Sometimes there are dancers who seem to get the roles easily. The ones who are cast well from the moment they enter the company. This isn't often the case and wasn't the case in my career, though from the outside it might have appeared differently.
When I joined the Vienna State Opera in 2005 I had just finished an extra year at the Kirov Academy where I had only been dancing. Some might call it a gap year, I just saw it as an opportunity to really focus on my dancing. The first part I was cast in was one of the group dancers in Renato Zanella's Petrushka. It was only a few weeks after arriving in Vienna that I had my first taste of the stage, it was exhilarating.
Shortly after we started rehearsals the casting went up for Giselle. I wasn't cast for anything. In fact I was a cover for the hunt party. Which means if someone got injured walking across the stage, then I would get my chance to walk across the stage. You can imagine I wasn't thrilled about this "opportunity". Not wanting to sit around and do nothing, I decided to go to any rehearsals I could that were corps de ballet. It was in one of these rehearsals that I established my ability to "jump in" when needed. One of the demi-soloists was dancing the group peasant dance and didn't want to be so he would ask me to do it for him. The ballet masters at the front of the room took notice and my reputation was born.
Fast forward 6 and a half years to January 2012. The stage was set for my fastest role preparation ever: Prince Florimund in Peter Wright's The Sleeping Beauty. But wait...there was a catch. I didn't have to just prepare with one partner, I had to prepare with 2!
2 days of work in the studio with 2 different partners and no official stage rehearsal. I was set up for failure, but I loved that. With such short preparation time, comes no expectation of high standard, but I was going to give it everything I had.
I remember doing the run throughs in the studio and on stage, still unsure of the choreography but as I write this my recollection of the performances is a blur. I remember the pats on the back from my fellow company members for "saving the show" and I remember the glorious moment that followed my second performance.
As the curtain fell I watched as my director walked on to stage asking everyone to stay for a moment. He proceeded to thank everyone for a great performance, but then his thanks turned to one person. Applauding this person for their professionalism, lack of complaint, and ability to demonstrate work ethic above all else. He called out my name and announced my promotion to soloist.
It was an incredible moment to have my company that I adored congratulating me on my success, but someone was missing. The love of my life wasn't there. My stomach sank.
Marie-Claire and I had discussed changing companies already. She was watching the proceedings from the dressing room. How would this promotion affect our choice. Would it mean I wanted to stay? Would my professional success result in personal demise?
It brings me to a line from Don McLean's Crossroads "But there's no need for turning back
'Cause all roads lead to where I stand
And I believe I'll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned"
I suppose a balance must be kept and it was in this moment of elation that I also was dealt an unexpected challenge. A challenge that would cause us to make a choice that would change both of our lives forever. A choice that would take us both along roads we never dreamed we would walk...but that's a story for next time.