We asked Leanne Stojmenov, former principal ballerina with the Australian Ballet, Mum to 4 and a half-year-old Max, and ballet teacher, to share her experience of the last few weeks, the challenge of teaching online ballet barre classes and the rewards of continuing to practice ballet and teach it.
After many years of performing as a principal ballerina for the Australian Ballet Company, I retired at the end of 2018 to teach ballet students. Recently, I had to opportunity to return to the Australian Ballet Company to work with Alice Topp (a resident Choreographer at the Australian Ballet) and perform once again on the big stage.
Having retired from performing it was a big undertaking to work up my strength and return to performance fitness. Sadly, after two shows the season was cancelled and I found myself on a plane returning home, disappointed not to be performing but very excited to see my little boy. I returned to my students and teaching in the studio but then everything started to change.
The world is a different place today than it was yesterday. It’s all happened quite fast and it has changed the way we must conduct ourselves, at least for a while. With these changes, I knew lots of ballet schools would be going online and I was concerned that my students would miss valuable training time if there was a big gap between the ballet studio and a digital classroom.
Generally, I am not someone who would take a ballet class in a situation that is known for critics and judgement. However, I think people are probably feeling very vulnerable and somewhat confused about all that is going on in the world, many are overworked and exhausted and many have lost their jobs. For me to feel vulnerable for half an hour and give dancers something they might enjoy or learn something from is totally worthwhile.
From one of the first ballet classes I delivered digitally, I received a message from a nurse who had come off her shift and had participated in the class. For me, this was literally the best and most humbling message ever and it consolidated the fact that small things can positively impact someone, somewhere.
‘As dancers we train and we immerse ourselves in our art form and we do it because it feeds our spirit, it fulfils something in us, something that is hard to describe to someone who doesn’t know. However, any person that pursues something they truly love, will understand this.’
Leanne is currently live streaming classical ballet barre classes available to anyone who would like to participate.Join her classes on live-streamed on Instagram on Tuesday and Thursday mornings @leestojmenov. Classes are also posted to her stories for 24hrs for those who can’t make it to the live. These classes are for more advanced students of ballet.