Greek National Opera Ballet School

Dance is the hidden language of the soul and in these challenging times, ballet dancers have become creative to adapt their at-home objects to become a ballet barre, like a kitchen bench.

While the dancers aren’t performing as usual, discipline remains important and rigorous class schedules have gone largely unchanged, with instructors conducting virtual online classes.

Using his ironing board at home, the Greek National Opera (GNO) Ballet School instructor Alexander Neskov demonstrates the exercises to his students using his ironing board.

Everyday, the GNO Ballet school has 40 students tuning in for lessons on their personal computers, tablets and cellphones. Anastasia uses the back of a chair, Nektarios finds support on a couch, Sofia is in the kitchen and others are using radiators, doors and any other surface they can find to serve as their barre.

Their teacher, though, is not cutting them any slack just because they’re stuck at home like the rest of us. “Let me see that stretch. Are you sweating yet? Back straight. That leg looks like gum.”

Greek National Opera Ballet School

“It took us a while to get organised from a technical standpoint, but we set up a daily program of practical and theory lessons. We have added barre and yoga exercises to maintain physical fitness and prevent injuries,” said the school’s director Giorgos Matskaris.

Accustomed to long hours of training and dancing, self-isolation came as something of a physical and mental shock to the GNO Ballet dancers Kathimerini spoke with. “We’re doing the best we can. We usually require a lot of space, special surfaces, guidance and the group. The upshot as far as I see it is that we have a chance to work on ourselves a bit, to reflect on where we started. Returning to a normal routine will have to be done very cautiously,” said Maria Kousouni, a principal dancer.

Soloist Stelios Katopodis moved back home to the Ionian island of Lefkada, for the duration of the lockdown. He practices at the kitchen counter and, although worried about the overall situation, believes that motivation needs to come from inside each person. “You get used to hanging around the house and there is something nice about it, but I think it’s good to get some distance from the thing you love. It makes you realise how much you miss it and appreciate it anew so that you’re motivated to do better,” he said.

*Source: Kathimerini