A day in the life of a Northern Ballet dancer

Part 1

Since partnering with our friends over at Northern Ballet, our love for ballet has grown, and so naturally, we were delighted when they asked us to visit them for the day for a ‘Behind the scenes’ tour. 

Our agenda carefully organised, we entered their fine establishment and were given exclusive access into the fascinating realm of some of the world’s finest ballet dancers. 

Northern Ballet Studio Theatre. Image by Karl Andre.

Activation & Company Class

Greeted by our friends Natalia Kerner and Teresa Saavedra Bordes, we were invited to join the early morning ‘activation’ and company class. We enter to the scene of a young female dancer hammering her pointe shoes, amongst others in conversation and we instantaneously sense the essence of ‘togetherness’ within the group of dancers. As the emphasis of family and friends is important to us, this resonates with us and our culture. 

Humbly observing from the studio’s perimeter, the dancers began their warm up; each displaying their own favoured ways of warming up and stretching before the company class commences. An array of pointe shoes and warm-up booties (more about these later on) mask the floor and the studio transforms into an enchanting sea of movement of delicate yet strong physiques. 

Kevin Poeung & Northern Ballet dancers. Image by Justin Slee.

Between the change from ‘activation’ to the company class, we learn that the Company consists of 47 dancers in total, with the longest serving dancer having been at Northern Ballet for 20 years. 

The pianist soothingly filling the room with a mix of modern and classical music, our focus is quickly pulled back into the depths of the studio. The subtle sound of ballet shoes gently sweeping the floor as the dancers gracefully transition from one position to another. Lead by Chris Hinton-Lewis, Guest Rehearsal Director, the class gradually gains momentum, though without interruption of synchronicity and fluidity. It’s hard not to be captivated by the precision and concentration exuding from each of the dancers, as we look on in awe of these fiercely talented professionals. 

Natalia Kerner rehearsing Gloria. Image by Justin Slee.

Friends of Fazenda

Surreptitiously exiting the studio, we’re full of questions that we can’t wait to ask Natalia and Teresa when they’ve finished their class in another studio with the leading lady herself – Yoko Ichino. Rehearsal Director and Academy Associate Director at Northern Ballet, Yoko herself founded the renowned Ichino Technique, which we learn gives aspiring and professional dancers the foundations of both science, technique and emotional and physical understanding of their strengths and limitations. 

It’s hard to describe the presence and aura that permeates from Yoko on both a conversational level and within the studio setting; though it’s easily comprehendible why she’s a woman of influence within the Northern Ballet family. 

Teresa Saavedra Bordes & Northern Ballet dancers. Image by Caroline Holden.

Company Rehearsals

Upon returning from our lunch break, we’re met by a buzz of young children in the foyer of Northern Ballet. The excitement and energy carries throughout the ground floor, and we learn that these children are here to attend the International Summer School at the Academy. Lead by David Nixon OBE and Yoko Ichino, the International Summer School offers places for children from across the world. 

We’re then quickly whisked away into another studio for rehearsals. The room is filled with the flow of the delicate, sweeping silk wraps of the female dancers. Perfectly assembled ballet buns intermittently rise and fall across the studio, with sequences so well orchestrated that make it difficult to believe this is only a rehearsal. 

Rehearsal Director, Yoko gently guides the ladies, tenderly adjusting posture and position where needed. The dancers have been on summer break and are in their second week of rehearsals. Observing from the sidelines once again, we’re transported to another world. It’s such a privilege to see the dynamic within the studio, and we’re reminded why classical ballet captures the hearts of so many. 

Ballet is so much more than a ‘performance dance’. The emotional gravity, the carefully orchestrated storytelling; this is an expression of art communicated in the form of highly technical movement and choreography. We leave feeling invigorated, with a re-ignited fire and enamorment of ballet, booking our tickets to their Mixed Programme. 

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Next up in our ‘Behind the scenes at Northern Ballet’ series: We share our Q&A with Natalia and Teresa.