The Daily Lives of the ONR Ballet Dancers

"We wanted to give everyone the chance to see the beauty in our real lives, because that richness is present everywhere"—Pina Bausch

Front of the Centre chorégraphique national (2015)Opéra national du Rhin

Established in 1972, the Rhine Ballet Company (Ballet du Rhin) has done a lot of traveling. Its first journey was from Strasbourg to Mulhouse, where the company set up its premises in 1974. It was designated a National Choreography Center (Centre Chorégraphique national—CCN) in 1985, a position that earned the company the honor and pleasure of going on a tour of France and other countries. Having become the Ballet Company of the Rhine National Opera House (Ballet de l’Opéra National du Rhin) in 1998, shortly after being awarded National Opera status in 1997, it built its reputation through a threefold approach: an active policy of building up and highlighting its repertoire, a determination to increase awareness among a broader public through a range of educational activities, and the development of a theater in residence program for young theater companies.

Rehearsals for 4OD (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

It takes at least 50 people to bring the projects of the CCN • Rhine National Ballet Company (CCN • Ballet national du Rhin) to life. In terms of artistic direction, Bruno Bouché is in charge of the company and decides on its program. As the choreographer, he conceives and also creates ballets for his 32 dancers, who come from all over the world. They are trained and supported by ballet masters Claude Agrafeil and Adrien Boissonnet, who teach daily classes, oversee rehearsals, and ensure the company's form and motivation remain at a high level. Musical support is provided by pianist Bruno Anguerra Garcia, who sets the classes to music and provides accompaniment for rehearsals, performances, and tours.

Show of Pagliaccio (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

Seeing the performers on stage on the evening of a show often arouses huge admiration, as it is the culmination of a long process of continual development and improvement.

Show of Yours, Virginia (2020)Opéra national du Rhin

Deciding to become a dancer means choosing a very particular kind of lifestyle, making it your own, and accepting the daily discipline required. Most people choose a career path while in high school; however, if you want to be a dancer, you must become aware of that desire at a much earlier age. As it takes 6 to 10 years of intensive training, the vast majority of professional dancers get started between the ages of 10 and 13.

Rehearsals for Les Beaux dormants (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

This physical training allows them to gain access to auditions and competitions for a place at a company. By the time they can aspire to join the world of professional dance, most dancers are between 18 and 20 years old.

Rehearsals for Les Beaux dormants (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

Having joined the company, their days will revolve around the rehearsal schedule. Being a professional dancer requires huge professionalism, discipline, and training on a daily basis. Each day begins with a class taught by the ballet master or a guest teacher. The purpose of this training session is to prepare the dancer's body for the day's work. It is also aimed at maintaining and improving their technique (strength, suppleness, and endurance) and the quality of their dancing.

Rehearsals for 4OD (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

The subsequent classes are divided into two parts. The first part involves working with the bar (the long horizontal wooden bar commonly found in dance studios), where the company performs a series of exercises to warm up and develop concentration. The aim here is to work on the body's stance.

Rehearsals for Les Beaux dormants (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

The dancers then leave the bar and spread out in the rehearsal studio. There, they perform a series of sequences which allow them to work on their speed of execution, skill, agility, and endurance, and to develop their artistic expression. In small groups, they do a run-through in front of the teacher, who is then able to go into more detail with advice and corrections.

Rehearsals for 4OD (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

Rehearsing

In the studio in the afternoon, the dancers prepare for the ballets they will perform on stage. Under the watchful eye of the ballet master, they learn the choreography, practicing over and over to perfect their performance. They work particularly on the artistic expression in order to make the role their own and become one with their character.

Getting set for the show (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

Of course, to fully portray their character, the dancers must go through cosmetic preparations as well. With their makeup, hairstyles, and costumes, each dancer comes to embody their own role. The choices made about these are an integral part of the creative process and are incorporated into the choreographer's planning.

Getting set for the show (2019)Opéra national du Rhin

Show of Chaplin (2020)Opéra national du Rhin

Performing

Finally, the time comes for the actual performance, in front of an audience. Accompanied by the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra (Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg) or the Mulhouse Symphony Orchestra Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse), the dancers share with the audience the choreography that was created for them or added to their repertoire.

Rehearsals for Yours, Virginia (2020)Opéra national du Rhin

The physical intensity of this profession means dancers need to consider what they will do after they finish dancing. Their career as a performer tends to end when they are approaching 40, so it is relatively short, lasting around 15 to 20 years. Some of them become dance teachers, choreographers, ballet masters, directors of dance companies or schools, while others switch paths completely. The Ballet Company of the Rhine National Opera House (Ballet de l’Opéra National du Rhin) has implemented a retraining program for its dancers. This allows dancers who have been at the company for at least 12 years to receive a year's training. This gives them the opportunity to prepare for a new profession.

Credits: Story

© Agathe Poupeney
© Nis & For
© JLTanghe

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