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by Sara Coffield, Student, Canada’s National Ballet School

NBS summer exchange - Australian Ballet SchoolI always look forward to summertime; the warm weather always feels so good. Although this past summer, I headed south to Melbourne and spent my July in “winter” (the Australian winter is very mild compared to Canada’s). I attended the Australian Ballet School for a summer exchange.

While I do enjoy the NBS summer school program, Australia was such a good experience. It’s always nice to have a change of teachers to get a different perspective of things. Melbourne was a beautiful city. It had amazing modern buildings that were mixed in with more historical buildings and small alleyways with great boutiques. It also had a café culture similar to Europe, which we unfortunately don’t have in Canada.

I did manage to get a bit of warm weather visiting some relatives in the USA and at home in Calgary. It was really nice to be able to spend August with my younger sister and catching up with friends. It was really exciting to return back to school though for my graduating year and to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. We are currently rehearsing Swan Lake to perform at the Assemblée Internationale 2009. The rehearsals are demanding but the music is so beautiful that it is still enjoyable. We performed this in our Spring Showcase last year so most people are familiar with the steps that we are now just refining. We are all looking forward performing it in November!

by Maria Demandt, Student, School of The Hamburg Ballet

Hamburg Ballet SchoolMy name is Maria Demandt, I go to John Neumeier’s Hamburg Ballet School in Germany. I originally come from the Netherlands, this is my second year in Hamburg.

I’ve been dancing since I can remember, but I started to do this on a real ‘ballet school’ when I was 10 years old. I made my decision to go for ballet after I saw the Dutch National Ballet performing ‘The Nutcracker’. I just loved everything about it and wanted to do that too.

An average day at school in Hamburg starts of course with a classical ballet class in the morning. Several days of the week the girls wear pointe shoes during class. After that there normally is another class, like modern or folklore, or variations. Most of the time we have rehearsals the rest of the day for upcoming shows with pieces by John Neumeier or choreographies by teachers from the school for sponsor performances. Actually there is always something going on for witch we need to rehears. Also, a lot of time goes to choreographies by the students and choreography class.

I like the fact that our schedule is actually never the same, no negative routine!

Germany is a very artistic country although it is not especially known for that. There are more then 60 dance companies in Germany, the government spends a lot of money on culture.

Learning a piece of choreography created by a fellow student is for me very inspiring, because it is closer to you, I mean, you are more on one level with the choreographer. The atmosphere is less tense I think, you learn something from your friend and you know how to treat each other well.  It happened to me a few times that you just can’t be serious anymore in a rehearsal, also the choreographer. I see this as a good thing; it adds something to the process of making the piece.

by Jordan Hammond, Student, San Francisco Ballet School

My alarm goes off at 7:00 am when I crawl out of bed to begin getting ready for a busy day ahead. After getting myself together and eating breakfast, I’m out the door at 8:00 am to catch the bus that conveniently stops right in front of the Jackson House where I stay with other kids at SFBS. It’s a quick ride and I usually arrive at the studio around 8:30, where I warm up for my first technique class of the day which begins at 9:30.

What I love about the Trainee Program here is that there are only 11 students in the class so it makes it easier to work on corrections individually and learn from our teacher Jean-Yves Esquerre as well as from each other in a more closer environment.

When class ends at 11:15, we have a short break and then move right on into rehearsals which begin at 11:30. In our rehearsals we prepare for upcoming Trainee Performances around San Francisco and the Bay area. Our performances include a wide variety of repertoire from pieces choreographed by Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, pieces by student choreographers in the school, and more contemporary pieces inspired by William Forsythe and Jiri Kylian. When rehearsals are over, we take a 2nd technique class of either pointe, variations, batterie for the boys, and pas de deux from 2:20 – 3:30.

Some days I am done for the day after 3:30, but other days I have rehearsals with the San Francisco Ballet when the Trainees are asked to understudy roles in the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Giselle, etc. Rehearsals can go as late as 6 or 7, and I catch the bus home, make dinner, squeeze in some homework, and am off to bed to catch lots of sleep so I’m well rested and ready for the next day ahead!

I absolutely love the training and daily schedule here at SFBS and I am so blessed to be a part of the Trainee Program where it never ceases to amaze me at how much I learn each day!

by Andreas Kaas, Student, Royal Danish Ballet School

Summer at the Royal Danish Ballet SchoolI really like summertime. It’s warm and nice. The only summer school I’ve been on was a Bartholin week here at the theater. There were some young dancers from around the world who came and took part in the exchange program. It was a nice experience and it was the first time I tried something like that.

I had only three week’s vacation this summer, so there was room for only one week’s summer school, because I had two weeks in Turkey with my family, which was super cool! I hope that I can get some scholarships to go out and dance this summer. I would love to go to the U.S. with my best friend and take a summer school program. It could be so nice!

About ballet and academics, I do not do academics anymore, it’s completely finished. So now I’m apprentice at The Royal Danish Theater Ballet on full time. 10 am – 6 pm. I do not know what my favourite thing about ballet is. I think it’s a good mix between to move to the music, get the pulse up and strive to become a better dancer all the time. I strive a lot and I am determined!

by Erin Brennan, Student, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School

Summer at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet SchoolSummer is always a nice change of pace for myself. I have a couple weeks off in June, which I usually use to go home and visit with family.

July is summer session here in Winnipeg, which means rehearsal packed days and lots of new friends. We train in our usual classes with the auditioning students as well as rehearsing for “Ballet in the Park” at the end of the month. Luckily, most students are done academics for the year, letting everyone focus on our ballet training. I’m very lucky in that I am all finished with my high school academics, so year round I am free to concentrate on ballet.

August is usually spent at home, which is our longest break of the year. I quite often go on weekend trips with my family to visit grandparents and extended family out of town as well as a week away camping. When I’m not away I take drop in classes around home to stay in shape over the long break. I really enjoy the time I get to spend at home because I find it’s a great mix between work and play. I feel very relaxed and get to do a lot of things I don’t have time to normally, while still getting some classes in.

My favorite thing about ballet is that it allows individuals to pour out emotions that words cannot describe. We as ballet dancers are not held back by language barriers because ballet is a language in itself. Nothing is better than getting on stage and communicating something deep within to the audience.

The classical piece we are currently working on was an original piece this past March/April. I was lucky enough to be part of the original cast and have performed it before. However, it’s far from being overworked and I find new challenges in it with each rehearsal. Some changes to choreography are being made and all of the dancers involved are working hard to change our muscle memory to express the new movement.

by Rob Binet, Student, Canada’s National Ballet School

Another Day at Canada's National Ballet SchoolI wake up at 7:45 each morning and get ready for the day. I ride my bicycle to school from my apartment, so I get to school around 9:15. I am in the Post-Secondary Program (PSP) so I do not have any academic classes.

From 10:00-11:45 the PSP students have ballet class. The men and women are split into separate classes. After ballet class, the men and women in PSP have an upper body strengthening class together until 12:00.

We have a lunch break until 12:45, and then we have our second class. On Mondays we have Life Skills class or career planning meetings, and the rest of the week we have either Pas De Deux or Variations. That class finishes at 2:00 and then we have a break until Contemporary.

Contemporary goes from 2:35-4:30. We work on Kylian and Forsythe repertoire, improvisation, and once a week I am given time from this class to choreograph for my peers. After 4:30 we have rehearsals for upcoming performances, such as the Assemblée Internationale, or other dance classes.

We finish anywhere between 5:00 and 6:45 and are usually exhausted. Afterwards, I ride my bicycle home and cook dinner. I relax for a bit and then stretch, and then go to sleep.

I love being in the Post-Secondary Program because we are able to focus entirely on our dance training, and we don’t have to worry about academics. The program is great because it is tailored to suit the needs and interests of each person in it.

by Robert Binet, Student, Canada’s National Ballet School

NBS rehearsalsI am thrilled to have my choreography performed this November. I really enjoy choreographing for my peers because we are very comfortable with each other and therefore feel free to take risks in creating and trying new movements. It is very exciting because everyone is extremely eager to dance my choreography well because they enjoy it.

Hearing from other dancers that they enjoy working with me and dancing in my choreography is one of the best feelings. I feel extremely thankful when students want to work hard on my choreography. When it is a group of students, a great camaraderie in the studio is created. It becomes more of a collaborative process than when a work is set by a teacher and we all work together to make complicated movement and formation ideas possible.

It is so satisfying to see the patterns and steps I have imagined performed on stage. I feel so proud of my friends, as well as thankful to them, when I see them perform my work because of all the time and energy they have given to me, and to the choreography.