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Dance jobs: meet Anna Trevien, Benesh choreologist at the Royal Ballet

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Hannah Keegan
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Work/Life is Stylist’s regular column about the professional routines of successful women. Here, choreologist Anna Trevien takes us through her one-day diary, from morning latte to lights-out.

Anna Trevien, 40, is senior Benesh choreologist at the Royal Ballet and head of Benesh at the Royal Academy of Dance. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.

MY ALARM GOES OFF…

When my toddler wakes me at 7am. The first thing I do is hug her, then I’ll get out of bed and make breakfast: porridge or cereal. I try to keep mornings as precious family time so avoid using my phone. For work, I’ll wear something comfortable I can practise in such as jeans and a T-shirt. My commute is when the calls and emails begin – I mostly manage my work for the Royal Academy of Dance during this time. 

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I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR…

Writing new ballets using Benesh movement notation [a form of dance shorthand] and staging the current repertoire for the Royal Ballet. I’m also head of Benesh at the Royal Academy of Dance, where I’m in charge of the training centre, choreologists and research.

I GOT THE JOB…

After studying dance then Benesh notation. My mother was a ballet teacher and I loved everything about the show preparation: the costumes, rehearsals and designs. I was introduced to Benesh at ballet summer school when I was 11. After my dance training, I studied at the Benesh Institute and was lucky enough to get a job in Germany after graduating. Three years later, I joined the Royal Ballet. 

Anna uses Benesh notation, a form of shorthand for recording dance moves.

MY TYPICAL DAY…

Depends on where we are in the production of a ballet. In creation time I assist the choreographer, noting down every move quietly in the corner. When it comes to staging I kick into action, teaching the dancers their steps and where they should be on stage. Then I’ll pass this on to the ballet master, who sprinkles the gold dust on top.

Currently, I’m working across three projects: teaching the ballet Coppélia, writing Cathy Marston’s new ballet The Cellist – it takes around 12-16 hours of work for one minute of choreography – and keeping a close eye on Enigma Variations by Frederick Ashton, which is currently on stage. If any changes are made, I record them in the score. We’re working with living art, so it’s not fixed. 

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Lunch is a hard one. I try to get something warm from the canteen before rehearsals start at 12pm, otherwise it ends up being late in the afternoon. Afterwards, I might do some archiving. We have a very beautiful library of scores, mostly handwritten, and it’s important to make sure they’re catalogued correctly. I finish around 6.30pm.

MY MOST MEMORABLE WORK MOMENT…

Was working on Symphony In C a few years ago. There was an Icelandic ash cloud and the ballet stager couldn’t fly in from America. I ended up having to teach the whole ballet in three days. 

THE WORST PART OF MY JOB…

Is working to so many different schedules. It makes it hard to plan.

Anna's always been fascinated by the preparation of shows.

THE BEST PART OF MY JOB…

Is the variety. I go from working in the studio with an incredible team to having very quiet moments where I’m just an observer. 

AFTER WORK…

I might stay to see a show. If not, I’ll do some work on the way home; I get some funny looks if I practise moves on the Tube. My husband or I will cook: he makes great Thai food, I do French or Mediterranean. I relax by watching Netflix, then when everyone is asleep I go back to answering emails or practising moves. I’m in bed by 11.30pm. 

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My Plan B: garden designer

This might be because I’m in the middle of designing my own garden, but it really interests me. There’s a whole other layer of how the environment interacts with the design that influences how you plan – which, I suppose, has a lot to do with my current job. I love to be outside, too. 

Photography: Holly McGlynn

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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