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Daria Klimentová and Yat Sen Chang
Daria Klimentová and Yat Sen Chang

This is one of my favourite tales of ballet misunderstandings, but the context takes so long to describe that it’s almost untellable verbally.

Let’s start with the main characters – Glen Tetley, one of the most gentle, quiet, and modest people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. When he worked with us in Berlin setting Voluntaries, we were silent with awe and respect. Then my friend Harald Krytinar, one of the most respectful, courteous and modest dancers I know. Helpful to a fault, he’d not only open a door for you, he’d sandpaper the edges with his teeth to make it close properly if necessary.

Next you need to understand the location. In the building of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, there are two lifts, one large one near the stage, a kind of goods lift. Then there’s the passenger lift further up the corridor that was used more frequently by the dancers.

Now the situation. There’s a full call of Voluntaries on stage at the Deutsche Oper, which finishes around lunch time. All’s gone fairly well, and so everyone’s piling off the stage and heading for the lifts. As there are a lot of pressages in Voluntaries, one couple are practising the pressage in the corridor, next to the goods lift.

Glen Tetley presses the button for the goods lift, and, while he’s waiting, casts an eye over the pressage that’s happening next to him. Harald, who happens to be passing, says to Glen, ‘That lift doesn’t work’. For the first time in all the time I’ve worked with Glen, I see the faintest glimmer of affront. He looks at Harald shocked.

Realising how catastrophically he’d been misunderstood, Harald – now a deeper shade of purple – rushed to repair the situation. Pointing at the grey doors of the goods lift he stuttered  “I mean the lift…this lift..the elevator…doesn’t work, you need to use the other one down there…”

The relief on both their faces was a picture I’ve never forgotten.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist