Ms Dickie, there is probably no career more physically and mentally demanding than that of a professional dancer. You are a lead dancer at the Berlin State Ballet. What price do you pay for your work?
I've been dancing since I could walk, and even as a child I dreamed of dancing “Swan Lake” in a tutu. But back then I only knew the beautiful surface of the profession and not its downside: for example, the years of practising - and constantly being told what you're doing wrong.
Ballet is an eternal quest for perfection. Even though I'm a soloist today, so I've “made it”, I'm never “finished” as a dancer. That is the not so glamorous side.
“Every day we train for eight hours in front of a huge mirror”
What sacrifices did you have to make for your career?
My professional training at the Bolshoi School in Brazil began at the age of eleven. I could therefore never be a normal teenager and had to leave the comfort of my home behind me at an early age. After school, many people don't have a plan for what they want to do. I was already working at 18.
In ballet, a very specific form of beauty is celebrated. What does that mean to you?
Every day we train for eight hours in front of a huge mirror. In it you see not only yourself but also all the other dancers. Inevitably you compare yourself.
Because I am a tall woman, with longer legs and broader shoulders than others, I always had the feeling that there was something wrong with my physique. “You're not fat, just tall,” my classmates used to say. In my perception, I felt huge.
“Pain is part of it. When you train a lot, you always have sore muscles somewhere”
Has that influenced how you eat?
Ballet is a high-performance sport. So you have to make sure your body has everything it needs. Back then in ballet school there were definitely cases of eating disorders. I personally didn't have to go through that, but I remember feelings of guilt linked to food.
“You look so beautiful because you're skinny!”, you hear all the time. Fortunately, that mentality is slowly changing. Today, ballet students are encouraged to work on their strength rather than being particularly thin.
Ballet requires extreme physical performance. What role does pain play in this?
Pain is part of it. When you train a lot, you always have sore muscles somewhere. But sometimes I fear that we ballet dancers have a particularly high pain tolerance. Over the years, we get used to the fact that the body hurts. And sometimes we no longer notice exactly when we should stop.
“One day I'm a fairy, the next I'm the evil queen - it never gets boring”
Is the career as a dancer worth all these hardships?
Sometimes I have to consciously remind myself that I am incredibly privileged and can listen to this beautiful music every day. One day I'm a fairy, the next I'm the evil queen - it never gets boring.
And of course, the moments of recognition are beautiful: when I enter the stage, when we bow to the enthusiastic audience. Being a ballerina means more beauty than pain. Otherwise no one would keep it up.
Interview by Gundula Haage