Royal Ballet dancers keep moving under lockdown
On March 16, London’s Royal Opera House and its renowned dance company, the Royal Ballet, closed its doors to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic. Free online broadcasts of past performances have kept audiences connected with the Royal Ballet, but keeping dancers active and connected with one another has posed unique challenges.
Morning warm-ups, six-hour rehearsals, and live shows are the backbone of a dancer’s normal life, and they need spacious studios with high ceilings in which to practice choreography and hone their technique — far more space than you’d find in the average London flat.
“(At the Royal Opera House) we can fit the whole company in one studio at one time,” said Melissa Hamilton, first soloist of the Royal Ballet, in an interview from her house. “To go from that extreme to now dancing in my home, it’s very, very different.”
While working from home generally conjures images of sofas strewn with laptops and notebooks, dancers have had to get more creative to adapt their personal spaces to their needs. This means a kitchen bar may become a ballet barre, and an audience of thousands is temporarily shrunk to family members and pets. To replicate the feel of the sprung floors she usually rehearses on, first soloist Anna Rose O’Sullivan has taken to practicing on a folded yoga mat “so I don’t ruin my parents’ floor and so it’s safer,” she said.
While the dancers aren’t performing as usual, discipline remains important and rigorous class schedules have gone largely unchanged, with instructors conducting classes in a virtual space via the likes of Zoom.
“It’s very encouraging to see all my colleagues up on the screen when I’m taking a class, and they’re all in their kitchens or their lounges, or their hallways, wherever they can find space to move. It becomes very normal now to see people’s cats and pets,” O’Sullivan said.