"Ballet makes you grow up really fast. It’s a very dynamic professional path!"
Professional ballerina and dancer Sarah Fisler-Weissbarth talks to the By Adushka team about ballet, creativity, inspiration and fashion in the times of global pandemic.
Text and interview by Tsitaliya Mircheva
Many girls dream of one day becoming a Prima Ballerina, but only a few have the talent, the motivation and the stamina to endure the hard work and stresses, both physical and mental, to reach that dream!
It takes years to become a ballerina and yet, once you do, your dream is short-lived.
Most ballerinas leave the stage by the age of 35. We’ve all seen those movies and have heard so many stories about the amount of hard work, dedication and passion one pours into ballet. But I've often wondered what the truth is about such a journey, and what kind of woman is inside the graceful, delicate performer we watch with such fascination on stage?
Sarah started to learn ballet at the age of 10, and today owns the Graf Weissbarth Ballet School in Aargau, which she’s run for more than 16-years.
Meeting her, I’m also curious to know what happens to ballerinas when they leave the stage? Imagine, a professional ballerina starts her career before she even turns 10, and by the time she leaves the stage she’s become a fully-grown woman. What happens next in her life? After all the dedication, hard work, time and energy invested in ballet, one day she has to leave the stage. Then what?
During our time together we end up talking about everything, from what it takes to become a ballet dancer on stage, through to why she loves fashion and her favourite books and movies. Karin also intersperses our chat with a few questions for Sarah about her upcoming performances here in Switzerland.
Tsitaliya: How did you become a ballet dancer?
Sarah: Just like any other girl I was fascinated with ballerinas and their performances on stage. I remember I had no idea what it takes to become a ballet dancer. I went to my first class at the age of 10 and I was wearing sneakers and jogging pants. Everyone was laughing at me.
After this first class the teacher saw something in me. She saw talent in the way I moved my body and the coordination of the movements. In the next 6-months everything went so fast. My teacher was pushing me a little more than the others and started asking whether I was willing to pursue this career professionally.
I was going four times a week to ballet class, and by the age of 12 I decided that I did want to become a professional ballerina. 4-years later I had to leave Switzerland because at that time we didn’t have a professional school for training. I moved to Munich to study at the Heinz Bosl Stiftung, München.
Within two years I was already performing on stage. And yet you don’t become a first ballerina just like that. The first months you’re on the last line and you have to work hard to build a name. But sometimes life is strange, and you have to be in the right place at the right time, so I started traveling and danced on stage in New York, China and many other countries in Europe.
Thanks to these travels I grew up meeting interesting people from different cultures and being on the road taught me how to take care of myself. My personal horizons expanded, and my confidence grew with each performance on the stage. At some point I asked myself, is this it? Is this everything I can achieve in my career or are there more interesting challenges and growth? I was only 25-years old, but I was longing for more in my life.
That’s how I ended up in Holland; a country really open to everything! With classical ballet as my foundation I could start experimenting with my own movements and try new things. The mind changes as well and I started being more creative and experimenting outside of classical ballet, which is all about following the rules. In modern dance everything is more experimental, and I liked that a lot. In five years, I turned 30 and it was time to think of my personal life, family, kids, my purpose and so on.
I quit dancing and returned to Switzerland. I only managed to live without dancing for three months before I felt the burning desire to start again. I decided to do pedagogic education so I could teach ballet.
And once again life had its own ways of arranging my life, and I met my first teacher again who came to me and offered me the opportunity to take over her school. It was the school I danced at when I first started.
That’s how I felt I was closing the circle. I’m back again where I started, but in a different role this time.
There are many hard jobs in the world, but the hardest part in ballet is making it look easy and graceful.
Karin: Why did you choose The Little Mermaid as a theme for your next performance with the school?
Sarah: We have played many other stories. This time we were fascinated by the two worlds, the one below the see mirror and the land. Two opposites that could not be stronger, but impossible without each other.
Karin: Why did you decided despite the COVID-19 pandemic to still organise a performance?
Sarah: I believe it’s important to maintain a certain normality in this extraordinary situation. For our children, upbringing and culture. Such performances can help you become more self-confident and express your creativity. Culture gives space for identity. In a wider sense, culture refers to everything that humans create. Culture is expressed in the values and traditions that are important to us and play an important role in our lives. It shapes our dealings with others, our relationship with food, clothing, work and family and with many other things. It is part of our life despite coronavirus.
Karin: How did the children react to the production?
Sarah: The nice thing about children is that they can still deal with this situation in a carefree and open manner. However, as adults, we are the ones who pass the insecurity onto the children.
Karin: Who will make the costumes for your production?
Sarah: I have many dear mothers who help me to make the costumes. I draw the costumes and these pictures are used to make the costumes!
Karin: What is the most beautiful and important moment in your career till now?
Sarah: The most important moment was the moment when I decided to stop dancing Classic Ballet.
Karin: Which is the most beautiful stage you’ve danced on till now?
Sarah: Every stage has its own charm and unique beauty. But maybe I was most impressed with the Lincoln Center in New York and also with the Roman Amphitheater in Taormina. There are so many others though....
Tsitaliya: How do you define success?
Sarah: You can’t define success, it means so many different things for different people, but for me staying true to yourself is what real success is in life. And when you believe in what you do, this is also success! Success is in little things!
Real success in life is staying true to yourself and believing in what you do!
Tsitaliya: What does it take to become a successful ballerina? Your advice to young girls who strive to become ballerinas?
Sarah: Be yourself, be self-confident and be active. In other words believe in yourself, which is self-confidence, and be active means take the initiative, take action, go for your dreams! Try to find solutions!
Karin: What do you dream of achieving today? What is your vision for the school and your work?
Sarah: For me the vision and the goals are not something in the future, they are part of today as I am redefining my goals every day. But I wish to stay as authentic, professional and true to myself as I can. I wish to share my knowledge and experience of this rich profession with all its facets, the understanding of beauty and let my children experience it. This is my dream / vision. For me it is not important what will or could be, but the here and now is what counts.
Karin: One sentence that describes your current creative state?
Sarah: Always stay actively creative. never give up...
Tsitaliya: I understand you are very passionate about fashion too! How would you describe your style?
Sarah: I like feminine clothing and I am very influenced by ballet aesthetic. I try to match everything in my look and I pay a lot of attention to details. My style uniform are dresses, I like fluid and light dresses in soft fabrics. I love high heels too.
Karin: What is your motivation when you choose what to wear?
Sarah: Being a woman and being myself.
Tsitaliya: How do you relax and how do you return to peace and balance in life?
Sarah: I love gardening, I love to work with the earth and to get my hands dirty. I love to grow something new!
Tsitaliya: What inspires you at the moment?
Sarah: My girls at the school! They inspire me and I love observing them. I Love to think how I can work with them to grow self-confident mature women with a healthy understanding of who they are. Today this is very important, how we raise our children and what kind of models we can be for them in such times!
You are perfect as you are, is my leading thought! I don’t have two kinds, I have 250 kids. Each kid in my school I care about and this is what motivates me and inspires me to get up every morning and go to work! I feel responsible for each one of them!
Tsitaliya: What do you like about By Adushka selection of brands and garments?
Sarah: I like most pieces which are so versatile and I can combine them with so many other things in my wardrobe, but the best thing about this selection is the sense of freedom and dreaminess, the sense of “I can be whoever I want to be”. I love the colours, I love the combinations. I like that none of these pieces are conventional, they have nothing to do with the uniformity trend kind of fashion. They are clothes for free spirited people with imagination.
Tsitaliya: What was the last piece you purchased?
Sarah: Many things actually :) The most incredible piece I bought is a silk dress that floats over your body like waves, it falls and moves so light and I love it. It is from Phisique du Role.