West Australian Ballet dancer Claire Voss tells us what it’s like to be a ballerina in isolated times, as part of our “Day in the life” series.
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Claire Voss joined West Australian Ballet in 2016. She was born in France and trained both in her home country and in the UK. She has danced with Dortmund Ballet, Zurich Ballet and Finnish National Ballet. Here she shares her experiences of dancing from home, as a result of pandemic-related restrictions.
The minute the West Australian Ballet centre had to close, I knew challenging times lay ahead mentally and physically.
One of my favourite sayings is; “Do what you can with what you have, where you are”, so I decided to start this uncertain journey with that mindset. I knew that not having a set, daily schedule would drive me crazy. I resolved to create one for myself and stick with it. Thankfully, the artistic team at West Australian Ballet (WAB) was well aware of this problem, and has helped us a lot by providing a daily schedule including class, conditioning sessions and yoga via Zoom, as well as some creative tasks and social get-togethers and check-ins.
Therefore, I have only had to fill few hours of my day around these. Typically, I start my day by waking up at my usual time and practise an hour of Pilates with my instructor online. I am very lucky that this year I decided to enrol in a Diploma of Pilates Method Therapy. This course involves a lot of personal practice, as well as a lot of study.
After this, I start to get ready for our daily Zoom Ballet Class with the WAB company. Being in a really small space can be very frustrating; having to avoid the couch, the plants and my cat (pictured top) while moving is distracting, but we are very fortunate that WAB provided us with proper dance floor and also a ballet barre (made specially for each dancer when the COVID closures began, with the support of WAB’s donors).
Space and time being limited, I have decided to really focus on little details, like my foot work, hip placement, flexibility and ballet basics. I feel that this is the perfect time to work on weaknesses, as season time can be too busy with rehearsals and performances.
After our ballet barre/class, our Head of Health and Wellbeing provides us with a thirty-minute conditioning class. I am not going to lie, these are the most challenging minutes of my day, as it is working my muscles in a very different way and my body isn’t used to it. During this period of self-isolation, the artistic team have also been challenging us with creative tasks that we have to complete throughout our days. It is a nice way to keep our body, mind and creativity challenged. Afterwards, I continue my morning, with my own training for an extra hour or so.
Depending on the day and my mood, I either work on my stamina with a run or a long walk on the beach (sand is great in improving ankle stability), or do basic pointe work. At that time, it is already the afternoon and I dedicate a couple of hours to my studies, necessary for my diploma.
At 4pm, WAB provides an extra hour of virtual classes. It can either be yoga or another type of strengthening circuit. I particularly love yoga and practise myself a lot on my own time, as I find it very good for stability, flexibility as well as finding my inner peace, which is very much needed in these challenging times.
For the evenings, I have made myself a little COVID-19 challenge list. It includes a lot of different interior design projects, “Marie Kondo-ing” my apartment, learning new recipes, (my challenge list is now empty so I think it is a good time to go back to a normal life.)
Before going to bed, I love to take time for journalling. I know this is going to sound very clichéd, but I do think that it is a time to self-reflect and use this opportunity to grow. As a ballerina these times are very challenging; it is really hard to be forced away from the stage for an unknown time and I already miss performing greatly.
It is also hard to stay in a high physical shape. No matter how hard we train, it can never replace a full day of ballet. Mentally, to stay focused while being isolated is very demanding but as I mentioned earlier, WAB has done everything they can to help and support us during this weird time.
My family being in France is also heartbreaking as I don’t know when I will be able to go home to see them again. But in saying that, I want to say that there are silver linings in every situation. I feel so lucky and thankful to be in a safe place like WA, where we can still go outside and enjoy the sunny fresh air daily with amazing outdoor areas. I want to use this time cleverly and work on all these little injuries and weaknesses, to be fully prepared to start back when the time will be right.
Lastly, I want to stay positive, as keeping a healthy mindset is key to go through any hardship. Unfortunately, the entire world is in this crisis and there is no point in getting really negative and depressed. Instead it is a time to be kind to ourselves and others to grow for a better tomorrow, together.
Pictured top are Claire Voss and her cat, at home.
Since Claire wrote this piece for Seesaw she has been able to complete morning class and a short rehearsal session in a small group with fellow dancers (while also staying socially distanced from one another) at the West Australian Ballet Centre.
Read another instalment from our “Day in the life” series, from Co:3 Australia dancer, Zoe Wozniak.