I use four main tools everyday. An elastic theraband, a bouncy ball cut in half, warm boots, and my make shift ankle warmers.
Before I start
ballet class in the morning I pull out my elastic theraband and I do at
least 10 reps of pointing and flexing each foot. By adding the
resistance, I’m waking up my muscles for the day.
The bouncy ball cut in half, was given to me from my great colleague, Jon Axel. This half ball I’ll step on throughout the entire barre releasing tightness in my feet.
Warm boots. Yup. Just to keep my feet warm. I live in them at the theater. I will wear them at the very beginning of class but only for maximum two combinations. I really don’t like the feeling of having anything extra on my feet when I’m dancing. But they are great to have on everywhere else. Especially as the days get colder! You’ll catch me in my boots throughout the day between rehearsals, at lunch, putting on my makeup, walking to a costume fitting or before a show. Basically anytime I’m not dancing.
Lastly, my make shift ankle warmers. I really like my ankles to stay warm. I buy those really fluffy socks from Tiger and then cut the toe off and the heel away. I do this instead of using ballet legwarmers because 1- they are super cheap. About 15kr. 2- They hug my ankle nicely as they are made to be socks. You will always find me with ankle warmers on.
I will use a foam roller but I’m not religious about it. It’s more if I remember or if I’m killing time.
Thank you for the question, rendezvous_at_midnight.
The first step to my pre-performance ritual is that I turn on a country radio! It will be playing in the background while I put on my makeup, warm up and get 100% ready for the show. I find that country music is very calming. Country has many songs about trucks, ice cold beer, a great Saturday night, love, fishing, being happy or just living a good life. Getting ready to perform in front of a thousand people or more can feel a bit stressful, so the idea of something “simple” comforts me.
step to my pre-performance ritual is that I ALWAYS put on my left pointe
shoe before my right one. I do not know why… I cannot explain why… I
don’t even know how it started? But when I sit down to put on my pointe
shoes, the left shoe has to go on first. This is true for me at any
point during the day when it comes to my shoes. Left before right.
The only other
ritual I have pre-performance, is that I always take the stairs down to
get to the stage. My dressing room is currently on the 4th floor. I
could take the elevator but the idea of getting stuck and then missing
my performance is terrifying. I also kind of skip/bounce down the
stairs, I take it as part of my warm up.
Those are the steps to my pre-performance ritual… I’m afraid that they aren’t that crazy or superstitious. Honestly, I find that the most important thing before any type of performance is your mind set. More then preparing anything a certain way, or in a certain order. If you are happy, satisfied, and inspired not even your nerves can get in your way. Healthy mind equals performance ready.
Ahhhhh! There are days where you long to hear even just one and other
days you wish they would stop telling you all your corrections.
When I was quite young, taking ballet class, I couldn’t handle being corrected. I didn’t understand that corrections are given to help you improve. I only thought of them as failure. I was disappointing my teacher. I wasn’t good enough.
Corrections are for your benefit. 100%. Don’t be like silly, little me crying because my foot wasn’t pointed enough.
I wasted a lot of time being very hard on myself. I encourage you, if
you feel like this, to find your inner grit and be confident. Everyone
wants the best for you.
corrections are given, whether they are to you or to someone else in the
class, always listen. Knowledge is power. Maybe you did the step
correctly that time but one day, possibly, it will stop working for you
and having a bigger knowledge to tap in to will only help you.
My biggest TIP
to make sure that corrections really make a difference for you, is to
use a notebook. At the end of the day write down all the corrections you
remember. Take the time to go back through the class in your head,
remembering what was said. Your brain has to recall what you were just
told. This can be easier said then done. It’s normal to hear your
corrections in class and then walk away and not remember them or not
remember them until you are doing the step wrong again. Write. Force
your brain to stay on top of your ballet technique.
scribble! You are the only person who needs to understand what it says.
Spelling goes out the window. This is just about getting as many
thoughts down as possible.
If you are
playing a character in a ballet, I would also encourage you to write
down all the emotions the character goes through. Write down lines as if
you could speak. What would your character be saying in those moments
on stage if they could.
notes over and over and over again. Before you go to class, before you
go on stage, before a rehearsal, before you go to bed, whenever you can.
The more you think about it, the more automatic the corrections will be
and the thoughts will become a part of you.
entered the stage as Odette in Swan Lake, I had my notebook in the wings
with me so I could read my thoughts helping me be completely in the
moment. To be Odette. Feel as she feels.
If you are thinking, “Ok Holly, sure, but I can only think about so many things at once and sometimes I need my entire focus just to pick up the combination.” I get it! I totally get it. Been there. Some days you’ll be better then others. Some days really are just class, warm-up and go kind of days. 😉
If you are
feeling overwhelmed by trying to remember everything then narrow it down
to only one or two corrections and try to apply them to every
combination. Then the next day, try two different ones. Preferably
without losing the corrections you worked on yesterday.
If you want to
improve at the fastest rate possible buy a notebook and start writing.
Make your thoughts support your movements.
I would say on
average, I go through two pairs of pointe shoes a week. Some weeks my
schedule isn’t very heavy, so I might only use one pair. Other weeks are
extremely busy and then I may even need three or four pairs of shoes! I
will round up and say that for one season with the Royal Danish Ballet,
I go through 100 pairs of pointe shoes!
I prefer to
dance in softer shoes. New shoes are a bit of a nightmare for me. I like
the toe to be hard but everything else worn in. Which is why I try to
make my shoes last as long as possible.
just get a bad pair of shoes. So sad. I can’t tell if something is
wrong with the shoes until after, I have spent 2 hours sewing and
prepping the shoes. I need to try them in class, in turns to know. The
center point needs to be good. There is no time for a weird shoe that
takes you out of your turns! If the shoe isn’t good… it doesn’t get worn
and another pair of shoes needs to be sewn.
this doesn’t happen too often. I have customized my shoes more and more
over the years which has definitely helped. Little shout out to all the
wonderful people working at Freed making all the pointe shoes! We
literally couldn’t dance without you!
weather is HOT, for example like last week, I can kill a pair of shoes
in a day. Heat definitely creates a quick death to pointe shoes. They
become too mushy to dance in.
get a miracle pair of shoes! That is the best! I’ve never been able to
quite figure out what makes a miracle pair so good, but every once in a
while, there will be a pair of shoes that doesn’t die with a perfect
balance point. When I danced as Henriette in Raymonda in 2017, I used
the same pair of shoes for all of my 12 performances. I love when that
Wonderland last year, was the opposite to Raymonda. I went through a
pair of shoes for every performance. Alice dances on stage for nearly
three hours in the warm stage lights, so the shoes simply, had no chance
for a long life.
Even after I
consider a pair of shoes dead, I will keep them in my dressing room for
several months. The shoes become hard again which is great because then I
can get a second life out of them! I can use them for rehearsals during
the day or if they are really good, even a show!
So many pointe shoes! I love them though. Speaking of which, I need to go and sew. xoxo -Hol
Yup. Yes, I have. Luckily, this doesn’t occur often, but we are human, like everyone else. For me, I fell victim to exhaustion, and my brain lost focus, for less than a second, but still leaving me in a state of panic. I forgot my steps while I was performing in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Side note- This ballet is absolutely fantastic!). The company did 21 shows in 3 weeks! No small feat. It’s a huge, magical production.
I was very
fortunate to have been cast as the role of Alice and as the role of the
Queen of Hearts. It was amazing to play such different characters. It
also came along with a big responsibility.
of Alice is on stage for almost the entire ballet. She is only off stage
for one quick costume change. She has many steps. SO MANY steps! The
Queen of Hearts is often on stage at the same time as Alice. It was
crucial to remember who I was playing everyday. I constantly switched
back and forth. Everyday before the show, I would go through the scenes
that the characters shared as the character, I was on that day.
you dance as Alice then the next day you have off. For me, due to
scheduling, I did four shows as Alice or the Queen, twice in a row! The
first time I had four in a row, I alternated each show between the
characters. The second time I did four in a row, they were the final
four shows of the run. I played Alice for three of them and then
switched to Queen for the very last show. In that last show, while I was
dancing the Queen’s variation, is where I had my blank out.
It was minor.
If you didn’t know her correct steps you wouldn’t have seen it. Luckily,
I was dancing by myself, so a ripple effect wasn’t created for any of
the other dancers. I knew right away that something was off. I did a
step that didn’t feel quite right or normal. Thank goodness dancers have
such good muscle memory. A tool that we use everyday. Before my brain
knew something was off my body did. My body kept dancing through. Once
my brain caught up, I remember feeling a moment of panic, and then a
realization of, “Well, I’m still going.” The song that Dori sings from,
Finding Nemo, would be a great theme song for anyone who suffers from a
black out. “Just keep swimming… Just keep dancing…”.
When I got
back into the wings, I was fully aware that I definitely needed to catch
up on some sleep. My brain was tired from constantly switching and
trying to stay on top of such a big, and complicated ballet for two
characters ( I was also rehearsing up to 6 hours for our upcoming
production of Cinderella as Cinderella and the step sister. Again
switching between two characters.). To say my head was fully loaded
would have been an understatement. As busy as I was, I loved every
second of it! xoxo -Hol