In a city with a never-ending snowfall and a grey sky not giving any hope to see the sun for months, it is hard to motivate yourself even to get out of bed at times, forget about going out there and conquering the world (or doing whatever your typical plans for the day are).
When I get into this “forever-Berlin-winter” mood and almost fall for the trap of self-pity, I think of Russian ballerinas, whom I utterly admire. To become a professional ballerina, one needs to have such an incredible willpower and dedication that many of us could only dream about. But what is more important: they are not born with these qualities, these qualities are trained.
If you want to know what it takes to become a professional ballerina, try watching an impressive documentary „Captives of Terpsichore“ (you can find a full version on You Tube). Featuring excerpts from a diary of Natasha Balakhnicheva, who is now a prima ballerina in The Kremlin Ballet Theatre, the movie tells a story of a talented student of a Russian ballet maetre Ludmila Sakharova. Sakharova was famous for „creating“ some of the strongest dancers in the world, as she was famous for her autocratic, and at times even cruel style of teaching.
Unlike the majority of other documentaries about ballet, „Captives of Terpsichore“ focuses on the emotional state of ballerinas and their inner struggle with themselves. What we see on the stage is an endless beauty and featherinness, but there are years of endless work behind it. Every single day from an early age ballerinas have to overcome themselves, to challenge their physical and emotional abilities. More than that – this struggle continues for the rest of their lives, and there are no excuses: even if the winter has no end and they feel moody and tired, the theatre and the audience will be waiting for them. But even if it might sound way too tough, the reward that they receive as the result of their efforts is totally worth it, and no ballerina would even question that.
Despite all my admiration, I should admit that I would never chose ballet as a career and way of living for myself and would never force it upon children (unfortunately some parents do so), as there is too much to sacrifice. But when I think of Russian ballet students I forget about all the possible excuses and start believing that we have much more personal strength than we think.
If you are interested in ballet behind the scenes, I could also recommend watching a touching documentary called Beautiful Tragedy (see attached below) and „The Children of Theatre Street“, telling the story of Vaganova Academy, dating back in 1977.