Two bare feet rise up to demi-point, the bandaged first, fourth and fifth toes models of symmetry. Old rose polish is chipping away from the cuticles. Our eyes at floor level, we see the ankles bend forward in a forced arch, as if bowing, acknowledging an audience. The heels lower and the toes wiggle to release.
In another frame, we see the curve of a lower back contracting, compressing upward like an angry cat, then stretching horizontally and arching down into cow pose. In another, a face looks straight at the camera — blonde hair unbound, grey-green eyes blinking. Not turning away, not demanding applause. It is Heather Ogden, principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada and muse of Toronto-based photographer Christopher Wahl’s microsite, The Heather Project.
Guillaume Cote and Elena Lobsanova. Photo by Daniel Neuhaus.
Here’s a short profile in OTM Zine of one of my favourite National Ballet dancers, Elena Lobsanova. This week, she reprises her lead role in Alexei Ratmansky’s Romeo & Juliet, which premiered in 2011. The process behind the creation of the ballet was featured in the CBC documentary Romeos & Juliets, where we also see Elena blossom from being a shy, inexperienced soloist into a star fully in control of her brilliance, clinching the coveted opening night slot. I watched her perform this role in March 2013 and was struck not just by the purity of her lines, but by her thoughtfulness and how fully she abandoned herself to the role of Juliet. I completely believed her character’s journey, from naivete to desire to despair.
It’s heartening to know that she’s also struggled with her perceived weaknesses:
“I was particularly slow; I couldn’t pick up the material as fast and I hadn’t had much experience… I could feel that something was missing, I was lacking a sense of direction and connection with my body.”
These thoughts are so familiar — I feel like every adult beginner (me included) has had them at one point or another. Elena conquered these thoughts and weaknesses through discipline, immersion in literature and lessons in empathy, becoming a much more generous performer. More on Elena Lobsanova here and here.