When I was a child I loved finding old black and white photographs of ballerinas backstage. In their dressing rooms and going through the routine of preparing for a show. I just found them unbelievably glamorous and I desperately wanted to be like them - powdering their face while wearing a tutu with dressing gowns draped over chairs. Its incredible to think that I now live that life. Its not as glamorous as I imagined but its not far off!
There really are lightbulbs surrounding your mirror. They serve a purpose too, they create just the right kind of uniform glare so that you can recreate stage lighting. Eliminating shadows on the face and allowing you to see what the audience will see. We don’t have costumes draped over chairs but they are hanging up behind us on rails. If you’re getting ready for a big three act ballet you’ll have a couple of rails to hold all of the costumes (Countess Larisch in Mayerling for example) or if its a modern ballet or even an old Balanchine one its often just one single leotard hanging there! Our incredible costume department prepare all of this during the day of the show while we’re upstairs in the studios rehearsing.
Pointe shoes are either hanging up ready to be sorted or if its a big show and I’m a bit more nervous I’ll have chosen my favourite pair in the morning and they’ll be on my place ready to slip on.
At the Royal Opera House, and I think this is the same all over the world, we have a little speaker on our place that we can tune into either the Linbury Theatre or the main stage to hear whats going on. This means that when you’re getting ready for a show you can hear the orchestra warming up, the audience coming into the auditorium and start to really get in the mood. If its a really big show though and I’m nervous then I’ll turn the speaker off - it freaks me out too much!
There is a lot of mental preparation before a show, no matter whether its a big or a small role, us dancers are perfectionists and we are desperate for our performance to be perfect for the audience. This leads to a certain atmosphere on big nights in the dressing room. Often it will be chatty and we’ll all be sailing through the evening without a care in the world then occasionally on the premier of a big show you can hear a pin drop - there’s a hushed atmosphere as everybody gets into their own individual mindful space. The women in my changing room know when I’ve got a role that I’m slightly nervous about, I manically tidy my area and do long-delayed admin.
Regardless of what show I’ve danced the end of the night is always the same, an explosion of hair pins, toe tape and make-up!