One had a baby, two had surgery, three their wisdom teeth out, and six started studying. They have been painting, gaming, gardening and cooking to keep busy and all of them have been training from home and doing their best to stay fit in the world of COVID-19 social restrictions.
On Monday June 15, the dancers at Queensland Ballet will be allowed to return to the studio for their first face-to-face class. Artistic Director Li Cunxin AO said he expects much excitement when the doors officially open again.
“Professional dancers by their nature are resilient, driven and creative, so they’ve found innovative ways to keep busy and fit during this time. But these people have dedicated their life to dance, so to be able to return to training in studio is a step in the right direction,” he said.
“Under normal circumstances a dancer's life is immersed in movement: from sun-up to sun-down they are in the studio preparing for the season. They get one break at the end of the year before it's back to training. They spend their whole lives preparing, and sacrifice things like study, family time and travel,” said Mr Li.
During the COVID-19 restrictions the dancers had limited training and no rehearsals after Queensland Ballet decided to move the 2020 season to 2021. The prospect of no shows for a full 12 months is a massive mental and physical toll, to suddenly be still. So, while each of Queensland Ballet’s 60 Company dancers made the most of the down time, many still felt lost.
During the lockdown Queensland Ballet did what it could to support the dancers - delivering handmade ballet barres and Tarkett flooring so they could rehearse safely at home, enlisting the help of their tech specialists to deliver classes and coaching online, and looking for meaningful projects.
As part of the Keep the Magic Alive Campaign the dancers have been choreographing, creating, filming, and dancing for 60 Dancers: 60 Stories. In a world-first, two newly choreographed pieces of dance are being released daily by the company every day this month.
The 60 Dancers: 60 Stories allows them to once again share their love of dance and although it may not be on a stage in a sold-out theatre or as a world premiere show, the two-minute productions filmed in living rooms, parks and backyards gives them a small sense of normality.
Breath of fresh air by Daniel Kempson is a fun look at what life at home has been like for the dancers. Onstage and offstage partners Georgia Swan and Ari Thompson chose to look for the silver lining in their piece Break in the clouds , finding happiness and joy in the little things, and finding solace in the ones who love you.
As well as taking part in 60 Dancers: 60 Stories Swan used the time to consider her study options. She has since started a biology course which is a pre-requisite to doing a science degree in future.
“For me dancing is all consuming, my sole focus. I really wanted to keep my brain active and I think this will give me more options down the track when I eventually finish dancing, though I have no plans to stop anytime soon,” she added.
For First Company Artist Zhi Fang the downtime has given him time with his new daughter Evelyn. He suspects life will never be the same again.
“It’s been beautiful to have the time with her and my wife Rochelle. As a dancer it is difficult because I want to get on with the program and get back to stage. But in terms of family life, it’s been amazing to connect and learn new skills as a father. It’s been life changing,” Fang said.
For Senior Soloist Mia Heathcote it was a chance to get surgery on an ankle which has been causing her pain for a long time.
“I had been managing the pain, but it wasn’t fun. I was schedule into theatre almost as soon as elective surgeries reopened. I cannot wait to get back on stage, but I’m using this time to rehab properly and build up my strength again,” Heathcote said.
60 dancers: 60 stories will unveil two videos daily on Queensland Ballet’s social channels during the month of June. Any donations made to Queensland Ballet during this period will be quadrupled, thanks to an anonymous donor.
Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible and will go directly to keeping dancers and staff teams employed.
For more information or to donate please visit keepthemagicalive.com.au
To view visit Queensland Ballet’s Facebook and Instagram channels or https://www.queenslandballet.com.au/60-dancers-60-stories
Meryn Cooper | firstname.lastname@example.org