We are not robots… although we practice to be perfect
“We might not be as honorable as firefighters or doctors who save lives,“ says Ballet Jorgen’s Daniel Da Silva. “Still, we give a break to people who come to the ballet after a long day of work. We give them joy the way we can with our art, athleticism and storytelling.“ He and Saniya Abilmajineva will dance a pas-de-deux from Swan Lake at the High Notes Gala for Mental Health on May 6th at the Flato Markham Theatre. “Art and ballet make everyone feel nice and warm and want to do good. It makes them feel lighter and to forget about war and fighting,“ says Saniya who loves communicating through dance to get a reaction from the audience. “The more applause, the better,” she says.
Both principal dancers are recipients of multiple awards, have worked very hard and come from faraway—Sanyia from Uzbekhistan and Daniel from Brazil—to get to where they are today. Still, they wouldn’t have it any other way. “Ballet is my life. Dancing to the classical masters in different roles such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and the White Swan pushes me to feel like I am in another world,” says Saniya. “In real life I would never become a princess but dancing I can take on any character.”
“Although we work hard and want to look good and dance perfectly all the time, we are not machines,” she says.
“During my entire life I’ve had moments where I felt really tired mentally… more than physically.” The pressure of everyone watching can take a toll. “If I have three shows in a row when I don’t do my best, I don’t feel good and it gets into my head.” Physical injuries can also be stressful. A heel injury once prevented Saniya to put on point shoes for a six-month period. “It was very hard mentally as I didn’t know if I ever would dance again.“
Luckily Saniya now works for a company that treats mental health similar to physical health. “The major difference between mental health issues and other injuries is how dancers are less likely to share with their colleagues. The conversation about mental health issues is always more generalized,“ says Bengt Jorgen, Artistic Director and CEO. “We believe in supporting a more open conversation about mental health issues and encourage those struggling to seek support,“ he says. “In the past we have supported information sharing and conversations about eating disorders, which affect a number of dancers. Participating in the High Notes Gala is a natural extension of this work.”
While touring, Ballet Jorgen’s 25 dancers get to know each other very well. Normally Daniel is an outgoing person who keeps his spirits up—but some of his friends have suffered from depression.
“It is not easy to know what to do. I think sometimes the only thing you can do is to just be there. Loneliness makes it worse so letting them know that you are there for them is important,” he says.
“Stigma contributes to people keeping it to themselves as they don’t think anyone will understand how they feel or know how to help them,” he says. “They think they know how to deal with it best themselves so they don’t let people in. It is pretty common with dancers since we are actors too. We are trained to keep the show going even if we are in pain—and it translates to real life too. We just bottle it up and keep going.“
Although Daniel is guilty of that himself he gets pleasantly surprised “when I somehow let people know I struggle and they show me a different perspective. It is an eye opener.”
Saniya‘s message to anyone suffering is: “Do not cut your dream. Think about it. Talk about it. Read about it. Know that others have been in a similar situation but moved forward and got stronger.”
“Dancing in general releases stress and is an enriching experience both mentally and physically,” adds Bengt. “Many professional dancers dance because it makes them feel a lot better than if they don’t.”
“We are not robots although we practice to be perfect,” says Daniel. “Our bodies feel different every day but once it is real and we have an audience we try to just have fun. We are doing what we love and getting paid for it, which is very rare. We are very lucky.”
ABOUT THE HIGH NOTES GALA: You can watch Ballet Jorgen’s Sanya and Daniel dance at the High Notes Gala for Mental Health on May 6th at the Flato Markham Theatre. Dan Hill is the headlining artists and speaker. Comedian Luba Goy will host the evening. Pianist Robert Kortgaard, Grammy nominated flutist Ron Korb, author David W. Barber, Mental Health Recovery Expert, Bill MacPhee and Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist Adam Enchin, will join them. Mental health support organizations will display in the lobby. For tickets call 905.305.SHOW or visit highnotesavante.ca.
ABOUT HIGH NOTES AVANTE: High Notes Avante Productions Inc. is a non-profit organization using the power of words and music to educate and humanize mental illness. We strive to erase stigma and hope those attending our events will understand mental illness better while perhaps also starting the recovery and healing process with an inspiring evening of music and storytelling.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Ingrid Taheri, Artistic & Executive Director