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Ballet Retreat Reflections

July, 2019

You may know that we have had our very first Holistic Ballet Retreat in Berlin, the city where I grew up, trained and danced as a professional ballet dancer. 

We had the most amazing experience and can only talk about it in superlatives. Everything was perfect: the location, weather, activities, but most of all the people. From the bottom of my heart, I thank each and everyone for having made these five days so special. I could have planned and created as much as I wanted, but without the love for ballet and the generosity of my students, it would have been in vain.

Wendy was one of the 19 participants and kindly offered to write a summary of what we were doing in Berlin since many of you asked 'How was it?'.

Berlin Ballet Retreat Reflections

"This is going to be an intense 5-days programme" read the statement on Franziska's website, about the upcoming (and might I add - inaugural) Berlin Ballet Retreat, which took place between 29th June and 3rd July. As luck would have it, our first morning in Berlin was also the final class and rehearsal day for Staatsballett Berlin and we had the absolute pleasure and privilege of observing them from a gallery overlooking the studio, all arranged beforehand by Franziska.


 

It was quite thrilling to be able to walk through the corridors and into the heart of the building, usually only reserved for staff and artists. We had the luxury of watching the dancers take both, class and then their final rehearsal of John Cranko's Romeo and Julia, which most of us bought tickets to see the following evening at the Deutsch Oper Berlin, along with Franziska’s mum. It was made all the more special as it was the company’s last performance of the season before finishing for summer break. All was inspiration indeed for our first class of the week that afternoon.

 

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at the Foyer de la dance at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, with Frau Konerding who looked after us (photo by Cecilia Wong)

Ksenia Ovsyanick as Juliet and Marian Walter as RomeoKsenia Ovsyanick as Juliet and Marian Walter as Romeo.jpeg

Ksenia Ovsyanick as Juliet and Marian Walter as Romeo
(photo by Cecilia Wong)

Daily Classes

The studio at Dock 11 had an indie vibe to it, slightly shabby chic, with the white vinyl flooring and 'aged' white painted concrete ceiling above, adding to its ambiance. This would be our home for the next five days. Five whole days as an adult dancer; what a luxury! Class started every day at 10am, beginning first with a seated gathering for us to share thoughts, comments, observations, questions. Barre proceeded.

As Franziska is based in London, and I 'up north' I rarely get the opportunity to take her classes, but were I able to, she'd be my go-to teacher. There's something about the way she speaks, the tone of her voice, that projects an air of calmness which helps focus the mind in performing barre. Not only that, she gave us some great tips throughout the week to help us think about dancing with good alignment and, most of all, maintaining that turnout, which muscles to engage, which parts of the body to focus on in order to do this.

The Repertoire

As the days went on I think it's fair to say that everyone improved. Our repertoire for the week was Kitri's Act III variation. Franziska had done a heck of a lot of preparation beforehand by recording for us (danced by herself I might add, as she's a former professional ballet dancer) two versions of difficulty which we were sent a few weeks prior to departure so that we could choose which one we preferred and have the chance to learn or at least start to, before the retreat.
As most ballet retreats are over a two-day weekend, being 5 days we had much more time to focus on particular sections of the variation. The more experienced dancers were also en pointe so I should imagine they appreciated the smaller group size (it was a sold-out event with approx 18 dancers).

Guest Teachers

During the week we had two guest teachers. The first was Bianca Starr, MA of Bianca Lily Ballet. Her sessions were all about ballet mechanics and using a stretch band to supplement the technique.
The second was a (looked easy but really hard (for me anyway)) stretch class given by Michael Rolnick, a Royal ballet School trained dancer, Gyrotonic® and Pilates instructor. Both excellent classes and would highly recommend should they come your way.

Not only that we also made a post-class trip to the Yumiko store not far from Dock 11 and had a gorgeous Middle Eastern meal at Al Hamra. 

dance mechanics class with Bianca Starr  from Bianca Lily Ballet, New Mexico, USdance mechanics class with Bianca Starr

dance mechanics class with Bianca Starr

from Bianca Lily Ballet, New Mexico, US

Making Great Friends

 

As class finished daily at 3pm, after some much-needed stretching, most of us then sauntered out to get a late al fresco lunch, which also allowed time to go see some of the sights that Berlin has to offer so all in all a fabulous trip all round.

I'd like to send a heartfelt thanks to Franziska and all the other dancers for a wonderful week of ballet, for the 'David Bailey grand jete' moments, seeing familiar faces and getting to know new people. If anyone reading this is thinking of attending any ballet retreat in the future but wondering if you should take the plunge; do it! You'll have a blast, make new friends, and do what you love to do.

Holistic Ballet's adult ballet dancers.jpg

the grand finale of our retreat

Nearly forgot - a special mention to Herbert whose birthday it was during Franziska's time apart. Happy birthday, Herbert.

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Herbert, the birthday boy

About the Wendy


Wendy took up ballet for the first time as an adult just over 4 ½ years ago, after reading an article in a local newspaper about classes held at Northern Ballet’s studios in Leeds and has never looked back, taking classes up and down the country in pursuit of her passion.
Her life as a dancer is far removed from her day job, working in operations management for a rope access company, swapping ballet slippers for steel toe-capped boots and hard hat when the need arises. Of ballet, Wendy says “if you’re thinking of taking up ballet, or any other dance style, don’t think, just do it. It will change your life forever.”

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