My final week at White Lodge has been unforgettable. Mornings were dedicated to our ballet classes and vigorous Défilé rehearsals, with excitement building as the big day approached. On Monday afternoon we had our House Parties, an opportunity for the team members to say good-bye to the Year 11s and vote for the new captain. We enjoyed the sunshine and then went for a lovely walk around Pen Ponds in Richmond Park.
On Tuesday morning we were told that due to injuries, two girls needed to be replaced in Youth Concerto, a piece which had been performed the previous week at the Linbury Studio Theatre. I had been a cover for this from the start and had watched it develop. Initially involved in all rehearsals, I learnt the places that I had been instructed to cover. Out of seven girl covers, two Year 11s were chosen to be put in – one of those being me!
The following day was our first rehearsal on the Main Stage of the Royal Opera House. It seemed quite surreal to be dancing on that enormous stage in a corps de ballet role that I wasn’t entirely confident with, but I reminded myself of how lucky I was and that this is what happens in companies. Despite being at the back for most of the piece, I had to move swiftly across the stage into lines and formations, remembering to watch my spacing, be in the right place at the right time and do the correct steps. Bearing in mind that the Youth Concerto cast had performed the piece five times the previous week, I tried my best to fit in and to look as secure as they did. It was quite nerve-racking but incredibly fun at the same time.
Back at White Lodge, the Year 11s did their traditional ‘ballet uniform swap’ on Thursday morning (girls wore white leotard and thick black tights, boys wore pink tights and a tutu skirt.) It was very entertaining and will remain one of the highlights of my time at White Lodge.
Friday had an early start and coach trip to Covent Garden for the School’s final dress rehearsal of the entire Annual Performance programme, photographed and accompanied by live orchestra. Returning to White Lodge, the Year 11s had to quickly change into their formal graduation day outfits once more, to attend the Final Assembly where the school year is formally drawn to a conclusion. There was then a brilliant ‘after party’.
On Saturday I had my very last ballet class at White Lodge, packed up my room and prepared for the following day…
Sunday: Backstage the atmosphere was buzzing and I was so eager to perform in front of the live audience. Adrenaline kicked in as I took my starting position behind the closed curtain for the beginning of Youth Concerto. The lighting came on, the Stage Manager announced “30 seconds to tabs up”, the audience fell silent and applauded for the Conductor’s entrance. I can’t quite describe how I felt, all I know is that I loved it.
Dancing in both Youth Concerto and the famous Grand Défilé generated a swirl of emotions: thrill, contentment, aspiration… I am so grateful for being included in Youth Concerto, all the hours spent on the side of the studio observing the rehearsals paid off. I also feel very privileged knowing that it wasn’t my last Défilé, something which I wouldn’t have thought possible last year. What a special end to my time at White Lodge.