For Ellison and Madison, ballet is like football.
“To me, it’s my sport,” said Ellison High, 15. Just like football players exercise every day, the sisters have to practice every day to keep up their skills. That mindset has pushed the sisters to continue their online ballet classes in their living room throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of a ballet barre, they hold a kitchen counter. Instead of their teacher’s eyes, they look into a small laptop monitor.
Ellison and Madison High, 18, grew up watching their two older sisters study ballet. They began to take a ballet class at the age of 2. Both are company members of the Victoria Ballet Theatre. With the audition for ballet shows coming in August, Ellison has a clear reason to continue her practice.
“If we don’t keep our skills up in our technique where it is, then we may not make the team back in August,” she said. Madison has her own reason, too. She is going to major in dance at Texas A&M University in the fall.
Not having a teacher around to correct their posture offers a learning experience. “I try to problem-solve myself rather than having a teacher doing it for me,” Ellison said. However, with a limited space and uneven floor that may cause an injury, their ballet practice isn’t the same as practice in a studio. They can’t practice group parts and postures that require jumping across the space. It shortened their class time by about an hour.
Dancing for the small screen also influences their overall expression.
“When you’re performing, you need to perform for the whole theater,” Ellison said. In a big studio space with 20 dancers inside, they can express themselves to everyone. Dancing at home for a tiny screen is different. “It seems like you’re in a little closed box that you can’t express yourself like you usually can in a big space.”
Despite the limits, the sisters are eager to continue their online ballet practice with hope. Knowing that their in-person summer class will resume in mid-June motivates them more.
“You have to find ways to keep strengthening those muscles we aren’t using,” Ellison said. “So that when we do get to go back to the studio, we can perform in our best like we never left.”