My trip of a lifetime
I’m Makeely Foster and I was lucky enough to have been one of the 2019 awardees for the BBM ballet scholarship.
I set off on the trip of a lifetime in February this year, and can certainly say that I’m a better version of myself on return from this adventure.
Throughout this journey I have learnt more then I ever thought possible, about both myself and the ballet world. I’ve been able to experience, what I never thought was possible and meet some of the most inspiring people.
My first stop on what would be a month long adventure was Barcelona, Spain. Here I was lucky enough to have been pre-accepted into the Grand Audition. This really was a big audition with 10 directors from the worlds leading ballet companies. This was my first real experience of the European ballet world and really opened my eyes to what I was going to experience for the rest of my trip!
Although I didn’t make it to the 2nd round, I learnt so much in these short few days, from how others around the world prepare for a class to how they take on different exercises. It was also quite lovely to have been able to catch up with other fellow Australian dancers, some of which have been training in Europe for the past few years.
To be able to hear what they’re experiencing and daily life was quite eye opening and helped to really understand the difference between training and lifestyle in Australia. Whilst in Barcelona I was able to take daily class at Ballet de Catalunya.
Although being slightly jetlagged, I had a lovely time and was welcomed so warmly by this small company. Again it was interesting to see how slightly different they train and the slight difference in technique styles. After a lovely (warm) few days in Barcelona, it was off to (a slightly freezing) Paris.
This weekend was a dream. From walking past the Eiffel Tower to being in the audience of the Paris Opera Ballet, It was truly amazing. The highlight of this time was being able to visit the Palais Garnier and to experience an Opera de Paris performance of my favorite ballet, Giselle.
For a few hours here I was taken to a different place. The moving artistry as well as flawless technique was something I hadn’t quite experienced yet and was breath taking to say the very least.
I was already quite familiar with Giselle after performing this ballet with Sydney City ballet in 2018 so to be able to see the differences between not only the choreography but the way the story was portrayed really showed how different this art is across so many different countries.
Another highlight of the production was the incredible live music. No words can describe the feeling of hearing the music that night. What was also most inspiring was being able to watch two Australians performing in this production.
After competing with these two dancers at previous competitions in Australia it was so inspiring to show that Australians can hold their own against the best dancers in the world! Another highlight of Paris for me was being able to see the ballet shop Repetto Paris. Located a street away from the Palais Garnier, it has to be the most beautiful ballet shop I have ever seen.
The start of a new week meant off to Birmingham and my first stop in the United Kingdom. Here I was also reunited with a close friend who is dancing with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Throughout this week I was taking classes with her at BRB and also got a glimpse into working in a ballet company and the lifestyle lived. After a week of different language and culture, I felt so welcomed and at home in Birmingham. Although I did see slight differences in the training/technique here, I could also see so many similarities to what I’m use to in Australia.
Whilst I was in Birmingham I was also lucky enough to watch three productions at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I was in the audience for two performances of Birmingham Royal Ballets Swan Lake, Another very classic ballet.
This was actually my first time watching Swan Lake live and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
It was so special to be able to watch this performance after viewing a few rehearsals throughout the week and to be able to experience the diversity in the company was another highlight. Tall or short the dancers performed like one but with their own little touches to the story of the ballet, which was also quite noticeable after watching different casts the second night.
Matthew Bourne’s company was also touring Birmingham the same week, performing The Red Shoes. This was so very different to both Swan Lake and Giselle, but it certainly didn’t disappoint. It was something not quite like I’ve ever seen before but I truly wish it never ended.
It was certainly not as technical as the other two performances and was almost a mix of Ballet, contemporary and musical theatre. From the sets to the lighting and choreography I commend Matthew Bourne on such an amazing production.
My major highlight of this performance was how much you could see the dancers were enjoying themselves while still keeping so very professional. I took so much from my time in Birmingham but my highlight from this time was staying with a BRB company member and learning about how everything is done in this company, how she manages home life and show week, and how close all the dancers truly are outside of the studio.
My next destination was chilly Leeds for a week of classes at Northern Ballet. This week felt quite a bit calmer then previous weeks, as I was a little out of the hustle of the city. I thoroughly enjoyed my week of classes here and again was so interesting to see the difference, even between BRB and Northern ballet. The studios were absolutely stunning as well.
Next (with a few stressful delays) I was off to the ever so beautiful London! This was one of my favourite places to visit and made me feel so much at home!
My few days here started with an audition at Pineapple studios for Ajkun Ballet Theatre. A former dancer took the class and although no jury or director was there the class was filmed, which was certainly quite different to previous auditions, but I still try to look at the bright side and it was great to keep my body moving!
The next few days in London were spent exploring, and I managed to fit a few classes in at Pineapple again. Not only was this great to keep dancing, it was also great to see some more diversity in not only the dancers I was in class with, but also the teaching styles from the teachers who took class.
Being a ballet lover in London, I also spent lots of time in the beautiful Covent Garden, a walk through the Opera House, a trip to the Freed and Bloch store. Another highlight from London, which was something I was looking forward to since planning to visit London, was visiting a ballet dance statue opposite the opera house. This statue happens to be of one of our teachers at Tanya Pearson Academy, Miss Katie, and is always a popular destination for TPA students to say “Hello” when in London!
After a few lovely weeks in the UK it was back to Europe and off to Amsterdam where I took classes at the European School of Ballet.
This was definitely a week the changed me, my dancing style and view of the ballet world. ESB is such a beautiful school and I was so lucky to have been able to be taught by the amazing teachers here!
It was here in Amsterdam I was also reunited with another BBM scholar, Pearl Arrowsmith, who was training at ESB.
It was so lovely to here about her experiences moving overseas, training in Amsterdam as well as how grateful she was for the scholarship from BBM and how it has helped her and her training.
After Amsterdam, My plans had to slightly change due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I was quite lucky up until this point, as I had gotten through countries before covid had hit.
After Amsterdam I had planned to visit both Germany and Croatia, but as the world became more aware of what we were going to face my auditions were slowly being postponed and it seemed to be safe to begin to head home.
I had planned to visit some family in Greece after my auditions in Germany and Croatia, and was suppose to be flying back to Australia from Greece, so after some stressful changes with flights and accommodation, I headed to Greece for a short but sweet stop over before heading back to Australia. Catching up with my family and not having anything planned for a few days in Greece, really gave me some time to reflect on what was honestly a life changing experience. It also gave my time to talk with family members about their lifestyle in Greece and listening to their advice on life not only from a ballet view but what they’ve learnt.
This trip was truly something amazing and taught me so much: About myself, the ballet world, budgeting, travelling and knowing how to pick myself up after things didn’t go as planned – may that be trains that get delayed, maps not working or a virus turning the world upside-down. I can truly say after this trip, I feel confident to face anything in life. On returning to Australia I feel like I’m a completely different person, with different views on life and myself.
My trip has also helped my gain confidence in myself, which was something I’ve felt I’ve always lacked. It forced me into talking to uber drivers or people in restaurants; acting confident in train stations around pick pocketers and walking into a studio not knowing anyone and just dancing. I have so much gratitude for everyone involved in BBM and everyone who helped my plan become a reality. A massive thank you to Miss Dunn and everyone at Tanya Pearson Academy for the support and opportunities I have been given.