Tuesday, June 13, 2017

4 Ways to Develop Stage Presence—in Class


Miss Lindsay found this great article from http://www.dance-teacher.com/4-ways-to-develop-stage-presence-in-class-2430621887.html.  All of dancers will benefit from this!


When Elizabeth Ferrell was a young student, Suzanne Farrell told her something she'll never forget. "She said she was going to paint eyeballs on my eyelids," Ferrell says, laughing, "because I was looking down all the time." Ferrell now uses the same phrase when she teaches at American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. "Students have to make sure their eyes are open and alive, so they can communicate with the audience," she says. "It starts in the classroom."

Some dancers instinctively know how to engage an audience. For others, stage presence is a learned skill that must be developed over time and practiced in class. From encouraging simple postures to coaching nuanced facial expressions, there are ways you can help students explore how to present themselves professionally—prior to getting onstage.



It's How You Carry Yourself
Tony Coppola, of the Rock Center for Dance in Las Vegas, suggests dancers consider themselves performers 24 hours a day. "Your stage presence, or carriage of yourself," he says, "is important not just within the walls of the studio—it's how you present yourself in daily life, even when you're walking into a grocery store." Good posture plays an important role in establishing body carriage. Dancers should think of projecting the energy of their chests up and forward into space, while aiming to have the longest neck possible. Christina Johnson, rehearsal director at Complexions Contemporary Ballet, might ask dancers to show off the diamonds on their imaginary necklaces, using imagery to help inspire the right feeling.

Acting classes can also help dancers feel more comfortable with storytelling and dramatic roles. "My musical theater students have a little edge over the ones who are only dancing," says Coppola. "They have a different presence and confidence."

Communicate with the Upper Body
Encourage the use of épaulement, showing how each position can translate into a different mood or feeling. "In tendu croisé, it's a proud feeling, with a wide chest and shoulders, head lifted and focus up," says Ferrell. "In écarté, the eyes are lowered or raised, and it's a different feeling—more mysterious."

Ferrell might also add a port de bras to greet the pianist or a guest in the room. "The port de bras and épaulement aren't just positions. They're communication tools," she says. "The dancers should invite the person or audience to go with them."

Relate to the Music
To help students overcome any shyness or embarrassment over expressing themselves, Ferrell asks them to respond to the music being played for each exercise in class. "They don't have to smile, necessarily, or perform," she says, "but they should feel the different kinds of responses their bodies have to certain music." When they step forward for an adagio, for example, Ferrell suggests they take a soulful approach. In a petit allégro, the dancers should have attack in their legs and show energy in their facial expressions. "It's a different feeling completely," she says.

A pianist can help by playing music that students know and love. If you don't have an accompanist, download songs or find CDs that might inspire emotion in your class. "Find a song that the kids really relate to, and then their pliés will become a performance," says Ferrell.

Remember the Eyes
Dancers should use their eyes to connect with other dancers and the audience. "If they want us to focus on their pointe work, or if it's a romantic feeling in an adagio, then a downcast gaze is OK," says Ferrell. "Otherwise, we want to see their eyes." Standing at barre, dancers should look beyond the person standing in front of them. When in arabesque, the focus must go past the fingertips. "It's the same in center," she says. "They should look beyond the mirror, so they don't get that vacant look that kids can sometimes get."

Occasionally, dancers may overdo their facial expressions. "I remind students that the performance is not for their dentist," says Coppola. "They can't have a forced smile." If dancers continue to exaggerate or appear insincere, Coppola will have them repeat the dance with no expression at all. Then, with each run-through, he will allow them to slowly add a little more. "Exaggeration is such a bad habit," he says. "It could affect their careers down the road."

Facial expressions should instead be a genuine response to a feeling that's happening inside. "Dancers have to be honest, real and in the moment," says Johnson, thinking of advice that Alvin Ailey used to give his dancers. "Then they can use real-life experiences to inform their movements." She likes to incorporate this idea early in class, even at barre, encouraging dancers to be aware internally and externally through each exercise. "Class is a practice in performing," says Johnson. "Dancers should approach every combination as choreography that could be done onstage."

Julie Diana was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet. She and her husband Zachary Hench now direct Juneau Dance Theatre in Alaska.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Congratulations RAD dancers!



Hello,

This year was another very successful exam season for the RAD program, with wonderful achievements at all levels, but I wanted to take a moment and give some recognition to some very dedicated dancers in our Vimy Program. I have been so honoured to work with all of them and share in this amazing accomplishment. Although, the road was not easy and there were many challenges to face, you all have stayed the course. We have a wonderful Royal Academy of Dance program, with wonderfully supportive teachers. It is because of them that we are seeing students achieve such success.

I am very excited about the future! The Royal Academy of Dance program here at Vimy has seen 4 dancers accomplish the Advanced 2 level exam this year, with one more completing next week.  We have had 3 dancers achieve Distinction, Jillian Engen, Joshua Hidson, and Madison Dewart, which makes them eligible for some amazing opportunities. Achieving a mark of Distinction at this level is no easy feat. Many will come close, many will pass, but few will reach this level.

Firstly, they are eligible to apply to compete in the Genée International Ballet Competition (https://www.rad.org.uk/achieve/the-genee/genee-2017). This is a very prestigious competition only open to students who have achieved Distinction in Advanced 2 or passed the Solo Seal Award. They must be 19 years of age or younger to compete. This is a first for Edmonton School of Ballet and the Vimy Dance Program and I for one, could not be more proud of these students. Their hard work, perseverance and dedication to studying RAD has been rewarded. This year, Genée is taking place in Lisbon, Portugal from September 7-16, 2017 so these dancers will be Challenged with training and preparation as well as attending their chosen summer intensives. We will be working feverishly to have the pieces set before they go away and then returning to intensive training when they are back.

Although Josh will not be entering this competition, I wanted him to know how proud I am of his work. I wish you all the best in your next adventure!

The second opportunity that is open to these young dancers is the Solo Seal Award. This is the final exam with the Royal Academy of Dance. It is a performance exam, which takes place in a theatre in front of a judging panel and an audience of peers, parents, and dance supporters. The dancers are required to perform three pieces that they will be evaluated on. Dancers are graded on each of their dances and each must receive a passing grade in order to be awarded the Solo Seal. It is a challenging, but very rewarding experience. With the number of Advanced 2 entries in Edmonton this year, there may be a higher opportunity that this performance exam will take place in our own city. Typically, dancers travel to either Vancouver or Toronto to participate. I am excited that there are so many dancers at this level! It is a new frontier for Edmonton and one that we should be very proud of.

I am very excited about the future of Edmonton and the future of the RAD development in this city! It has come a long way and we are seeing such wonderful training coming out of our schools. Thank you to the students, parents, the staff and all supporters for enduring the challenges and staying the course. Together we have made this possible!

Sincerely,
Erin Madsen
& The RAD Department



Friday, June 2, 2017

Essence of Dance - Kudos

I was asked by the director and owner of the Edmonton School of Ballet to post this message from her regarding the recent Essence of Dance performance on Sunday, May 28, 2017.


I was so pleased to have attended the performance of "Essence of Dance" by the Edmonton Contemporary Dancers with their guests The Edmonton Festival Ballet, the Edmonton School of Ballet Junior Company, and Viva Dance.  I was very impressed by all of the groups.  The dancers are so capable of dancing a great diversity of styles with strong technique and wonderful performance commitment.  The senior companies each danced several pieces with an incredibly wide rang of choreography.  It was also exciting to see that the majority of the outstanding choreography was by for ESB/Vimy students.

Overall, it was a performance of the the hightest standard and one could easily forget hat the dancers were so young, as they were such professional and prodicient dancers.  Bravo to the company directors:  Tina Covlin-Dewart, Jayme Tchir, Nancy Hamilton, Terra Mahood and Devin McFarlane.

Thank you for an inspiring afternoon.

Margaret Flynn

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Dancers Need Rest

Janet Hagisavas, senior teacher and director of the Teacher Training Program at the Edmonton School of Ballet felt that this excerpt from the Dancing Times was relevant for all of our dancers, teachers and parents. 

http://www.dancing-times.co.uk/october_2014-3/

Rest is an important issue. Why is it so difficult to find time for a break? Dance is an all-encompassing activity with long performance and training schedules and increasingly difficult
technical and artistic demands.  Dance pushes physical and artistic boundaries, and the rewards of this (seemingly) tireless drive for growth are visible on stages and in classrooms across the world. However, rest is a key component of training and performance to keep dancers in an optimum state of health and well being.

There is no doubt that hard work is an expectation - in fact, a requirement - to achieve the physical and artistic beauty of dance. Many dancers believe that practicing as much as possible results in the best performance, but the way you train is much more important than how much you do.

Rest is anything that gives you a break, either physical or mental. Professional dancers typically work
long hours and push their bodies hard in the studio and on stage, but rest can make the difference between a strong performance and exhaustion and injury. As Matt Wyon, professor of Dance Science at the University of Wolverhapton, says: "Quality of training is more important than hours danced. Optimal learning occurs when dancers are not tired, and therefore rest is a fundamental training strategy."

When dancers work too hard, they may suffer from burnout. Caused by many factors including emotional, physical and mental stress, lack of rest and/ or excessive training, burnout is a syndrome where dancers experience consistent or unexplained tiredness, emotional changes, frequent illness
and injury, poor performance and decreases in interest and motivation. Whilst it's easy to keep pushing and think problems will go away, any burnout warning signs should be addressed immediately.

Busy class, rehearsal and performing schedules (not to mention a dancer's personal drive for perfection) may also result in overtraining and injury. Artistic and administrative staff can
plan training to allow dancers to reach a mental, physical and technical peak in time for performance. This process - called periodisation - involves careful planning of training intensity. Reducing activity just before performance (tapering), gives time for dancers to switch from preparation to performance mode. In this method, it's important to decrease technical classes as rehearsals increase, and
to allow for greater rest time. 

Fitness is another key to helping dancers perform at their best, and research has even shown that fitter dancers have greater artistic abilities than their less fit counterparts. It makes sense that strength, flexibility, endurance and coordination can help a dancer perform well, but fitness is more than training. The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS) includes rest as a key component of fitness for dancers.

Rest is so important because it allows the brain and body time to assimilate and store what has been
learned each day, improving both memory and performance quality. Adding rest periods (equal in length to work periods), both between exercises and between classes, can aid learning and memory of technical skills. Rest obviously reduces fatigue, but also decreases the risk of overuse of injuries
and helps speed up the repair of muscles following exercise.

There are many ways to integrate rest periods into even the most hectic schedules. Taking time to review movements and choreography mentally alongside physical practice is a great tool for learning, and has been shown to be more effective than physical rehearsal alone. Health and technique can both
be optimised by considering and planning the intensity and amount of dancing to avoid sudden increases and over training. Having healthy meals and snacks readily available is helpful, as it allows dancers to relax during breaks rather than spending time finding food. It can also be useful to develop interests outside of dance. Whether doing yoga, reading a book or going to the cinema, non-dance
activities give dancing muscles, both literal and metaphorical, a break.

Most of all, dancers should focus on the quality of training rather than the quantity. It's all part of
a healthy, balanced dancing life to take occasional breaks. ·

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Are You Warm Enough to Start Dancing?

This educational post from IADMS is a brilliant reminder about the importance of being fully warmed up.

http://www.iadms.org/blogpost/1177934/272128/Are-You-Warm-Enough-to-Start-Dancing

Are You Warm Enough to Start Dancing?

Posted By Brenton Surgenor and Andrea Kozai on behalf of the IADMS Dance Educators’ Committee, Monday, April 3, 2017


 

Warming up is essential before taking part in any type of dance activity, but it’s not always clear how to warm up effectively.  This blog post sets out the what, why and some of the how-to’s of an effective dance-specific warm-up.  This prefaces our new, upcoming Resource Paper on effective warm-up for dancers, which has much more information and advice on how to prepare the body for dancing.

Firstly, an effective warm-up will prepare you (or your dancers) mentally and physically to meet the challenges and physical requirements of a class, rehearsal, or performance.  As the name suggests, a warm-up should increase your core body temperature, which prepares your muscles and joints to function effectively during dancing as well as reduces injury risk.

During the warm-up there is an increase in the amount of energy required by your working muscles.  This means your body needs to consume more oxygen and fuel (glucose) to generate energy to power your muscles.  A byproduct of all this extra energy production is the increase in body temperature that gives the warm-up its name, so the cardiovascular section of a warm up is vital in ensuring your body is ready to go.  Therefore, sitting in the sun enjoying a hot coffee will not have the same benefits as a physical warm-up, as a warm-up ensures that your cardiovascular system, breathing rate, and energy-producing systems gradually increase to meet the higher demand for energy when you begin dancing.

A warm-up will have a number of other beneficial effects. These include: increasing the flow of synovial fluid (the lubricant in the joints), which allow your bones to slide more freely; improving the elasticity of your muscles, joints and ligaments for increased range of movement; and increasing the speed that signals travel through your nerves, which improves your overall balance, coordination and proprioception (your body’s ability to understand its orientation). For more information about proprioception see IADMS Resource Paper “Proprioception”.



Whilst it’s good to include some stretching as part of your warm-up, not all types of stretching are beneficial before dancing.  The role of stretching during a warm-up is to mobilize muscles and prepare them safely to carry out the range of motion required of dance activities, not to increase flexibility. Stretching should happen after the activation of the cardiovascular system and when core body temperature is raised.  Dynamic stretching (taking the joint through a full range of motion in a slow and controlled way) is the best form of stretching in a warm-up.  This is because research suggests static stretching (stretches held in one position for longer than 15 seconds) can have a negative effect on balance, proprioception (knowing where your body is in space) and the muscles’ ability to produce powerful quick movements like jumps (Morrin and Redding, 2013). While static stretching can be an important part of flexibility training it is not an appropriate method of warming up; on the contrary, the purpose of dynamic stretching is to ready the body for full range, dynamic motion (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015).  For more about stretching, see IADMS Resource Paper “Stretching for Dancers”.

 
Warming up your mind is just as important as warming up your body.  A good warm-up will give you an opportunity to check how you are feeling, to notice your posture and any unnecessary physical tension or pain.  It can also help you concentrate and focus, which should contribute to technically better dancing and reduced risk of injury (Laws, 2005; Malliou et al., 2007).

Although a thorough and effective warm-up should take about 20 minutes, the time required is dependent on a number of factors including, but not limited to: whether the dancer has participated in any physical activity that day (is it the first class of the day or has the dancer recently completed another class); how warm or cold the environment is; and how much space and time is available for the warm-up. This should include a general physiological warm-up that prepares the core body temperature for physical activity.  Importantly too, the warm-up should include specific activities that relate to the style of the dance to follow (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015).

A warm-up generally consists of three or four sections: a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilizing section, a muscle lengthening section, and sometimes a second pulse-raising section (Quin, Rafferty and Tomlinson, 2015). The pulse-raising sections aim to increase cardiorespiratory and metabolic rates; these are the prerequisite to all further activity. The joint mobilizing section consists of gently moving the various joints through their ranges of motion, and the purpose of the muscle lengthening section is to prepare the muscles for the demands to come through the use of dynamic stretching (Wilmerding and Krasnow, 2017). It is also appropriate to include remedial exercises for injury prevention purposes at the end of the warm-up (Volianitis et al, 2001), and mental skills and preparation can be included at any stage.

Remember the benefits of a warm-up will be reduced or even lost once the body returns to its resting states of heart rate, respiration, and body temperature, so try to keep the time between the end of the warm-up and the dancing a minimum. Warm clothing and continued movement (but not static stretching) will help keep the body’s core temperature elevated. However, this is dependent on what happens after the warm-up (does the dancer keep moving or do they sit down and rest) and environmental elements such the ambient temperature. Cooler temperatures and the lack of movement may cause the effects of the warm-up to dissipate more rapidly.

Unfortunately, there is no magic recipe for warming up and the most important thing to remember is that the warm-up should be specific to the type of dance activity to follow (in other words a ballet warm-up will be different from a jazz warm-up). However, with an understanding of a few basic principles, it should be safe and easy for you to design a warm-up that works for you. 



Here are some suggestions to help you design your perfect dance warm-up.
1.      Involve your mind and take a moment to center yourself.  Check in with how you are feeling; notice any areas where you need to give special attention. 
2.      Make your warm-up dance (and type of dance) specific.
3.      Introduce an activity to gradually increase your heart rate.
4.      Keep the movement simple to begin then progress to more complex and challenging movement patterns.
5.      Mobilize all the joints in your body and don’t forget about your spine and upper body, especially if your dance style includes upper-body weight bearing or/and partnering work.
6.      Give yourself a goal or try some positive self-talk.
7.      Use dynamic stretching and take your body carefully through full ranges of motion saving the static stretching for the cool-down or the end of the day.
8.      Wake up your nervous system by incorporating quick changes in direction and stopping to balance on one leg – this will engage your proprioceptors. 
9.      Once you are feeling warm and just a little bit sweaty, introduce some power movements like small jumps followed by some bigger ones.
10.  Towards the end of the warm-up, pick the pace and progress your movement to speeds nearer the pace of the following dance activity.

Whatever you choose to include, by the end of the warm-up you should feel ready to meet the mental and physical challenges of dancing. For more detailed information, check out the new IADMS resource paper on warming up for dancers.



For more information about warming up see the following resources.
1.      Harris J, Elbourn J. Warming up and cooling down. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2002.
2.      Laws, H., & Apps, J. (2005). Fit to Dance 2: Report of the second national Inquiry into dancers' health and injury in the UK. Dance UK.
3.      Malliou, P., Rokka, S., Beneka, A., Mavridis, G., & Godolias, G. (2007). Reducing risk of injury due to warm up and cool down in dance aerobic instructors. Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation, 20(1), 29-35.
4.      Morrin, N., & Redding, E. (2013). Acute effects of warm-up stretch protocols on balance, vertical jump height, and range of motion in dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 17(1), 34-40.
5.      Quin E, Rafferty S, Tomlinson C. Safe Dance Practice. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2015.
6.      Volianitis S, Koutedakis Y, Carson R. Warm Up: A Brief Review. Journal of Dance Medicine and Science 2001; 5(3): 75-79.
7.      Wilmerding MV, Krasnow DH (eds). Dancer Wellness. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2017.


Written by Brenton Surgenor (BPhEd, MA, MSc), Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and Andrea Kozai (MSc, CSCS), Virtuoso Fitness

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

NEVER give up the job you love:

Miss Dixie thought this story from the Daily Mail might inspire you all!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4065368/NEVER-job-love-Royal-Ballet-s-OLDEST-prima-ballerina-53-reveals-marriage-destroyed-stopped-dancing-sake-family.html

NEVER give up the job you love: Royal Ballet's OLDEST prima ballerina, 53, reveals how her marriage was destroyed after she stopped dancing for the sake of her family

When I arrive at her New York apartment, Alessandra Ferri is standing by a blazing fire and, for a split second, I mistake her tiny, compact size for that of a child, not a 53-year-old mother of two.

Of course, the honed and chiselled body of Alessandra — the world-famous protegee of Mikhail Baryshnikov — is a tribute to a career at the very top of her profession.

Her life is neatly book-ended by two facts: she became the youngest ever prima ballerina at the Royal Ballet aged 19, and now she’s about to return to the Royal Opera House as the oldest leading lady since Dame Margot Fonteyn.















Alessandra Ferri in Giselle in June 1987 (left) and in the world premiere of Wayne McGregor's Woolf Works at The Royal Opera House last year

Earlier this year, Boots featured Alessandra in a TV ad for No 7 cosmetics that saw her dancing with a hologram of her 19-year-old self.

It was an informing experiment — in some ways, the poised, experienced version out-dances the younger, fresher, more innocent version of 1982.

‘Of course,’ agrees Alessandra. ‘Dancing is not just physical. When I dance, I am an actress. Today, I have a whole lifetime to draw on. That other girl was a little seed, I’m the grown tree. There is a lot more depth to my dancing than there was.’

She argues that though she is in her 50s she has as much to offer on stage.
‘We can’t be the 20 or 30-year-old woman that we were. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t an extreme beauty, lightness, enthusiasm and creativity in a 50-year-old person. Or a 60 or 70-year-old, but I’ll let you know when I’m there.’

Alessandra has not always been this sanguine about the ageing process, however.




















Alessandra with husband Fabrizio Ferri (left) and daughter Matilde Ferri (right) 

In June 2007, aged 44, she bowed out of her 22-year career. Back then, the idea was that she was going to retire to spend more time with her daughters, Matilde and Emma (now 19 and 14 respectively) — that she would be, in her own words, a mum.

‘I wanted to be with my kids a lot. I wanted to be with their dad [Fabrizio Ferri, a photographer, whom she’d been married to for 15 years]. Also, maybe, I was a little bit afraid I was getting old.’

But instead of bringing her family together, she makes a startling admission about her decision to retire: tragically, she blames it for destroying her marriage.

The idea of a middle-aged prima ballerina may draw gasps nowadays, yet throughout the Seventies and Eighties, it was not thought odd for prominent dancers to perform on through their 40s and 50s and even beyond. In 1986, Margot Fonteyn appeared as the Queen in Sleeping Beauty aged 66. Alicia Alonso, the Cuban prima ballerina, now 95, danced into her 70s.

But, by 2000, there was a cultural shift. ‘When Margot was dancing later in her life, it was acceptable for a dancer to be older,’ says Alessandra, who sees Fonteyn as a role model for her.

 
In June 2007, aged 44, she bowed out of her 22-year career. Pictured in Woolf Works Ballet

‘And then, the world changed — and not just the world of dance. You had to be young. Actresses were stopped mid-career, too. A whole generation of actresses were not allowed to get old. Beauty became associated with youth only.’

So Alessandra stopped dancing. She didn’t even exercise — she’s at a loss to explain why — going from five hours’ training a day to nothing.

At first, she didn’t notice what was happening to her body: she was throwing herself into the role of a mother, getting the girls up in the mornings, making snacks, taking them to school, picking them up.

‘You know all the things mums do. I took them to clubs and music lessons, made pasta. And it was wonderful, it’s not like I didn’t enjoy it,’ she says.

But then, she started getting small twinges.

‘My body didn’t feel energetically at its best,’ she says. ‘I started feeling lethargic, which I’m not.

‘From moving and training hard, like an Olympic athlete, to suddenly nothing, it was very difficult for my body. I suppose it’s like if you have a Ferrari and only drive it at 10mph. I’m a trained machine.’

After around six months, the pains increased — her joints first, then her back and her feet.

‘I think because the muscle and joints were so used to being moved, they almost felt as if they were going rusty.’

Alessandra says there was an emotional response, too. ‘Not dancing, I felt I didn’t have a real purpose.’

She started to question why she’d given up in the first place and felt bereft.
 
Alessandra says there was an emotional response. ‘Not dancing, I felt I didn’t have a real purpose'

‘Even though my life was full — I had two kids and a husband, I had taken the role of artistic director of a festival in Italy, I was watching shows and reading books — I was not the one creating. And that caused an emptiness.’

I ask whether she suffered from a form of depression, like Darcey Bussell after she retired from ballet in 2007 aged 38. ‘Yes, I did,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t call it really bad depression, but I was definitely unhappy. Suddenly, life is very empty.’

As her identity faded, Alessandra began to question why she had given up in the first place. ‘I realised what had been difficult wasn’t so much the physical, but the psychological. I had still been thinking in a more traditional way — that, at a certain age, you’re too old to dance. Maybe I was afraid of being compared with my younger self.’

After two or three years, the sense of not being fulfilled was unbearable. She realised she’d made a mistake — the idea of being the dancer who couldn’t dance ‘gave me great sadness’. So Alessandra started doing ballet classes, as well as yoga and Pilates.

‘I realised my body was great. It was still in shape and I could still move. And I thought: “Well, why am I not dancing then? That’s what I’m here for. That’s my great mission in life. That’s bigger than being a mother.”

‘I thought: “You’re not going to dance like you did when you were 20 years old, but you can dance like you will at 50. And what’s wrong with that?” ’ With this revelation came others. Alessandra found she no longer suffered from anxiety before a show. ‘I was anxious my whole career. I had stage fright the whole time. And then, I didn’t.’

There’s something cruel in the irony of what happened next.

In 2012, Alessandra wrote and choreographed a short piece called The Piano Upstairs, a story about a marriage breaking down.

‘It wasn’t based on my experience at all. I wrote it and then it happened. As I was rehearsing, the same thing was happening to me at home.’

Her husband (coincidentally, they shared a surname before marriage) was photographed by an Italian gossip magazine ‘frolicking’ with an unnamed woman near their home on the island of Pantelleria, Sicily.

Alessandra says his departure came out of nowhere.

‘It was a crushing experience, destroying. I didn’t see it coming, and I believed so much in love. I wasn’t the one who wanted to do it. So it was shattering.’

For three months, she and her two daughters slept in the same bed, along with their two Irish wolfhounds — her youngest only stopped a year ago.

Alessandra has resolved to draw lessons from her experience — ‘like never being ashamed. That it’s OK to speak about how you feel.

‘And also for my daughters — they were as heart-broken as I was, maybe more — to teach them by example, not to hold on to anger.

‘Nobody owns anybody. And things change. And we can still love each other in different environments. The strength is not anger and resentment. The strength is to go: “OK, I am in pain, but I still go on. I will rebuild myself.”

‘The truth is that the more I look now at married couples, I don’t know if we’re really meant to be together for ever.

‘Of course, it’s everyone’s dream to have kids and the perfect family. But now, I don’t know anymore. In the past year, I started to feel really happy about who I am for the first time in my life.
 
For three months, she and her two daughters slept in the same bed, along with their two Irish wolfhounds - her youngest only stopped a year ago. Pictured in 1987 with Mikhail Dbaryshnikov

‘I now think: “Well, would I really want to live with someone else?” I don’t know if I would. I love to be in love, but I think we are OK on our own.’

Does she think her marriage broke down because she’d stopped working? ‘Maybe I do. [Fabrizio] says not, but I think maybe it did.

‘The fact that I gave up my independence — I am not talking about economic independence, I am talking about becoming dependent on him, really, to fill up my life.’

Far from creating bitterness — the pair are now on friendly terms — she has come to view the experience as important.

‘One of the reasons I went back [to dancing] is because I realised I have to find who I really am now, the part that belongs to me: it’s the moment when I dance. Those moments are mine and nobody else’s and I needed that again.

She still believes in love, but not relationships. ‘I don’t care about relationships. I want a great love, like the greatest love ever

‘I gave up my whole life for him and the children, and then that crashed and I had nothing. I didn’t have my passion, my career, I didn’t have him.

‘I had my children, of course, but it wasn’t enough.’

She still believes in love, but not relationships. ‘I don’t care about relationships. I want a great love, like the greatest love ever.

‘I don’t care about the companion just to keep me company on vacation or to spend time with. That I can do without. But love I believe in. If I don’t have that, I’m happy with nothing.’

Would she do away with age as a barrier in love? ‘Absolutely, yes. Age is no barrier. It’s fun to have a younger boyfriend. If he’s there, he wants to be there.’

And at 53, how does she maintain her rigorous four hours of daily rehearsals (with a yoga class slotted in before she starts)?

Are there supplements she takes to keep her joints well-oiled?

‘I take ibuprofen,’ she laughs, adding that she also dyes stray grey hairs. ‘In general, I don’t have many problems.’

Of the approaching menopause, she says: ‘Dancing doesn’t affect it one way or the other. It doesn’t make the problem worse. I don’t get hot flushes. I am lucky.’
And she doesn’t fear osteoporosis because ‘the more you exercise, the less you have a problem.

‘Of course, there are certain roles I don’t dream of even attempting any more — Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, all those ballets require tremendous physical strength and power.

‘And that’s fine. They belong to another moment in my life.

‘[There are] all these wonderful newly created roles for me, and it’s brilliant that there’s interest in creating roles for an older woman instead of only doing roles for younger dancers.

‘I broke the mould, somehow. I didn’t plan it. I thought: “Who cares? Yes, there is space for the young, but that doesn’t mean there is no space for older women.”

‘We turn 50 and then we believe that we have to behave a certain way. A lot of it is conditioning.

‘But I realised I am not that woman, I don’t feel 50, I don’t act 50, so I thought: “Forget about the number and just live the way you feel.” ’
  • Alessandra Ferri stars in Woolf Works at the Royal Opera House, January 21 to February 14. Visit roh.org.uk

video