russian dialect being spoken on stage, when I realised I was understanding what was being said. This felt a little weird at first, and I was all like… wait, I don’t know Russian! But then I realised…

When the teacher was telling the dancers what exercises to do, he wasn’t speaking Russian, he was speaking ballet!

Amazing!! That was seriously amazing to experience. Absolutely loved that moment.

So the class got underway. My next surprise was the gorgeous laid back music they were dancing to. It almost sounded bluesy. Didn’t really sound like any classical ballet class music I had heard. And I LOVED it. It was extremely relaxing and mixed well with the continued, albeit quieter, chatter that bounced around the stage. The beginning of this class looked exactly like “warming up” should look in my mind.

[Sometimes I feel like the immediate rigidity that comes over me when I enter the classroom creates tension in both my body and mind, which works against the warming up process that is supposed to be unlocking ourselves to become looser and more pliable.]

The class picked up in intensity and the warmer the dancers got, the less they chatted until by the end of barre work, apart from the occasional comment or joke thrown in from the teacher (yes, he actually joked and laughed), they were pretty much silent as they concentrated on pushing the boundaries of their bodies.

They did an entire class including barre and centre work.

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It was surreal to watch such incredible dancers move their bodies, in real life, right in front of me. As an adult beginner, it was awe inspiring and really special. I felt like I had stepped into a sacred ceremony. So beautiful.

Once centre work was finished it was time for them to work on rehearsals and adjust to this tiny stage they would be dancing on tonight.

It was time for us to leave at this point. So I breathed in this magical scene one last time and hubby and I went off for some dinner.

But it wasn’t long before we were back at Lismore City Hall for the show.

And they didn’t disappoint.

At this point I come back around to that incredible adaptability that this company has to have. These performers had arrived in town that afternoon and within 3 hours they had warmed up, done class, worked on their adjustments to the tiny stage they were on, done make-up and costumes and were ready to perform.

And let’s not fairy-tale it, these guys wouldn’t all be injury free and without health issues, but they just push on. It must be completely grueling, but the show literally must go on.

I kept thinking about this through the evening as I watched them all create magic on the stage. Their level of professionalism is astounding.

And it was magical. They are gorgeous dancers and they filled the auditorium with wonder and awe.

This show is awesome. Beautiful, stunning and whimsical. And as all ballets I have ever seen, it seemed to end too soon.

I would like to thank Moscow Ballet La Classique for allowing me to come along to the pre-show class and for bringing their ballet to our region. You are brilliant. I love you!

I would also like to thank Grand International Concerts, in particular Ali, for helping me gain access to the pre-show class, and NORPA and Lismore City Hall for their contributions in bringing ballet to our region.

When all these organisations come together, you get the blessing of ballet reaching people who ordinarily might never be able to see it.

This is always an amazing thing.

Sometimes it is a life-changing thing.

To see more about these organisations, you can follow the links below…

Moscow Ballet La Classique

Grand International Concerts

NORPA

Lismore City Hall

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