Sarah Vaughan-Jones tells us about her personal experience in performing with the company.
With an extensive background in dance I was extremely excited to be asked to perform as an extra, alongside four colleagues from the Centre, for Wayne McGregor’s Infra with the Mariinsky Ballet. Although it was only a brief appearance on the stage, the experience of being behind the scenes with one of the most renowned companies in the world was thoroughly exhilarating.
The day began in the dressing room where we met some members of the company and tried out our costumes for the show. Not really knowing what to expect, Lyudmila Sveshnikova, a company musician who has worked for the company since 1975, walked around the room and had a good look up and down at each of us to decipher whether our outfit was suitable for performance. Luckily there wasn’t too much work to do and we were ready to go in no time.
We then moved into the Donald Gordon Theatre where we rehearsed our section for the 1st time with the ballet master of the company. It felt rather intimidating whilst we watched the male dancers rehearsing their boundless pirouettes with incredible strength and ease, before entering the space. We grouped up along the wings in preparation for our rehearsal, ensuring that all the staff from the centre were together for the experience. The simple act of walking suddenly felt challenging when faced with the grandeur of the Donald Gordon Stage. Our role was to convey pedestrians passing by, paying no attention to the dramatic expressions of the dancers on stage, reflecting our passive relationship with the distresses and challenges that face our society.
Our rehearsal was over in a heartbeat and I was grateful that I managed to walk across the stage without any anxieties exposing themselves.
We were then able to sit back and relax whilst the company ran through the other 2 works included in the programme. Being able to watch the ballet as they ran through their performances, addressing technical issues and making detailed corrections to their timing and choreography felt like a particularly exclusive experience. After their run through we were able to practice once more before hitting centre stage for the evening’s performance. Being second on the bill we could catch the 1st and last pieces in the programme.
At 7.30pm sharp the curtains were drawn and we were invited in to the tantalising world of Nuevo Tango. The piece was a striking fusion of Classical Ballet and Tango crafted by the seductive choreography of Hans van Manen. We made our way back stage for our debut performance with Mariinsky. I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t see the full effect of the performance from the audience, but nothing could compare to being side by side to some of the most talented dancers in the industry. From what I could see from the wings the choreography looked spectacularly technical, precise with some incredible contortionism. Before long we received our cue and as 1st on stage I was very anxious that I entered on time, to ensure that we were in synch with the music and the beginning of the next scene. Whilst walking across the stage I took a deep breath to soak up the remarkable surroundings.
It was a profound experience and I couldn’t be more grateful to the company and to the Centre for the fantastic opportunity.
By Sarah Vaughan-Jones