A short Talk to Suzan Oppermann - Vienna State Ballet - March 15th., 2018
A short Talk to Suzan Oppermann: October 5th, 2017
A short Talk to Suzan Opperman: Vienna State Ballet
I was always searching for the right words to describe her… but nothing seemed to fit. Nothing seemed to describe her personality accurately. I was quite upset with my lack of inventiveness and rhetoric. Then, one day, I remembered G. B. Shaw’s words about Eliza, as she is entering the Embassy Ball and presented to the Ambassador and his wife. This “nosy” woman asks who this “Miss Doolittle” is. Colonel Pickering answers “A cousin of mine and… “. Higgins enters the scene just to hear the Ambassador’s wife saying: “Such a faraway look… as if she’s always lived in a garden”.
All of a sudden I knew the words to what I had been trying to express... and I’ll have to borrow these from Mr. Shaw to use in this short interview with lovely Miss Opperman. You’ll just have to watch her more closely, more attentively on stage to understand what I mean.
If you do not understand what I mean, think of British actresses Vivien Leigh and Julie Christie (both born and raised in India) and Olivia Hussey (born in Argentina): that “faraway look” that underlines the fact that one was born under starry skies! And sun... and colours... and fragrances from the nature!
Like everyone that grew up in the Southern hemisphere, she and her soul enjoyed the warmth of beautiful surroundings. But do not misunderstand me: she does not live in a fairy-tale world. She is right here with us. Strong as steel. Yes, mix those years in South-Africa with a very disciplined upbringing in England at The Royal Ballet School (which makes us, like written in a critic about “Mrs.Miniver”, wonder "why they won the WW II"), shake them lightly with a cultivated Background, Art, Ballet, Interests… and there you have it: Miss Suzan Opperman, talented Dancer at the Vienna State Opera since 2013.
Miss Opperman had a severe injury in 2014 had to be operated in England and stayed for 11 months on a sick leave. Her (complicated) injury was an “Osteo Condral Lesion”: bone and cartilage broke off the end of the femur bone due to a genetic weakness on a selected area of the bone (which was gradually weakened by the impact of dancing.) Quite a complicated diagnosis. She had microfracture surgery and had to be non-weight bearing with crutches for 10weeks. After that she slowly learned to walk normally again (having lost a lot of muscle). She was not allowed to do any ballet for 9 months but after an intense rehabilitation programme, she was back onstage exactly 11 months after surgery.
“Dear Suzan, thank you for joining me in this autumn’s late afternoon. The weather is fine… the sun is still shining. The perfect surroundings for someone who was born in such a beautiful country. So many questions to ask… In fact, when did you realize that you wanted to be a dancer?”
She smiles that lovely smile of hers and says “I was 4 years old and it was my first experience of “The Nutcracker” – could it be any other way?”
With Suzan in 2014... just a few months before her injury: this talk was the inspiration for this interview!
“If you may excuse me, when I look at you, of course I see the “dancer” but I see much more…”
“Glad, Ricardo, that you have said that: I am not “only” a dancer. There were times, of course when everything, my whole expectations, wishes and thoughts were just revolving around me, my career and my own interpretation of “being a dancer”. After my injury I started to think in a different way. I realized that the world is so much bigger. I know this sounds very cliché-like but it is the way I feel! Every person like a wheel with spokes – and if all spokes are on the right place, in perfect unison, everything is balanced and the wheel “works”!”
This comment made me happy and she soon added – to my complete delight: “Family, religion, spirituality, balance, even on your nutrition that is what is occupying me at the moment!”
“Of course, and that is important, I have many interests outside of the “Ballet world”: my darling “Poppy” (her little dog), as well as the whole physiological side behind sports and injury prevention”
“And what about Art, other plans?” I had to ask provokingly.
“You see, Ricardo, I am not much into Museums but I am starting to photograph… little by little a bit more!”
That is definitely another proof of this dancer's versatility, witnessed on stage in so many different productions but most notably in MacMillan's “Concerto”, Corder's “The Snowqueen”, Neumeier's “Sacre” and “Pavillon D'Armide” as well as in Robbins' “The four seasons” and Legris' “Le Corsaire”.
“But let us get back to your beginnings: after you had seen “The Nutcracker”, when did you start taking classes?”
“Oh, I started to take classes in South-Africa when I was 4! Then we moved to England when I was 7 and at 13, I was taking part at the Royal Ballet Summer School – where I was offered a place at the School… and here I am!”
“Destiny?” I ask myself. Yes.
“You are still very young. So many things will still happen in your career. Just tell us something that you have not told anyone yet”
No need to wait for an answer: “I am much more into characters that are real CHARACTERS – just like Manon Lescaut or Baroness Vetsera in “Mayerling”. Not “Odette/Odile”. One day I want to portray real characters with real emotions”
This answer surprised me, it surprised me extremely. I had not awaited it, not from such a young girl, not in times when abstract ballets play such an important role... But it made me think, reconsider many of my own “values” which I had never questioned before. It is surely a pleasure to sit and talk and learn from other experiences. Here I was sitting in front of a young girl that, during last summer, went under water in a cage to observe sharks (I do not know if I would like that!), a girl that combines elegance, suavity, strength and courage with a very politically correct behaviour, learning a lot...
To finish the interview (we could be there today, chatting... so many themes!) I asked her if there was something else she would like to add to her comments. Not more than a glimpse of a second was necessary for her to start – because she knows what she wants: “I honestly never mind talking about my injury. It brought upon a lot of positive things in my life (despite it being a difficult time) and even now I never look back on that time with sadness or pity ... and I think that more dancers should try and make the most of their time injured and learn from their injuries rather than getting depressed about them! In our career, injuries, are unfortunately inevitable, but it’s the way we decide to approach the situation which determines the way in which we are affected by it. ”
That is Miss Opperman in her essence: fragile looking, strong as steel, always looking at the positive side of things – and helping so many others with her natural, upright comments and ways!
Thank you, Suzan, for giving me this “present” and all this insight into your personality (and soul)! It was a great pleasure talking to you!