The Royal Ballet in Japan #2: Swapping caterpillars for tutus
First Artist Nathalie Harrison on coping with scorching temperatures, preparing for the gala performance and soaking up Japanese culture.
Nothing quite prepared us for the reception Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland received over the weekend. The five shows we performed over the weekend were met with rapturous applause and there was a frenzy of people by stage door.
With two shows on each day (including our Friday dress rehearsal), it was a very busy three days. Alice is such a high energy show, and you really have to work hard to balance story-telling with comic timing and parody. Monday, a day off for the Company, was a welcome rest. However, although it was exhausting, there was such a wonderful reception that it was worth every drop of sweat.
Talking of sweat, it’s roasting here: as well as the anticipated humidity it’s sunny. Talk has moved from sleep to hydration and we are guzzling down isotonic beverages to combat the combination of 35 degree heat and Swan Lake rehearsals. Yesterday we rehearsed Swan Lake, La Valse and Symphony in C at The Tokyo Ballet studios. With the whole Company in full swing (literally), the rehearsal morphed into what felt like ‘Bikram Ballet’. Our inner thermostats need to adjust! Today, we are back in the theatre for a stage run through before curtain up on tonight’s gala performance.
In between, we’ve had the chance to explore Tokyo a bit. For our day off on Monday, a small group of us went for a tea ceremony at Happon-En. It is an incredibly peaceful and beautiful place, and it was a real treat to escape the searing heat at midday. It makes sense how popular classical ballet is here as there is such an awareness of courtesy, refinement, manners and historical reference. It’s a lovely atmosphere.
However, there is no time to wilt in the heat or immerse ourselves in Tokyo’s shopping as we still have work to do! We have set the bar high after the reception that Alice received, and we know this Gala and the following performances of Swan Lake have to be up there. Our changing room has now been emptied of the flower costumes, caterpillars and cats, and is now a mix of swans, tutus and colourful La Valse frocks.
Here we go, on with the Gala show!