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Book your seat The Hamburg Ballet performs at the Hamburg State Opera (Staatsoper Hamburg, Grosse Theaterstrasse 25, www. hamburgische-staatsoper.de). The Ballet School's second annual choreography showcase, Creativity Workshop, will be performed at the Ernst Deutsch Theater from February 28­March 5, 2011(Friedrich-Schütter-Platz 1, +49 40 2270-1420). Higlights of the current season include Chopin Dances, Tenth Symphony of Gustav Mahler and A Midsummer Night's Dream. For more information on the Hamburg Ballet, see www.hamburgballett.de. Where to stay Hamburg boasts a number of sleek hotels under the Design Hotels umbrella, among which are the East Hotel in St. Pauli (www.easthamburg.de) and ten-year-old Gastwerk Hotel, the oldest design hotel in Hamburg (www.gastwerk.com/english). One of these, the spacious five-star SIDE Hotel, is located around the corner from the Hamburg State Opera. Stepping into its concrete lobby reminds one of entering a museum of modern art, and the hotel's streamlined eighth floor lounge offers an urban escape above the city's rooftops. At breakfast, the selection of jam varieties alone is likely to make one want to linger with his or her newspaper (rates for rooms and suites range from 150­650 euros; Finnair Plus members earn 500 Plus points per night). Hotel guests might even spot visiting ballet dancers, who are known to stay at SIDE due to its convenient location. According to hotel manager Theda Juliane Mustroph, these guests usually don't hang out in the lobby bar, and their most common room service request is a large bag of ice for their battered feet. drehbahn 49, www.sidehamburg.de 66 bLue Wings OCTOBER 2010 effort behind the expression. Inside its classrooms, groups of toned teenagers leap, skip and spin across the floor, displaying purposeful smiles. A few clutch at their backs and groan after a particularly arduous set of pirouettes, and teacher Christian Schön responds by mimicking their pained walks. "Ouch, ouch, ouch," he says and wobbles comically. "They all want to make it into the company, of course," Schön says. "Neumeier looks for personalities, not just one type. That's what's special about the company." Last year, three boys and five girls from the Ballet School were selected into the ensemble, and 85 per cent of its current members are graduates of the school. Pointing at a group of advanced students behind him, Schön says that most of them are driven to choreograph their own works. "Some just want to dance, but most of them are very creative," he says. Creativity is likely to serve these students well: One of the main theses of Neumeier's philosophy is his desire to involve dancers in the creative process. He participates in rehearsals, and requires all advanced students in the Ballet School to study choreography. Each spring, a performance workshop is held in which students showcase their own works to the public. "They learn to choose the music and see the difference between one person doing a move and many people doing it," says Ulrike Schmidt, managing and deputy director of the Hamburg Ballet. "They learn to process it all and to understand it better." Neumeier's students and company members rehearse under the same roof. During the season, which extends from September until July, both backpack-toting preteens and stringy ballerinas travel up and down the Ballettzentrum's circular staircase. Instruction at the Ballet School is in English and the majority of the student body is international, arriving from Asia, North America and Europe at as young as ten years old. A hallway on its second floor doubles as a boarding school for young dancers; newspaper clippings of the company and photo collages of students decorate its bulletin boards, and during breaks from classes, young dancers sit perched on the communal couches with their laptops, their hips and knees bent in positions that would appear impossible to most ordinary humans. singuLar sensation As with all ballet dancers, physical requirements for Neumeier's students are strict ­ "he's very into feet," says Schön ­ but just as crucial is his dancers' ability to stand out. "Sometimes when choosing dancers he decides against the rest of his team because he sees something in a boy or a girl that inspires him," says Schmidt. "His decisions are always interesting." Neumeier demonstrated his experimental spirit early on, when he selected LeFt visiting dancers are known to stay at design hotel side. right street musicians by the elbe river.

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