Last week, I was lucky enough to do four days of work experience at the Ballet du Capitole, our regional ballet company. The first thing I noticed the morning I arrived, and absolutely loved, was the international atmosphere… Everyone was speaking different languages, and this is definitely one of my favourite things in the exciting world of dance! In fact, the 35 dancers at the Ballet come from 12 different countries.
I learned so much during my week at the Ballet about what life is like working for a dance company – I thought I would share some of it with you!
The company manager
The person who looked after me during the week was the lovely Frédérique Vivan, the company manager. She makes sure the dancers can work in the best possible conditions (organisation-wise, equipment-wise…). She also makes sure that the rules are respected. She liaises between the Ballet and the Théâtre du Capitole (the large theatre that the ballet is part of), with whom she works regularly. She doesn’t work artistically with the dancers, but they come to her if they have a problem, if they need new dance shoes, for example, or if they need to sort out an issue with their health insurance.
Frédérique explained to me that for tours, she works with the tour managers to organise buses, hotels and all the administrative details. This year, they’re touring in 5 or 6 different cities in France. “It can be very complicated administratively when we organise tours abroad, as the dancers have 12 different nationalities!” She told me the most difficult part of her job is the fact that it’s so varied. There are so many things to do, she can’t always give everything as much time as she would like, especially since she is often solving urgent problems.
Her favourite part of her job is being in contact with the dancers. As she herself was a professional ballet dancer, she understands them, their characters and their needs. Her job is to make everything that surrounds the dance itself easy for them, so that they are free to concentrate on their art.
I asked her how she got this job. “I was a dancer here and was always interested in the management side of the company. When I came to the end of my dance career, the company manager was retiring, so I applied and got the job! I learned a lot on the job, but my experience as a dancer and my knowledge of the Théâtre du Capitole helped me a lot.”
A typical day at the Ballet
Every day the dancers start arriving at 10 a.m. and either go up to the studio to stretch and warm up, or come to see Frédérique if they have a problem to discuss or a question to ask her. At 10.30, the class starts, conducted by one of the two ballet masters. The ballet master creates and demonstrates the barre exercises, then the middle exercises, while telling the pianist the tempo they need for the music. The pianist then plays an appropriate piece, and the dancers perform the exercise.
The class finishes at noon, and is followed by rehearsals, which last all afternoon. This week, they were rehearsing Kader Belarbi’s ‘Giselle’ as they are touring with it in a fortnight. For the dancers who arrived in September and had never danced the piece before, they were having to pick up the choreography and perfect it very quickly! The soloists, who I loved watching, had of course already danced this but were also revising and perfecting it.
The first two days, the dancers rehearsed specific parts of the choreography separately, in all three studios, each run by either a ballet master or Kader, the choreographer. During my last two days, everyone was in the big studio going through the whole of the ballet in the correct order, conducted by the two ballet masters and the choreographer. Everyone has a 30 minute break in the middle of the afternoon, and they finish at 5.15 p.m.