Melissa Hamilton - Life and Ballet (2nd Blog Post)
Right now I am in France, half-way through four weeks of intensive work with my coach Masha Mukhamedov, to prepare for my debut in ‘Giselle’ with the Kremlin Ballet on September 24. Depending on your stature and contacts, you can get invites from companies around the world to perform not necessarily just in your home company. It’s a huge privilege and honour for me to get invited to Russia and I’m really looking forward to it.
I came here, to France, after a great week’s holiday with two friends in Ibiza. It was much needed and I have to say the island is a lot more beautiful than I had expected. We took the boat trip over to Formentera too, which was gorgeous. I completely vegged out for the week which was fantastic, but bittersweet. As a dancer, the longer you take off, the longer it takes to get back in shape! My body is usually active for at least six hours a-day, six days a-week, so to be completely sedentary sometimes feels bizarre. I actually have to force myself to rest!
Now I’m back working hard, learning Giselle from scratch, as I’ve never danced the role before. I learn it section by section, and then put it together like a puzzle. Masha lives near Bordeaux, in France and has her own studio on her land. She is training her son and just one other 14year old student who has been working with her for just under a year. The area is really picturesque, with fields of sunflowers and vineyards though I'm seeing the studio more than anything else!
I first met Masha when she came to Elmhurst, the ballet school I attended in Birmingham. After the first year the teachers told me I should quit and give up, but Masha became my teacher in second year and changed everything for me. If I hadn’t met her at that exact time I’d never in a million years have the career I have now, so I was terribly lucky. But fate, or luck, only does so much. It gives you the opportunities but it is your responsibility to make the absolute most of them.
I’m rehearsing six days a-week here. Each day starts with a ballet class and then we work through the sections of the ballet. By the end of each four-hour session I’m exhausted because this work is so intensive, so the rest of the day is all about recovery. I last worked with Masha this time last year and because she built me as a dancer she knows my body in a different way to anyone else. It’s a little bit like an Olympic athlete and a coach. You need to find someone who brings out the best in you and Masha spots every little thing; physically, emotionally and mentally.
Every time we get back in the studio we’re always trying to push me to the next level, to correct mistakes and build on what I already have. She spots my bad habits instantly and I trust her vision absolutely. You really have to be able to take criticism as a dancer because it’s the greatest thing you can learn from. When people stop trying to perfect their mistakes and stop learning from them, that’s will be the beginning of their downfall.
At 17 I was told I wouldn’t have a career in ballet. I was told I couldn’t do it. As a young dancer, it is essential to grow a thick skin and push forward with determination. People wish upon a star and expect miracles to happen, but you have to be willing to put the work in. There’s also a lot of other factors, like luck and meeting the right people and being in the right place at the right time. There’s so much more involved than what you do in studio or on stage. My advice to students is that you need to be willing to give your whole self to it, and understand that professional ballet is a lifestyle, not just a job. You need to want it more than anything else.
Date:September 14th, 2016