Patricia Zhou of Staatsballett Berlin
Posted on January 20 2018
*This Blogpost is from last season, the 2016-2017. Patricia is no longer a dancer with the Staatsballett as she moved to dance with the L.A. Dance Project.
On a typical day I wake up at 7:30. I make breakfast and coffee and eat it rather sleepily. Then it’s time to get ready. I do my make-up, braid my hair and get dressed while listening to a podcast and hopefully make it out of the apartment by 8:40.
I take the U-bahn (underground subway) to work which takes about 40 minutes. I live in Mitte (Berlin's central district) and work in Charlottenburg (west side of Berlin).
After arriving at Deutsche Oper, I head to my dressing room - which I share with five other girls. I choose something to wear, make sure I have what I need for the day’s rehearsals be it a tutu for Swan Lake, a long skirt for Herrumbre (a modern piece by Nacho Duato), or a short skirt for class.
I try to be quick so that I can have at least 30 minutes before class to warm up, but I always end up chatting to the girls in the dressing room for a bit before realizing what time it is and rushing off to the studio.
There are usually two classes. One for women, and one for men. Today we are in the small studio. I have just enough time to prepare some new pointe shoes to wear for class and stretch a bit before class starts. I usually don’t stretch very much… My body is naturally very loose and too much stretching makes it hard for me to control my limbs.
Class starts at 10 and goes until 11:15. Depending on the day and what I have going on later, I will either push myself and do the whole class, or take it as more of a warm-up. Every so often I’m exhausted and very sore, so just a simple barre is enough to get through the day.
Rehearsals usually start at 11:30, and today we have a quick 30-minute “Rubies” rehearsal. There are a few people jumping in for the show of “Jewels” in the evening, so it is just for them to go over the steps. Those of us who have done it many times already get to mark and take it easy.
At 12:00 I have a costume fitting for “Erde”, Nacho’s new piece premiering in a double bill this month (21.04.17).
Afterwards I head to rehearsal for Hofesh Shechter’s “Art of Not Looking Back”, which will be the other piece in the new double bill along with “Erde”. Rehearsals for the two pieces are often at the same time, so there’s always a lot of new material to learn when I do get the chance to go to “AONLB” rehearsal where I’m second cast.
We always have to have a 6-hour “resting period” between the morning rehearsals and the show, so at 13:30 we finish the rehearsal.
I have a quick shower and then pack a bag with what I need for the performance later. The performance is at Schiller Theater - one of three theaters we perform in - so I have to bring my warm-ups, pointe shoes and anything else I need with me.
I head back home where I have lunch and take a nap. I usually only manage a 40-minute nap but it helps immensely.
My alarm goes off at 16:30.
After getting up, I make coffee, have a snack, and head off Schiller theater.
I arrive at the theater around 17:30 and head to my dressing room immediately to start my make-up. I’ve gotten the time down to 20 minutes or less, which is nice.
We always have our hair done by people who work specially in hair and make-up for the theater. Since I have short hair, my hair takes a bit of TLC until it looks like a convincing french twist. It’s quite a process - including clipping a half-wig into my hair - which takes almost 40 minutes.
Then I get my first costume of the evening on and head to stage to prepare my pointe shoes for the show and warm up. I go on stage to try a few steps and go over any corrections or spacing issues I might have, and wish ‘toi toi toi’ - our version of ‘good luck’ - to my colleagues.
I have just enough time to re-tie and tape my pointe shoe ribbons in before the show starts at 19:30.
I dance the Pas de Trois in “Emeralds”.
I change in to my “Rubies” costume, change my head piece, and put on bright red lipstick.
We dance, we bow.
Then it’s the last change in to my “Diamonds” costume. I get my tiara on, and then it’s time to change my pointe shoes to a harder pair and re-tape my ribbons.
I dance in the waltz, the scherzo and the polonaise in “Diamonds” as one of the four demi-solo couples. It’s one of the most tiring pieces I’ve ever performed. I die, but the beautiful Tchaikovsky score resurrects me and guides me smoothly to the end. We bow.
I feel like I’ve taken a shower in my own sweat…
I am relieved and we congratulate each other on another show well done. We’ve survived.
I take my pointe shoes off immediately, followed by the removal of my make-up and hair/wig. Lots of pins are freed from my scalp.
I change from my costume to my normal clothes, pack up my pointe shoes, warm-ups et al, and leave the theater around 22:00.
I get back on the U-bahn for the last time of the day and head home. I cook some dinner for myself and gobble it up hungrily. It’s 23:30 by the time I’m done.
I hop in the shower and wash all of the hair product out from my rock-hard, waxy hair.
I make “Echinacea” Yogi tea and head to bed just before midnight.