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Posts Tagged ‘Phantom of the Opera’

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Photo: Tanecni Aktuality
Dance master Curtis Foley left Canada for a gig in the Czech Republic. Then Covid-19 struck.

Lockdown in the pandemic has kept a lot of people from going home, sometimes stranding them in surprising places. Today’s story is about camping out for four months in the Czech Republic’s ornate national theater.

Jennifer Stahl writes at Dance Magazine, “When Canadian ballet master Curtis Foley arrived in Ostrava, Czech Republic, in early March, he planned to spend five weeks with the National Moravian-Silesian Ballet, serving as a part-time ballet master. The former Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Les Ballet Grandiva dancer had spent the previous four years as a ballet master at the Polish National Ballet, and had recently gone mostly freelance.

“But five days after he landed in the Czech Republic, COVID-19 sent that country into a state of emergency, with one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. Most of the foreign artists working with the company swiftly left before the borders closed. But Foley felt a sense of duty to stay. ‘I was supposed to be here to help these dancers for five weeks, and if I were to leave, coming back could be difficult since I don’t have Czech residency and I’m not an EU national,’ he says. So he remained, hunkering down alone inside an apartment on the third floor of the theater.

“With travel remaining complicated, his original five-week stay has ended up lasting for four months.

‘The joke I started with my friends is that I’m the phantom of the opera,’ says Foley. ‘There’s no one else here but me in this massive labyrinth.’

“Although a skeleton crew of administrative and janitorial staff have come in to work during the weekdays, Foley says that starting at 4 pm every Friday, he knows he’ll be on his own until Monday morning.

” ‘It was a novelty at first,’ he says. … ‘Now it just feels like home.’

“Being the only person in the building most of the time has raised logistical questions. ‘During the first few weeks, the company and I were having discussions like, Is it okay to turn off the heat to save money?’ (He said it was.)

“But there’s been more to do than wander the hallways. The dancers took just one week off after the lockdown, then Foley started teaching company class on Zoom. Soon, as the Czech Republic got the virus under control, five people at a time were allowed in the studio (including Foley and an accompanist). Throughout all of June, he’s been able to teach the entire company at once in person again. …

“It’s now been 16 weeks, and with the European Union opening its internal borders, Foley is finally returning to Warsaw, where his boyfriend lives. He admits that he’s a bit anxious to leave.

” ‘This has become my new normal,’ he says. ‘Being there for the dancers has given me the motivation to get through the pandemic, to get out of bed every day and think this isn’t weird.’

“He’s grateful for the intimate relationship he’s built with the dancers while going through this crisis. ‘It typically takes years to create this kind of relationship, but we got to do it really fast,’ he says. Soon enough, he’ll be back — though hopefully not haunting the theater at night all on his own again.” More here.

Did you ever stay overnight in an unlikely place? I did once. I was working for a newspaper chain and there was a blizzard that everyone knew was going to be bad. The other staff left early, but I had decided to bring my sleeping bag and stay over as I had to work in the morning and really dreaded the drive home and back again. It was a little weird, with machines making noises all night, but it was way better than driving.

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