Last month my family vacationed in Scandinavia. We went to Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and my director was able to get my mom connected with someone from the Tivoli Ballet School. While visiting Tivoli (an amusement park in Copenhagen), I was able to take a ballet class with five other dancers, ages 11-13.
When we first walked into the school, we were given a brief tour of the theater, studios, and dressing rooms. They were in the process of remodeling, so it was definitely not what I pictured. I had to change into my ballet clothes, so I went into the restroom of the dressing room, where the other girls were getting ready. When I tried to come out, the door (which looked really old and had an old-fashioned key in a large keyhole), got stuck and I had to call my mom over to help me get out. She struggled to get it open, too, but one of the other girls was able to help. My face turned a bit red out of embarrassment, since I was already pretty nervous being around strangers in a foreign country. It wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start my time there.
The ballet class was taught by Niels Balle, the school’s director. He was a dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet and was also the director of the Royal Danish Ballet School. He was very nice and introduced me and my mom to the class. He let us know he’d be teaching the class in Danish, but would switch to English for me when he could.
At first it was very weird and uncomfortable to take the class, because I didn’t know anyone and didn’t speak their language. Even though Mr. Niels taught most of the class in Danish, I could understand the instructions he was giving because of his body language. He did repeat a lot in English, to make sure I understood as well. Even though it was a small class, there was another instructor giving corrections throughout part of it, so it was nice for each dancer to get personal critique.
Most of the exercises we did were things I do in my regular classes at my studio. The biggest difference I noticed was that the instructors put a lot more focus on head movements than what I’m used to. The class was honestly tiring, because even though I had been walking for miles a day on vacation, I was already a little “out of shape” after not having a ballet class for two weeks. (It helped me understand how important the summer ballet intensives really are!)
The dancers in the class were preparing for a performance that weekend, so I was able to sit down for part of the class to watch them rehearse. I really enjoyed watching their talented dancers and liked seeing their choreography.
I realized the great thing about ballet is that it’s a universal language. Even if an instructor’s teaching style is different, I know now that I’m able to take a class anywhere. Although it was an intimidating experience and I had to leave my comfort zone, I feel a sense of accomplishment after taking a class in another country. My family loves to travel all over the world, so from now on I will be sure to always pack my leotard, tights and ballet shoes in my suitcase!
Evelyn Gohl with instructors, Niels Balle and Anne Peyk