Credit: Erik Tomasson

When we live from classical dance, it’s because we decided since we were 4-5 years old that we wanted to be in front of an audience and that would be our goal in life. “Lthe job of Mathilde Froustey, principal dancer at the San Francisco Ballet, is often a dream. But today it is one of the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Since March 7, the performances, like all so-called non-essential group activities in city-owned infrastructure, are prohibited.

A decision of the local authorities of which the artist became aware in full performance. ” It was March 6, at the premiere ofA Midsummer Night’s Dream ” (A Midsummer Night’s dream), choreographed by Balanchine, she recalls. “ It was a highly anticipated show because it was the first time in thirty years that the company had danced on this ballet. But also the last. At the end, the artistic director summoned us all on stage to explain us. He gave us a few days of rest. »Which turned into months.

A mental injury rather than a physical one

A difficult period. And for good reason. “The only experience a dancer has of not going on stage is when he is injured … physically injured », Specifies the star. ” And there, we cannot go in front of an audience when we are in good health. It is very frustrating, for the body and the mind. “The former little rat of the Paris Opera says he spent at least 9 hours of dancing a day to” one hour lesson in the kitchen, via Zoom, from March to August. You couldn’t even do a jump or a pirouette because the ground wasn’t suitable, it was too dangerous. The rehearsals and directors even advised us against practicing too much for fear that we would hurt ourselves. “.

For these enthusiasts, ” it’s very hard, because the heart of our job is to be on stage in front of an audience ”, Mathilde Froustey reports. Exit also the outlet that can represent his art. “Since the dawn of time, artists have turned their mental health problems into artistic creation. And there, we can not even dance as we would like.

The dancer also plans to create a specialized psychological support structure for her peers. “Qsomething that does not yet exist to take care of this part of artists “. For her, “The pandemic will change very deep things in people and especially for artists who are very sensitive receptacles to all the stress around. And then there is the financial aspect. “The dancers who like me are under visas, do not even have the right to work alongside “. But for them, ” being in front of a hearing is the only income ”.

Ideas to help …

In their misfortune, the dancers were at least able to count on theirs. Starting with the SF Ballet who “ gave psychological support numbers “. Then solidarity took over. A Venmo account has been created. Dancers who could afford it contributed to those who needed help », Adds the star.

Mathilde Froustey explains that she is better off than other dancers. ” We are lucky at SF Ballet that there are still many patrons, donors, who support us. If we have a problem we can really contact them, which is not the case for all artists. I don’t know how a freelance dancer could continue to make a living from his profession, for example. Most of those I know have returned to their parents.

Other mutual aid initiatives have been set up to help the most vulnerable. ” The unions have been very active in relaying information, many scholarships have been created to help artists financially. “

to get up

It was in August that the dancers finally obtained permission to return to the studios. The opportunity to resume training and get back in shape… gradually. ” You have to reactivate each muscle and coordination, you lose a lot of coordination when you don’t practice every day », Explains Mathilde Froustey.

SF Ballet had to give up performing in public by the end of the year 2020 taking into account health constraints. But not at his next show: The Nutcracker. Like many, the institution turns to a diffusion online, until December 31. A way of continuing the tradition, for them who have presented The Nutcracker every December since 1944.


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