Happy world ballet day everyone! I thought it would be fun to take advantage of this day to talk about the realities of ballet being a very international workspace. I think dancers might be some of the most well-traveled people simply because the search for a job demands it. Very rarely do dancers have a straight path from school to company. Even then, often the school they attended is far from home. Some dancers start traveling and living abroad from age 12! Then once you hit 18, you are bouncing around the world, hitting every audition possible, trying to nail a job. This has many huge benefits as your mind is opened by seeing the world, experiencing things only certain cultures can give you, learning languages, and meeting new people. But with it often comes a longing for stability, a sense of normality and homesickness. In the spirit of world ballet day, I have gathered dancers from every continent, excluding the Antarctic of course, to share where they are from and how they got to where they are now, as well as a pro and con that comes with the international lifestyle. First up, Alexandria Marx
North America- Alexandria Marx
Alexandria is from Houston Texas. She grew up there until eventually, she went to study in Tampa Florida at Next Generation Ballet. After a crazy series of events, she moved to Amsterdam to train at the Dutch National Ballet Academy. “That was a crazy miracle because I had auditioned so many places and was waiting for so long for so many things and it was already June! I didn’t know where I was going to go, and I really wanted to take the next step to find another school or trainee program. It was just this big miracle that all of a sudden all the emails were being answered and I was able to audition and got a place in the school!” So then she moved to Amsterdam and spent two years in the school before joining the company.
“A pro about living abroad, well I think as a ballet dancer, in this field, living in Europe, you feel very well taken care of. Your job is a lot more stable than it would be in the States. Here, after four or five seasons, you can get what they call a lifetime contract until you’re 38, which isn’t a lifetime, but for a dancer that’s pretty much it. And then you’re safe, and you don’t have to worry. In the States, you could be a dancer in the company for twenty years then get fired the next day. You don’t have the same guarantee of stability there. I like it here!
The number one con would be that I’m just far away from my family. And that is just something that is very hard. Every time I go home, then go back to the airport to come back here I think it’s going to be easier. I always think, ‘You know, you’ve been away for seven years, this time will be better, this time I’ll be fine,’ but somehow it’s always hard. Another con is not having access to fantastic Mexican food. That’s kinda important to me, but that’s ok.”
South America- Bianca Teixeira
Bianca Teixeira is from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Bianca made her way to Europe via competitions. After winning the silver medal at the Youth America Grand Prix she joined the Bayerisches Junior Ballett München. Then after a year there, she joined the Polish National Ballet in Warsaw. In 2019 she joined the San Francisco Ballet and now she is currently working as a soloist in the Bavarian State Ballet.
“A pro of living abroad is definitely the value that Europe gives to art and especially ballet. It’s so beautiful to see that living abroad. It’s like football in Brazil. Plus, meeting and getting to understand other cultures and other worlds. If you think of each person as a little world then you get to know other little worlds all within our planet. So, um yes, it’s very challenging and but exciting! A con is that I’m far away from my family, for sure, I don’t even have to think twice to answer. Having them so far away is not easy. Not having them watching me or not being able to go home for the weekend, that is a very big con, for sure. But this year they are going to come for Christmas, after seven years of not being together for Christmas, so I’m very excited about that!”
Next up, Leonardo!
Europe- Leonardo Celegato
Leonardo definitely knows a thing or two about traveling. Leo is originally from Italy but moved to Germany to study at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart at age 15. After a year there he joined the Ballettschule Theater in Basel, Switzerland. In 2017 he moved to Vienna, Austria to study at the Vienna State Opera Ballet Academy. Not long after that, he moved to St. Petersburg, Russia. There he studied at the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Two years later he moved to the States where he worked in Chicago at the Joffery Studio Company before finally landing back in Europe at the Estonian National Ballet. To so some, all this moving and traveling can sound so exciting! Like a dream! But to others, it may sound a bit overwhelming and exhausting. Like anything, there is always a positive and a negative.
“A pro of living aboard is that you get the chance to meet so many different people, see new cultures and live out different styles! This makes you grow as a person. It opens your mind to new realities that you could integrate into your own. A con of living aboard is probably homesickness. After some time, I really feel like spending time with my family. Feeling their love and support.. just having dinner with them would make me feel already very good! I smile just thinking about it!”
Asia- Madoka Sasaki
Madoka is originally from Japan but moved to Vienna in her last years of high school. After studying at Vienna State Opera Ballet School she joined the company. A few years later she moved to Germany to dance with the Leipziger Ballett and stayed there for four years. Though she loved the company in Germany, it was very contemporary. Wanting to dance more classically again, she moved to Tallinn and joined the Estonian National Ballet. After one season there, she met her boyfriend and moved to Italy where she is still working at various theaters such as Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Teatro San Carlo in Naples, and Teatro dell’Opera in Rome! Like Leo, her main pro of traveling is the influence of new cultures and the opportunity to learn more about the world.
“Definitely getting to know many people from different countries is great! Also, knowing the differences between my culture and the others gives me a lot to think about. I also love Italy because of the architecture and monuments; the cities are full of history and art! But I miss my family. Being far from Japan is hard sometimes because I would like to be surrounded by my family.”
Africa- Ashley Dean
Ashley Dean is from South Africa. She started dancing when she was 5 and since then always had a passion for it. It began as a hobby after school. But later she knew that she wanted to become a professional dancer. “I remember sitting in my academic classes wishing I could be at a ballet school.” Thankfully Ashley’s parents were very supportive of her passion for dance and as her dad is a pilot they suggested she try auditioning for ballet schools in London (as he was flying to London every month). Ashley got accepted into English National Ballet School at the age of 17 and continued to train there for three years. She then was given an apprenticeship contract with The Royal Ballet Company and a year later got her full-time contract. She’s been living out her dream, dancing with Royal, ever since. Life in South Africa is very different from life in London. It opened up a lot of freedoms that she hadn’t experienced.
“Living abroad is exciting, especially coming from a third-world country. I was able to travel to work on my own, on public transport. I felt safe walking on the streets, there was just so much freedom! I also love how international London is. I have friends from all over the world!
Being so far away from my family is hard though. I’m so close to my family and they all live in South Africa. It’s difficult missing out on everything happening in their lives and not having them here for some big moments in my life.”
Australia- Liam Morris
Liam Morris was born and raised in Australia. He stayed there until he was 17, then he moved to London to join the English National Ballet School. He landed his first job in Bucharest Romania, then after two years made his way back to the UK, but this time he was based in Leeds working for the Northern Ballet. Now he is currently working at the Estonian National Ballet.
“For me, a pro of living abroad is being able to experience different cultures and see the world (which is so far away from home). In regards to ballet, it’s also nice to experience and learn different ways to dance and to see how I can improve my technique through the many different styles of the companies I have worked in. The only con for me is being so far away from family. Leaving home at 17, I feel like I have missed many years of important time with my family members. The first time my parents traveled overseas was when I joined English National Ballet School! I’m very grateful for the sacrifices they’ve made, which have enabled me to do what I love, see other parts of the world, experience different cultures and have the chance to learn and grow from both the positive and negative experiences that come my way.”
You can see a common thread in all of these stories. Living abroad offers so much to one’s life, to growth and development, both as an artist and human. But the sacrifices of home can feel very great at times. This is often why international dancers tend to cluster together. We have a passion that bonds us, but also a deep understanding of the sacrifice it takes to always be far away from home. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly home is. I often find that when it’s the holidays, I say, “I’m going home”. But then when I’m home, getting ready to return to work, I also say, “I’m going home.” I guess you could say we “have it all”, just not at the same time, It can be hard to have your heart in more than one place, but it’s also an incredible privilege to have so much to love and cherish.
Happy World Ballet Day friends! I hope wherever ballet has taken you in this world, that it is exciting, fun, and full of experience that will shape us into better people and dancers!