New to 2012, Label Culture brings you an exclusive monthly feature exposing the lives of those living and working in the world of the Arts. October sees Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Karla Doorbar talk with Culture editor Beth Baker-Wyse on the life of a professional dancer.

‘The day always starts with a big bowl of cereal which I eat whilst listening to the radio. This gives me enough energy for the morning. My journey into work is a short one as I live within walking distance of Birmingham Hippodrome (home of Birmingham Royal Ballet).

Class takes place first thing every day, lasting for an hour and fifteen minutes. I like to get to work just over an hour before class so I have time to use the Jerwood Centre to do Pilates, aqua-jogging in the hydrotherapy pool or machine work to warm up ready for the day ahead. The Jerwood Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Dance Injuries is run by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s medical team, including physiotherapists, masseurs and a body-conditioning instructor. The Centre contains state-of-the-art diagnostic and fitness equipment, including a hydrotherapy pool where dancers can work safely on their injuries while being supported by water.

Any breaks or free time I have during the day I return to the Jerwood Centre to see a physiotherapist and have any niggles looked at and treated, or use the fitness machines or do more body-conditioning exercises and stretch.

During a rehearsal period, class is followed by many hours of rehearsals, sometimes it can be six hours or more a day, but during a performance period rehearsals are more limited. Before a matinee performance, I will use the break to refuel, having lunch at work before heading to the dressing room to get ready. Usually my lunch is just a sandwich and fruit; enough to keep me going but not too heavy to perform. A tight costume is also not all that comfortable if your belly is too full! 

I like to take my time to do my hair and make-up so I leave plenty of time to prepare for a show. Depending on how detailed the make-up and hair need to be this can change but an hour is often enough. During my preparations I also check my costume and shoes etc. in case any last minute repairs or alterations need to be made. Then I’m not in a panic two minutes before curtain up! Whilst getting ready I always listen to music. It helps to keep me relaxed and focused.

In between performances it is very convenient to live as close to work as I do as I am able to go home for dinner. I mostly like to have pasta at this time as it is quick and easy and gives me plenty of energy to get through another show. After relaxing for a little while in a change of scenery, I then return to work and start the getting ready process for a second time. This time is a little different though as it is important that I leave enough time to warm myself up again. 

On a day when there is no matinee performance we may have rehearsals in the afternoon, often for a different ballet than the one we are performing. As a dancer, mentally you have to be very strong all the time but physically you do get tired. When I come off stage I am always full of adrenaline so after an evening performance it can be difficult to wind down. It can be very late but I shower, have a cup of tea and read my book. I aim to be asleep before midnight (which can sometimes be very hard!).

The next day, it all starts again.


'Five Fast Favourites'

Favourite Ballet to Dance:  The Nutcracker. It is a very magical one. Dancing a chicken in 'La Fille mal gardee' was a lot of fun too!


Favourite Dancer:  Miyako Yoshida. She makes everything look so effortlessly perfect. Every day I am inspired by the people that surround me in the studios at Birmingham Royal Ballet however.

Favourite Food: Cheerios!

Favourite Song: I listen to such a wide variety of music from Bob Dylan in the 1960s to an upcoming rock group called The Struts today. It's almost impossible for me to choose just one. One of my favourite songs of all time though is Songbird (either Fleetwood Mac or Eva Cassidy).

Favourite Feeling: Taking the curtain call at the end of a performance. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Want to keep up with what's going on with the company? Go to their website or follow them on Twitter @BRB for more information.


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