Dreams on Hold – capturing ballet students’ lockdown dance life

With the second wave of the covid pandemic sweeping across the UK, Europe and rest of the world, it’s not just professional dancers who are affected by the restrictions and lockdowns.

Ballet students have found their classes cancelled, studios closed, training on hold or moved online and performance opportunities postponed. The impact of restrictions on young dance students (and dance teachers and studio owners) cannot be underestimated, as they struggle with putting their dreams on hold, not seeing their dance friends, trying to learn via zoom and seeing coveted roles they’ve worked years to achieve simply delayed or cancelled. This is heartbreaking for any young dancer.

Photographer Karolina Webb (follow on IG) has created a photo journal called ‘Dreams on Hold’ that captures lockdown from the perspective of young ballet dancers. These poignant photos were taken outdoors and with social distancing. Here are some of their ballet student stories and their dreams on hold:

Just before lockdown and before schools closed for months, Emma (aged 13), a full-time ballet student, performed alongside Royal Ballet stars, principal dancers Lauren Cuthbertson and Marcelino Sambé in Cathy Marston’s The Cellist at the Royal Opera House. The Cellist premiered to critical acclaim and was an exceptional opportunity for Emma. Just two weeks after the theatres closed its doors in March.

Liberty (aged 15) and Chloe (aged 13) are also full-time ballet students, and they too were unable to continue training with their friends for months. Their classes continued via zoom, and they’ve received great support from their school during lockdown.

Maëla (aged 11) had just received the exciting news just as lockdown occurred, that she had been accepted onto the Junior Associates programme with The Royal Ballet School. She was also rehearsing for the lead role of Dorothy in The Ballet School London’s production of The Wizard of Oz, which was set to feature 250 children. Maëla’s dreams are now on hold with The Wizard of Oz delayed for the time being.

Sophia (aged 8), was also due to perform as Toto with Maëla in the production of The Wizard of Oz.

Zaina (aged 12) was just starting to settle into her first year of Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham when we went into lockdown. Thankfully Zaina has been able to return to training following approval from the government for the school to reopen. Elmhurst has also implemented numerous measures to ensure the school and dancers are covid safe.

Summer (aged 10) and Ella (aged 12) were both cast in London Children’s Ballet’s production of Anne of Green Gables, and unfortunately the performances scheduled to be held at the famous Sadler’s Wells Theatre were cancelled. 

Scarlet (aged 11) has used lockdown to raise much needed funds for London Children’s Ballet. By collecting rubbish, she has raised an impressive £1,127 for this important company that gives young dancers life changing opportunities to perform.

Cover photo of ballet student Ella.