“I was in Warsaw rehearsing with Polish National Ballet Manuel Legri’s Le Corsaire, which was supposed to première the week after. We had just finished the run through with our cast when the direction entered the room and said the theatre was closed from that point and everything was cancelled for the next few weeks. Luckily, I had a flight back to Berlin that evening. But, the next day, the same thing happened in Berlin. I remember feeling disbelief and huge frustration at the situation, especially as, not only were the shows cancelled, but we were not allowed to train for the next 6 weeks and any solutions we were trying to put forward were not accepted. I also remember feeling very lost for some time. Starting from the fact that I had one of the busiest months ahead of me before the lockdown happened, with quite a few exciting performances and opportunities, (and you work so hard for every opportunity that comes your way!), I was suddenly losing it all. But then also realising I wasn’t going to see the stage and perform for a while. That is something that affected me more than I ever expected. I didn’t realise how important for me was the ability to perform (and in particular ballet): especially with all the uncertainty in the beginning of the lockdown, the sadness was quite paralysing. And then you add on top watching the news and seeing/hearing the effects of the lockdown itself on individual lives around the world as well as on my close friends...
For me the main challenge was to find ways to create. I had to find a way to be true to myself and continue being an artist, which is inspiring people around me with my art. I had to look for new ways to interact. So I dived into some video projects and collaborations with a few artists/choreographers/musicians. That definitely helped with staying positive, but also in terms of not feeling completely useless...
On the training side, what really helped was one of our ballet masters offering Zoom ballet classes every morning for the whole company. Having a set time, with colleagues also joining, really helped with motivation. I also ended up teaching a lot. They asked me to give class once a week at GOH Ballet Academy in Canada for senior year students (so that they get motivated by working with principal dancers). I also did live classes on Instagram for various platforms. That really helped to keep me in shape, although I had to mentally accept that I will never be able to maintain the fitness I had - that was not easy as my whole mentality until now was to keep improving. I think the uncertainty of how long it will all last is the biggest mental challenge to deal with. It took me a few weeks of ups and down to find a rhythm, of how to maintain a certain level of ballet technique and yet not spend my whole day stressing about it.
I actually ended up producing a number of video creations. I collaborated on new music with German singer, Maria Imania, and we staged and filmed an exhibition of 5 Berlin artists with my husband (Zdenek Konvalina). I participated in a number of documentaries (with that learning camera/filming craft ) and we also finally started properly learning German together (never had time until now! I also started teaching dance class for my little nieces in Israel and France over Zoom as well as Pilates for the adult side of our family and it was beautiful to find a way to connect what I do to my family. Unexpectedly, this lockdown allowed me to reunite and perhaps get closer with some of my family and friends, which is a very interesting result of “social distancing”. It also made me very busy throughout, so have to admit I didn’t even get to read a book and do sudoku which I usually love doing for relaxation!
It’s interesting with social media. It kind of makes you feel connected with the rest of the world and allows you to share your contributions to the world of ballet. Also, dancers sharing their ways of staying in shape gives new ideas to try yourself which, in times like this, is more than helpful. But I also find social media very tiring. Everyone is always at their best on social media. You are constantly surrounded by perfection. And it can make you feel like you are not doing enough yourself. So I do actually limit the time I spend on social media.
I also find it frustrating that, whenever I post something more arty than balletic, the algorithm of social media doesn’t show it to a lot of my ‘followers’ as it considers it uninteresting. That can be dispiriting, so I try to not get attached to social media and any feedback from it.
I really look forward to being back on stage. We had a rare opportunity last week (May 15th) to have an hour on our Deutsche Oper stage (with very strict rules) where we created a new video with another dancer from the company (Jonny Macmillan), keeping distance of two metres (video coming soon). The feeling of being on stage in that space was very beautiful and surreal... nothing about those circumstances was normal. But I really hope and look forward to being able to perform for a full audience again, feeling their energy and their happiness at the end of the performance, sharing and experiencing our unique art form LIVE instead of on screen”.
Links to some of the mentioned above projects:
From Berlin with Love - https://youtu.be/47hNUg2yLE8 (with dancers of Staatsballett Berlin, done on the first week of quarantine. Concept and editing are mine)
Quarantini [feauturing Iana Salenko, Polina Semionova, Elisa Cabrera, Yolanda Correa and myself]
(We collaborated with composer Jonathan Heck who did the soundtrack out of the sounds of our point shoes. Concept and editing are also mine)
“Glänzen wie ein Star” music video with German Singer Maria Imania, who asked me to join her idea to create a music video from our isolation abodes. She recorded herself at home, so did the musician, and I recorded dancing in Zdenek’s painting studio. The song is about people/things that make us shine - https://youtu.be/eTFIDBgEl-M
“Screen time is up XXX%” exhibition -
- exhibition of 5 Berlin artists, curated, installed and designed to be viewed online by Zdenek and myself.