La Personne’s newest columnist, Vaganova Ballet Academy graduate and Mariinsky dancer, Svetlana Savelieva, writes about her life in quarantine.
What are dancers’ lives like now?
The date on which the quarantine was supposed to be lifted has been changed several times already. At first, the company was planning to return at the end of March, then – on the 10th of April. Later, that date was pushed back to the 14th of May, and now, with self-isolation orders extended to the 31st of May, no one is making any predictions. Whatever will, be will be.
Boredom has not, however, been an issue. There are always tasks that need doing, and many dancers have discovered the simple joys of domestic life.
Many of my colleagues remembered that their apartments include a kitchen equipped with a stove. When you leave the house at 9:30 am and return around 11 pm, “for some reason” the desire to spend another half-an-hour whipping something up in the kitchen dissipates. Why bother when the theatre’s canteen boasts a diverse menu (if only you knew the kind of roasted pumpkin, soups and desserts they have there)?
Indeed, everyone started cooking, either for the first time or rediscovering long-forgotten skills.
For example, Alexander Sergeev and Daria Pavlenko presented their #notaballetdinner during an Instagram live session. I haven’t attempted recreating the recipe myself yet but, judging by the comments, it’s incredibly delicious.
Every day at 12 pm, dancers gather on Zoom. For the first couple of minutes, you can hear the household noises, children’s voices, and you can see pets walking by the camera. And then we’re off with the familiar “tatita–one–and–two!”, as everyone reaches for the nearest table, chair, cabinets or wall, and the morning classical dance class begins.
Some things must remain unchanged, after all, and the morning class, which would often be such a challenge in the theatre, is now a source of energy and joy. And how could it not be when the fondu combinations are done to the music from the rock-opera “Juno and Avos”, and a nursery song about frolicking clouds accompanies the frappés?
The class is followed by a short break, and then it’s back to work. Although I graduated from the Academy a year ago (time flies!), I am still a student. I am now pursuing a higher education qualification, and the exams are on, pandemic or not.
Every Wednesday at 12:55 pm, I have a lecture on the literary sources of ballet productions. Our teacher spends an hour and a half telling us about the adult meaning behind fairy tales like “Cinderella”, “The Nutcracker” and “The Little Humpbacked Horse”.
I hadn’t always had the chance to attend lectures. When my workload at the theatre was particularly intense, I barely had the time to eat between rehearsals, let alone travel to uni.
But right now things are great!
(To be honest, most of the time I switch my camera and microphone off during these lectures and watch them on my couch with a cup of tea. Or at the stove. :))
My days at home fly by. First, you drag yourself out of bed, then you take your time eating breakfast, doing class, playing with the cat until he escapes, reading a book, and before you know it – it’s time for another meal. Later, I post on Instagram (this usually takes me some time because I need to come up with ideas for my posts) and spend some time on social media chatting with my classmates (we often send each other messages of support before an exam or a Skype presentation). Then, it’s time for an evening film and dinner (enough with the constant eating; I spend so much more money on food now!), and the day is done.
Despite the monotonous schedule, I rarely find myself bored. Not long ago, my friend from Italy sent me recordings of Nureyev’s and Baryshnikov’s performances, and Maria Abashova’s live stream with Nikolai Tsiskaridze was better than any movie; I was surprised to discover the rector’s other side.
And then there is the cat. Sometimes he has fits of playfulness and gladly gallops alongside me around the apartment, though this usually happens around 11 pm. In my defence, I run practically soundlessly. My neighbours have, so far, made no complaints!
I think my fellow dancers would agree that even though life is different now, our feelings towards our profession remain unchanged. Yes, life without the stage is an odd one; after all, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” But time goes on, and we adjust, finally getting around to tasks we previously had to time for – like deep-cleaning the apartment, the very thought of which used to make you sick.