A day in the life of a ballet dancer. . .
by Carmen Wilson
Hastings performing arts students heard the in side [inside] story on the New Zealand Ballet company on Monday.
Diana Shand, a principal dancer in the ballet company, went to Colenso High School in Napier.
Diana was taught dance from the age of three by her mother Karen Hawkins, Betty Gray in Napier and Briar Horrocks, in Hastings.
She has been with the company for 10 years, making her one of the longest serving dancers.
Ages in the company vary, with the youngest dancer just 19 years, and the eldest 37.
One of the problems with professional dancing is your “use by date”, she said.
“Once you enter your 30s, you start to get too old to dance full time. Repetitive strain injury is common and dancers’ joints get worn out.”
To be accepted in to the New Zealand Ballet Company most dancers had formal training for two to three years at the New Zealand School of Dance.
Audiences are becoming younger, and as a result the demand for contemporary dance has increased.
Because of finances, the ballet company has not been able to visit the smaller towns.
“When I joined the company in 1988, we used to visit small towns, like Nelson. Now we only go to those places every five years.”
The present tour was being promoted for the ballet company’s 45th anniversary.
To celebrate, the company chose 45 towns to visit.
“This tour has been hard because we have had one night stands and we have been doing the driving as well as performing.”
Long hours of performing is not only hard on the body, it wears out many ballet pumps.
Diana said it was common for her to wear through two pairs of pointed ballet pumps in one night.
The tour has taken five weeks, with a month to go. But this is only part of the time the group spends away from home.
“We spend about five to six months of the year away.”
The rest of the time the dancers are based in Wellington, where they train 40 hours a week.
Diana would love to see dancers paid more for their talent.
“Our wages could certainly not be compared to rugby players. They range from $20,000 to $37,000.”
After talking to Diana, the students watched the dancers rehearse for their performance in Hastings, on Monday night, which had a sell-out crowd.
Photo caption – Dancers rehearsing in the Hastings Municipal Theatre. They were getting ready for the performance in Hastings on Monday night.