24 & 24:
From Ballerina to Ballet Teacher
In the summer of 1998, 24 years ago, just before my 24th birthday, I landed at Gatwick; with one bag and one suitcase.
After my childhood and the first three years of being a professional dancer in Berlin, followed by one year of dancing in Denmark with the Peter Schaufuss Ballet, I decided to relocate to London. This means I lived in London longer than anywhere else. Here is a recap.
I was young and hopeful and I also did not see any opportunities to continue dancing in Berlin. Hence, I thought, like so many others, London would offer better prospects.
As luck would have it, a cousin of mine lived in London at that time. Just as I arrived, he went on holiday and was happy for me to house sit in Tooting Bec.
This gave me three weeks to find a place of my own, without the internet or mobile phone but through newspaper ads and a landline phone.
my £60/week room in Stoke Newington, 1999
(whoever had the impression of me being tidy and organised...)
Just in time, I found a tiny room in a flatshare with five others (an elderly rock musician, two Irish girls, one Scottish, and one English boy) in a run-down house in Stoke Newington, North London. I had never shared accommodation before, and initially, this felt really cool!
First, I attended Laura Connor's classes at Pineapple. One day, after class, I walked around the corner to where Urdang Academy used to be, peeked through the window and saw Renato Parroni teaching. I joined his classes from then on.
Knowing no one but my cousin's family and without a job, attending daily open ballet classes was crucial for my mental state and to get structure to my life. Class was a place of familiarity and purpose.
Renato's approach was completely new and exciting to me. I felt immediately that not my technique could improve dramatically in his classes but also that I could grow as a person. And so, a long friend-and mentorship developed. Without Renato's belief in me, I may never have started teaching myself. I am forever grateful to him.
Finding a job as a dancer in a ballet company was not meant to be. Looking back, it most certainly would have left me unfulfilled and unhappy. Instead, I performed in interesting freelance projects, I worked for a few months as a waitress (very badly!) and in a call centre. I passed my Oxford English exam and caught up with what I had missed out on as a teenager, I went clubbing at the weekends.
I also met my first boyfriend! No, not in a dance club but in my English class.
Franziska performing with .AINT. &. INNER., 2002
I taught ballet part-time at Danceworks, for Random Dance (today's Company Wayne McGregor) and others, when I received the offer to teach ballet in New Delhi, India, for three months. How exciting! As I was ready to leave, I got a phone call telling me they had contracted another teacher. This was hugely disappointing as I had already left London mentally.
To make this situation direr, the day after that phone call, I bumped into my just ex-boyfriend (#2) being kissed by another girl. I needed to get away!
I had just discovered the Gyrotonic® system and wanted to learn it thoroughly. It was still in its infancy in London but big in the States. And so, I booked a flight to New York City for the 29th of September 2001.
The terrorist attacks of September 11 just happened. NYC was left deserted. However, despite or because of the terrible tragedy, I experienced a calm and extremely friendly three months in New York whilst training as a Gyrotonic instructor. With this, my understanding of the moving body and how to work with people started to develop.
It was also the first time that I did not take ballet classes that have been part of my life since I was six years old. A pivotal moment! My days were spent training in Gyrotonic, eating bagels and blueberry muffins.
I went to teach in New Delhi the following year, which was a wonderfully rich and rewarding experience, if not without challenges.
On my return, a friend who also believed in me more than I did, offered me his Shoreditch Loft, in East London, to use as a Gyrotonic and private ballet studio. What an opportunity, and what a scary one!
teaching Gyrotonic® at Shoreditch Studio, 2002
Soon, I met James D'Silva, another important person I was fortunate to meet in London, who significantly influenced my life as a friend and mentor.
At that time, James was one of the best-known Pilates teachers in London who took me under his wing. He asked me to assist him in the making of a big brand fitness DVD with Trudi Styler, which allowed me to travel and work with several celebrities, Trudi's husband Sting being one of them.
I further assisted James in the creation of his Garuda training method, which still inspires me today.
I often had to pinch myself, thinking of the little girl from former East Berlin, working with the famous in the most stunning places.
at the film set with James D'Silva, New York, 2010
These experiences gave me the confidence to develop my own business with more seriousness. I began to create ballet workshops, expanded my ballet classes and private lessons, and I grew my Gyrotonic and Pilates enterprise at Shoreditch Studio. Last but not least, I produced my Holistic Ballet DVD series.
at the film set of the Holistic Ballet DVDs, 2012
A few years earlier, I also attended a yoga and meditation teacher training. Although yoga informs my movement work, it was meditation and ancient teachings that captured my interest. Working with people on a more cognitive level fascinated me, but I also felt the limitation of my skills.
Ever since the age of 17, I have been interested in the workings of the mind. I even considered becoming a psychologist when I realised that being a ballerina was no longer what I wanted.
When I came across Cognitive Hypnotherapy, I knew this was what would be next for me. This specific method of hypnotherapy continued the ideas of my mediation training and gave me tools to effectively help my clients (and myself) to deal with our struggles and limiting beliefs ('I'm not good enough.' for example).
My recent hypnoanalysis training in Germany added not only to my qualifications and skill set but also increased my curiosity about how much more of our unused potential we could use. If you are curious too, read more about it at Hypnotherapy for Dancers where you can also download a FREE RELAXATION recording to get a taste of how our minds can influence our physical and mental states.
In March 2020 everything changed. For all of us, for the world. With the pandemic, the flow of life, as we have never appreciated it until now, came to a halt.
Yet, without ignoring the suffering of many, we made the most of it. For a long time, I thought about teaching online to reach a global audience (listen to my interview from February 2020). Now it was the only option.
I was lucky to have moved into the perfect space for these new circumstances two years earlier. After lots of trial and error, I feel I am very well set up to continue working online whilst I also enjoy being in the studio with you.
I am often asked what I prefer. I do like both. Each setting requires different focus and communication, and takes and gives different energies.
What would an article without the mention of Herbert be, I hear you say!
I knew Herbert and his brother, Mattie (who passed away on 4th October 2022) since they were six months old. At first during their previous owner's holidays, then at weekends until we became permanent.
Herbert at 6 months old, 2010
You may remember, that our lives became utterly sad when the two of them no longer got on as both needed an entire human's love.
Today, each cat has 110% of a single human being dedicated to them, and Herbert and I have become inseparable. To the outsider, it may seem a tad unhealthy, but Herbert begs to differ, and that's the end of it.
Herbert and his brother Mattie, 2017
Thoughts For The Future
Usually, having only a vague idea works best for me. The details will fall into place when the time is right. I could not have foreseen any of what turned out to be, thankfully so! It would have been far too intimidating.
I hope I will be able to do more of what I love doing, to have dedicated students like you, to improve my Tango dancing, I wish for the well-being of everyone close to me, for the reversal of climate change and for world peace.
What are your hopes and intentions? Do you have any?