Spending Christmas Eve together, relaxing while waiting for Santa Claus and giving each other presents in person: that's not a given for dancers. Both stage artists and the backstage team have to work during the festive season. This year the fairy tale ballet Cinderella is on the playbill. This is particularly challenging for the international ensemble of the Bayerisches Staatsballett, who often spend the festive season without their families. Here, company members Zhanna Gubanova, Carollina Bastos, Madeleine Dowdney and António Casalinho share their experiences as dancers abroad during this time of the year. 

"I spend Christmas on stage. That's completely normal for me," says Zhanna Gubanova. The dancer has spent the past nine years working in Moscow. Winter fairytale ballets such as The Nutcracker are a tradition there, Zhanna says: "We try to create a Christmas atmosphere for the audience." While preparing for the performances, the dancers always watch Christmas films in make-up, Zhanna recalls.

The last Christmas performance on 7 January was followed by a few days off. "I was always able to spend Christmas with my family," says Zhanna, who, as a Orthodox Christian, celebrates Christmas on 7 January. "It's a cosy, contemplative celebration with the family without presents." Instead, there are presents on 31 December. New Year's Eve is a big celebration in Zhanna's home country - with presents and a big dinner.

This year, Zhanna is spending the holidays in Munich for the first time without her family and in a different culture. On both "her" Christmas and New Year's Day, she will be on stage in Cinderella. A new, exciting situation, she says. How will she spend Christmas this year? "I'll adapt and celebrate on 24 December, too. We'll cook a cosy meal together." On 25 December, Zhanna will make her debut at the Munich Nationaltheater and dance the Cinderella spring solo.

Soloist Carollina Bastos spent her first Christmas away from home in Brazil back in 2014. Her mother visited her in Munich to spend the festive season with her and Bianca Teixeira. Smiling, Carollina tells that they cooked Brazilian food together - and there was snow over the Christmas period. "It was a dream come true." She used to know white Christmas only from Christmas movies. "In Brazil, on the other hand, temperatures sometimes reach 40 degrees." She celebrated Christmas there with her family until 2013. Christmas dinner on 24 December was followed by gift-giving. Incidentally, the presents in Brazil are brought by Santa Claus, who Carollina's uncle had impersonated in the most authentic way for many years, the dancer explains with a laugh. A Christmas dinner with the whole family was also on the agenda on 25 December.

Since living in Germany, Carollina has celebrated Christmas with her family a total of five times - four times in Munich and once in Brazil. She is now used to working at Christmas: "It's also nice to pass on the Christmas spirit to the audience." She spends the festive season with her husband, soloist Ariel Merkuri, and dancers from the company. In keeping with their tradition, the Brazilian members of the ensemble are also celebrating together this year with Brazilian food, Carollina reveals.

One of her personal Advent highlights is the Christmas market. Carollina only knows it from Germany. "I love getting a mulled wine and chocolate fruit here and enjoying the Christmas atmosphere."

Carollina Bastos at the Christmas market

Madeleine Dowdney also enjoys going to the Christmas market. "It's a much bigger tradition in Munich than in my home country." The British-born woman celebrated Christmas with her family there until she was 18. She remembers it fondly: "On the evening of 24 December, we always put out a glass of milk, biscuits and a mince pie for Santa Claus - and a carrot for his reindeer," she says. In her home country, Santa Claus brings presents on the 24th in the evening to be opened in the morning of December 25. "The stocking hanging above the fireplace only contains small things like mandarins. The big presents are always under the tree." The cosy Christmas morning was always followed by a big Christmas dinner.

Maddie has been on stage at Christmas time since she was eleven years old, first in London and then abroad for the first time at the age of 19. It's stressful: "It's hard to celebrate without the family - especially when no one else is working. Christmas is a family celebration. Sure, I have great friends and my partner here. But you still miss your own family." She only had the opportunity to celebrate in her home country again in 2020 due to coronavirus.

In Munich, Maddie celebrates Christmas twice: on 24 December with her partner and his family, and on 26 December with some members of the ensemble. "We're all in the same boat. We can't celebrate with our family. But we make the best of the situation and spend Christmas together. Every year we celebrate with a different host and everyone brings something to eat." In addition to the tradition of "Friendsmas", i.e. celebrating Christmas with friends, there are also other rituals at the Bayerisches Staatsballett: the dancers give each other presents and hold a Christmas training session on 24 December, for which the ensemble members dress up for Christmas. "Some take it really seriously and dress up as reindeer," she says with a laugh.

António Casalinho is performing on Christmas Day for the first time this year. "Going to the ballet at Christmas is more of a Central European tradition. It's not like that in my home country of Portugal." António has now lived in Munich for three years. "The first Christmas without my family was definitely the hardest." Christmas is a big family celebration in the 20-year-old's home country. Christmas dinner together is not the only tradition he remembers fondly. "On the morning of 25 December, my grandmother always made french toast, bread fried in cinnamon and butter. And we had little Christmas presents in our shoes." Christmas is a fond childhood memory for António. "Our tradition was to spend time with the family." Incidentally, António and Margarita Fernandes have already baked his grandmother's french toast. "But we tried to bake them in a healthier way. I'll be brief: this year we're sticking to the original recipe," the first soloist reveals with a laugh.

António and Margarita celebrated their first Christmas in Germany alone. "It was actually really nice - we cooked together and spoke to our families on the phone." In 2022, António had a visit from his family. That year was also the first time he went to the Christmas market, where he bought almost all the presents for his family. "There's just a lovely atmosphere there." When it snows, it's the perfect Christmas backdrop: "Then I feel like in the movies."

This year, António and Margarita are getting a visit from Margarita's family. They are already looking forward to that, as well as the upcoming Cinderella performances: "It's a perfect Christmas fairy tale."

Author: Annabell Frankenfeld


Wie gefällt Ihnen der Beitrag?

324 Reactions