Bud­ding bal­let dancers to show off their skills in ‘Perse­phone’

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY CHRISTINA SANOUDOU

At the en­trance of the Horochronos dance venue in Votanikos, cen­tral Athens, the dancers are try­ing out var­i­ous po­si­tions, con­cen­trat­ing hard and demon­strat­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary flex­i­bil­ity as they stretch their legs. Twirling around they lose their bal­ance, but man­age to get up again with­out los­ing faith.

Most of the bal­leri­nas are 10 or younger. Mean­while, in the venue’s cen­tral hall, dance teacher and Athens Chil­dren’s Bal­let founder Christina Roka is guid­ing teenagers through a chore­og­ra­phy penned by Erico Montes Nunes, a for­mer First Artist of Lon­don’s Royal Bal­let.

“Which of you would like to be­come a pro­fes­sional dancer?” I ask the girls in the chang­ing rooms. They all rush to put their hands up – ex­cept for one, who wants to be doc­tor, and carry on danc­ing, of course.

As I talk to them, I soon re­al­ize that it’s nei­ther their well-combed hair nor their light makeup that makes them ap­pear older than their real age (12 to 14), but rather the se­ri­ous­ness and ded­i­ca­tion which they dis­play to­ward their great pas­sion. Most of them dance five to seven times a week. Clearly they are well ac­quainted with the idea of dis­ci­pline.

To­day and to­mor­row, a group of about 60 girls and boys, aged 9 to 22, all se­lected through au­di­tions, will present “Perse­phone: The Se­cret of the Sea­sons” at the Pal­las The­ater in Athens. Boys are rarely en­cour­aged to pur­sue a dance ca­reer in Greece – let alone one in bal­let – and so the show’s lead­ing male char­ac­ter will be per­formed by a Royal Bal­let stu­dent, 16-year-old Kyle Alexan­der. Mean­while, two Greek boys are tak­ing part in this year’s per­for­mance.

Each Athens Chil­dren’s Bal­let pro­duc­tion is the prod­uct of hard work, with re­hearsals tak­ing place ev­ery Sun­day from March to Novem­ber, as well as dur­ing an in­ten­sive train­ing pe­riod over the sum­mer. Ac­cord­ing to Roka, the prin­ci­pal aim of the “first clas­si­cal bal­let train­ing com­pany for chil­dren in Greece” is to of­fer the “most tal­ented chil­dren, as well as those who demon­strate gen­uine pas­sion,” the op­por­tu­nity to work with an es­tab­lished chore­og­ra­pher from abroad and ex­pe­ri­ence the hard work, and the joy, that that comes with be­ing a bal­let troupe mem­ber.

“In Greece, we don’t have a clas­si­cal bal­let his­tory or tradition, so it’s dif­fi­cult to find raw tal­ent. Nev­er­the­less, we try to lo­cate the best child dancers. This year, we are very for­tu­nate to host a Royal Bal­let dancer who also knows how to chore­o­graph chil­dren,” she said.

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