At the entrance of the Horochronos dance venue in Votanikos, central Athens, the dancers are trying out various positions, concentrating hard and demonstrating extraordinary flexibility as they stretch their legs. Twirling around they lose their balance, but manage to get up again without losing faith.
Most of the ballerinas are 10 or younger. Meanwhile, in the venue’s central hall, dance teacher and Athens Children’s Ballet founder Christina Roka is guiding teenagers through a choreography penned by Erico Montes Nunes, a former First Artist of London’s Royal Ballet.
“Which of you would like to become a professional dancer?” I ask the girls in the changing rooms. They all rush to put their hands up – except for one, who wants to be doctor, and carry on dancing, of course.
As I talk to them, I soon realize that it’s neither their well-combed hair nor their light makeup that makes them appear older than their real age (12 to 14), but rather the seriousness and dedication which they display toward their great passion. Most of them dance five to seven times a week. Clearly they are well acquainted with the idea of discipline.
On Saturday and Sunday, a group of about 60 girls and boys, aged 9 to 22, all selected through auditions, will present “Persephone: The Secret of the Seasons” at the Pallas Theater in Athens. Boys are rarely encouraged to pursue a dance career in Greece – let alone one in ballet – and so the show’s leading male character will be performed by a Royal Ballet student, 16-year-old Kyle Alexander. Meanwhile, two Greek boys are taking part in this year’s performance.
Each Athens Children’s Ballet production is the product of hard work, with rehearsals taking place every Sunday from March to November, as well as during an intensive training period over the summer. According to Roka, the principal aim of the “first classical ballet training company for children in Greece” is to offer the “most talented children, as well as those who demonstrate genuine passion,” the opportunity to work with an established choreographer from abroad and experience the hard work, and the joy, that that comes with being a ballet troupe member.
“In Greece, we don’t have a classical ballet history or tradition, so it’s difficult to find raw talent. Nevertheless, we try to locate the best child dancers. This year, we are very fortunate to host a Royal Ballet dancer who also knows how to choreograph children,” she said.
At the Pallas Theater (5 Voukourestiou), Saturday and Sunday starting at 6 p.m.