Foto © Claude Hoffer www.claude-hofer.com/
Raquel, tell us a little about yourself: You danced in a big ballet company for a long time. What was that like for you?
I come from Madrid and started dancing ballet at the age of 3. At the age of 7, I started training at the ballet school. I quickly realised that dancing was my vocation. At the age of 18 I had my first permanent engagement in the Junior Ballet of the CND2 Compañia Nacional de Danza with Nacho Duato. My career then took me to Valencia and Italy and then to Switzerland at the Theater Basel at the age of 26. I wanted to find a place where I could stay a little longer. I had a good feeling right away and was in love with Switzerland from the start, so much nature and those mountains! And to dance in a company that does 4 ballet premieres a year with different choreographers, that’s every dancer’s dream. In the end, I stayed in the Theater Basel company for 12 years.
When did you know that the right time had come for your professional transition? How are you doing at the moment?
Since I have been in transition, I miss the smell of the theatre. The smell of the stage is something special. I also love the creative moment of creating a production. However, I don’t miss the physical challenge of dance. I continue to do a lot of sports like swimming or hiking. The ballet world felt a bit superficial at the end of my career. I loved the moments on stage, I felt free and could be anything I wanted. I felt limitless. However, I suddenly lacked that deep inner connection I had before. I also no longer liked the daily challenge of being perfect. This showed me that it was time for me to take a new path.
How did you approach your career transition?
At the age of 30, I found myself in a deep personal crisis. I asked myself what motivated me to come to the theatre every day and stand at the ballet barre. I didn’t like the way I was questioning myself at the time. Suddenly, dance no longer fulfilled me. So I looked for a new fulfilment.
Was your further career path clear to you from the beginning and how is your professional transition shaping up at the moment?
I could imagine going into sports, but sewing did something special to me. Dance is very extroverted, I lost myself a little in it. Sewing slowly brought me back to myself. With time I could imagine that sewing could be a new vocation for me. So I pursued this idea. I didn’t realise that at my age there could still be training to become a dressmaker. To experience a normal day in the studio, I did an internship in the costume department at the Basel Theatre for 2 years. I immediately liked this calmness and the whole atmosphere, especially the bright rooms with big windows. From that moment on, my future path was clear. However, finding a suitable school for the training was a challenge. The schools are very expensive in Zurich or Lugano. Through a post in social media, the opportunity arose to do a 3-year training in a school near Basel. For the training in German, there was an entrance exam and trial period. The challenge was and is the financing. In the first year of school I didn’t understand a word of German either, but I learned about the tasks we were given and about my social environment.
How was SSUDK able to support you in your professional transition?
I already knew Oliver Dähler from an earlier transition workshop at Theater Basel. The exchange with dancers who were already in transition was great. Throughout the decision-making process and the search for a suitable school, Oliver Dähler helped me a lot. I could also count on the financial support of SSUDK. The RAV could not support me financially because I was 100% in education. So I moved to Rheinfelden into a shared flat to reduce my living costs and looked for additional jobs at weekends and on my free evenings. I started working in cleaning in hotels and helping out in the evening at the Basel Theatre in the costume department. With the consequence that I didn’t have a single day off. That led to a burnout. I was glad to be able to count on the support of the SSUDK during this challenging time. That was enormously important. In addition, the costs for the health insurance were covered by another agency. I was also the first to receive support for my transition from a transition fund at the Basel Theatre that had been set up specifically for this purpose at the time. This support is only available to artists who have been working at Theater Basel for many years and who have to undergo additional training for their transition. Now I can hardly believe that there are only 5 months left until graduation.
How long did the decision-making process take for you?
The whole process took about 5 years. It was not an easy time.
What are your goals or vision at the moment?
I would very much like to work in the costume department at Theater Basel after completing my training. I can also imagine going to the theatre in Zurich or St. Gallen and working in the costume department. And a 60% workload would be perfect, then I can also devote myself to other projects on the side that I haven’t had time for so far. That gives me additional inspiration. It would also be nice to have a little time for myself after this long and intense period of transition. I would also like to help in a project that supports refugees to get a foothold in a new job.
What would you like to pass on from your experiences to artists who are still in the middle of their careers?
You have no idea about a transition until you are in the middle of it yourself. It’s a scary state. I felt like I was reborn again at that time. I felt bad at the same time, abandoning the dance my former vocation. At least that’s how it felt to me. At the same time, it is a long process to completely redefine and discover yourself again. In the beginning I just tried new things, for example Pilates, yoga or hiking. But I wanted to find a new way for myself that was not physical. It took a while to figure out what made me feel really good and when I just forgot about time. I didn’t want to feel pressure, I wanted to give myself enough time for this process.
What does your everyday life look like now? What are you most looking forward to at the moment and in the future?
I love sewing, especially the craft. I also like the quality of life in Switzerland, the interpersonal respect, the work-life balance and the healthy life. I didn’t know that in Spain. I like being in nature, I’m looking forward to my new job and everything that’s coming up. I have only worked in the last few years and I am looking forward to building new relationships. That is also a priority for me now.
What should your colleagues consider or keep in mind who are still facing a professional transition?
Be curious! “Don’t be afraid to use your free time to try new things even during your active dance career. You are not only a dancer. Give yourself the space and time to discover new things. This does not make you a bad dancer. You don’t have to think about quitting yet. “Trying new things does not mean not loving dance any more. It is important to get inspiration from outside and without the pressure of transitioning already find out what you still like and what talents you still have inside. “Let yourself be surprised by new things and feel into yourself without pressure. The discovery and surprise of the new is already an incredibly exciting process. Not everything has to fulfil you immediately. Just be curious and brave to try new things and don’t think too much. It will become apparent as soon as something feels right. Passion comes with time. Follow your inner voice, which can sometimes be very quiet. So take your time with the process, walk your path step by step and trust the path. ”