Never has the other side of balletic curtain been displayed to us on social media more than in this time of self-isolation! It’s the chance to follow the daily routine of ballet stars within their own walls, often in good company: children, partners, animals join in, appearing never – well, hardly ever – to diminish the dancers’ concentration and discipline. Whatever the environment, the time of day, the setting, a dancer always has their teleworking toolbox with them: their own body. And at a time when America, like Europe, is asking its citizens to stay at home to fight the spread of coronavirus, dancers have understood that isolation must not imply depression, but rather movement and good humour! So let’s cast an eye at the daily routines of these inspired stars: for some of them, you can follow them directly. They’re using Instagram to put their art on display in a spectacular fashion. As Nobel Literature laureate Paul Valéry described it, “this festival of the body, in front of our souls, offers light and joy”.

Let’s start by following the dancers from some American companies – in particular, the American Ballet Theater – who are running their courses by video every morning.

In various coloured outfits, Isabella Boylston shows the perfect example of why you don’t need a 3,000 square foot studio to execute a Développé à la Seconde to 180°: a kitchen is perfectly sufficient! Her enthusiasm is truly contagious, and the Principal Dancer even gives live courses (which you can find under the hashtag #theCindiesBalletClass). So haul out the blue leggings and follow along with Isabella, trying to get your legs as high as hers!

James B. Whiteside, another Principal Dancer at ABT, has also chosen the kitchen of his New York apartment as dance studio for his period of isolation. Never has an Adage turned into a such a great excuse for leaving the cooking to one’s partner.

A third ABT Principal, Herman Cornejo, is sharing “the show behind the show” in his living room, interrupted by occasional breaks with his partner and their baby. Working and making time with those close to him is a win-win for this dancer! While we’re at it, we see Carlos Lopez on screen and the whole of the ABT family in video-conference, smiling and sweaty, which broadcasts good virtual vibes.

It’s not just ABT where the training regime is intense. New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck is giving rigorous online lessons from his living room. If you follow the hashtag, #turnitoutwithtiler, you’ll see adorable ballerinas of all ages reproducing his movements: we can be confident of the next generation!

Moving West from New York, let’s catch up with Melissa Gelfin, Principal Dancer at Cincinnati Ballet, doing her exercises leaning on a cat tree on which her clearly ballet-habituated feline is enthroned. It would seem that the wooden bar of the dance studio might never get used again, since so many of the dancers seem to manage perfectly well without it! We can practis our own barre, leaning on whatever we like, with the dancer, by finding account @dancewearroyale. Cats welcome.

Moving back East in the USA, Derek Dunn, Principal at Boston Ballet, has put on his beanie and filmed himself doing a proper Adage in front of his ironing board. Never will the laundry be better pressed than after such a full-body workout.

Indeed, household tasks and dance are 100% compatible, if former Paris Opera ballet star Isabelle Guérin, who splits her time between Paris and the USA, is anything to go by. With simplicity and perfection, she sets about her chores on pointe. Ironing and vacuuming on elevation. And, of course, compulsory hand-washing, still on tiptoe. Hard as Covid-19 may try, it’s not going to reach a finger or toe of this dancer, who appears to have lost none of her grace or technique.

European dancers have generally been less forthcoming on social networks, but several dancers are well worth following.

Internationally renowned Russian star Maria Kochetkova, currently a principal guest artist at Norwegian National Ballet, is sharing her barre while leaning on her ironing board (clearly, the ironing board is the one household accessory indispensable to performance practise). Here psychedelic stories in between exercises are not to be missed: this is an artist with limitless sense of humour who is doing movements in every genre, her head adorned with six pairs of sunglasses, to the sounds of improbable music. Inspiration through isolation...

In Germany, the dancers multitask and have quit full days. Hats off to those ballet stars who conduct their career in parallel with full time motherhood:

Iana Salenko, star at Staatsoper Berlin, hasn’t lost any of her technique while taking care of her baby. Her oldest son, by the way, is the cameraman, filming her superb Développés which are always exceptionally rigorous.

Aalto Ballett Essen star Adeline Pastor demonstrates that it’s possible to prepare a Quiche Lorraine on pointe while accompanied by two dogs, not to mention doing abdominal exercises while entertaining her three children. Isolation is far more fun when it’s together!

Let’s say it: that there’s no need to send one’s housemate on a “walk in the proximity of one’s home” in order to get out the tutu. We should bear in mind that Covid-19 is more of a killer than embarrassment. Stay home and dance!


Translated from French by David Karlin