Initially, she used to hate ballet and wanted to do sports. But then, Monika Hejduková has completely fallen for it and she has been pursuing it on a professional level for no less than sixteen years. She danced in Brno, Munich and nowadays she is a soloist of the National Theater in Prague, where she's currently preparing for the premiere of Swan Lake. In an interview with Luxury Prague Life, she described how difficult it was to combine a time-consuming career with family life, and she pondered about what she was going to do once she went into “ballet retirement” in a few years.
I started at the age of eighteen right after the dance conservatory. I went to Brno for a year, then I spent three years in Prague and five years in Munich. And now I've been back in Prague for about six years.
I think a dancer can sense when he or she is supposed to quit, but in my opinion, 40 is the highest time. I can't tell if I'm going to keep dancing for a year or two. I would like to fit in a second child, so right now it's hard to say.
It's challenging, very challenging. When I come home around seven in the evening, instead of relaxing on the couch, I devote myself to my child before he goes to sleep. I have no time for myself at all. Although, we are quite lucky, my partner and myself, because the little goes to the nursery, he enjoys being there, so both of us can focus on work. But the hard part is that you have to function nonstop.
It wasn’t an issue for me. The baby came just in time, when I was running extremely low on energy in my ballet career and thinking of quitting. And then I got pregnant; it came at the right moment. I took a break and now I'm full of strength and able to continue. I’ve really replenished my resources during the year and a half when I was out.
It was very challenging, since your back stiffens, and you really need it to be flexible, so it hurts a lot. But if you start slow, train regularly, then add smaller performances and gradually work up to where you used to be, it’s doable. But it isn't easy to come back, everybody's in shape, they're going strong... And you walk in feeling like a fish out of water, you try to catch up with them, but the progress is slow.
You have almost no time off. Everyone thinks it's more of a hobby, but nobody sees the hard work behind it. You start at ten in the morning and keep moving until six in the evening. And sometimes you have an evening performance on top of that, you don't have the holidays off because usually there are performances on those days.
Yes, it was. I had moments when I thought I didn't need that anymore. But something always came up, some indication that I should continue. Perhaps a role or something in my personal life that gave me the necessary kick. But I think it's the same in every job, these "ups and downs". They help you figure out that you actually enjoy doing it. I like ballet, so I keep holding on.
When a ballerina is tired, injuries are quite common. I had torn ankle ligaments. But strangely enough, it hurt less than sprained ligaments, and it healed quickly. I was originally supposed to go under the knife, but in the end it turned out the ligaments were probably small and I didn’t need surgery.
During a rehearsal. I was supposed to have a performance, so we had a stage rehearsal before the show. I jumped up ... And that was it for me.
For example, I performed with a 40 degree fever. And I’ve already passed out on stage, too. But I had a partner who shook my shoulders, knocked on me, I woke up and continued. (laughs)
Well, it is. But back then I was so young, I didn’t look right or left, I simply pressed on through fever and everything. Your head may be spinning, you’re stressed out, it's all wrong... But you are running on autopilot.
A little yes, but now we have an ensemble in which we stick together.
Not me! (laughs) But some colleagues sometimes push a little too hard, when they want a role... But tha happanes in every job that someone’s breathing on your back, trying to get your position, right?.
I was in a contest for young talents, thinking I was still young enough to try and could make it. The chief of the Munich ballet happened to be there, somehow he took liking to me and invited me for a meeting. I went to a private audition, but it was already clear that I had been accepted. I was thrilled, but upon signing the contract, I suddenly realized I didn't want to go abroad. And I spent the entire three hours of my way to Prague crying! It was such a first step, you know, you’re leaving the country for the first time, you speak no foreign language, you are afraid… But after three months I have calmed down. It was good experience, the ensemble was great and taught me a lot.
Especially the discipline, the Germans are all about that. They focus on the details, like picking girls of the same height for a unified look. Just like an army… It didn’t use to be like that here before, but the trend has been spreading to the Czech Republic lately. Our ballet is slightly changing.
I'm sort of in the middle, so I don't really have a problem. I might be only 168 centimeters tall, but on the stage I look like I have two meters, because of my long arms and legs. So they usually put me together with the tall girls.
I don't think so, I'm happy at home. And Prague is great and beautiful. We have so many choices and people don't even realize it. It's a wonderful city, life is great here for both younger and older people.
No, I hated ballet! I went to gymnastics for four years, and there I was told that I had no strength in my arms, and I should rather do modern gymnastics or ballet. We had ballet as a part of gymnastics, but I hated it.
But somewhere on TV, I saw a modern gymnast - she was on her own and everyone was looking at her. So I said, "No way I’m doing this!" And then we had another ballet lesson, it was much nicer, with a piano. No running around with a hanky like little kids. And that attracted me, and I've been doing it since six. I like it and so far I can't imagine doing anything else.
That's the question. But I have no idea. I rather it will come on its own. Maybe I will devote myself to design, I like designing clothes… It will probably be a second part of my life when I will be doing something completely different.
I'm lucky in that I never had to deal with that. I have a certain background from my parents’ side, and if I ever needed help, I know they would provide it. So I can with put my heart into dancing without much concern about money.
I’d really love to dance Tatiana in Onegin. It’s a very emotional role, it’s my dream.
I used to love horse horse riding, but now I’m a bit afraid to do it. I like shopping too, when I have the time and the money (laughs). And I like going on trips with my son, no matter where to.
If he’s tolerant, it’s possible to adjust. But he has to have a bit of an understanding of the job. Before we used to have day-to-day schedule, which was difficult. When you suddenly have a day off, you can’t just tell your partner: “Hey, we can go on a trip tomorrow!” He usually cannot sort his stuff out that very day. Right now we fortunately get a weekly plan, so it’s better.
Sometimes, yes. It’s happened to me already that I was at a cabin with my parents during Christmas time. We’re enjoying dinner and suddenly I get a call: “You’re on in the evening, somebody’s out”. So I got in the car and set off, put my make-up on and went to the performance.
No, never because of work. Only everything else… No, don’t write that! (laughs)
It depends. There are days when I really don’t enjoy it. But I have to train every day, warm my body up so that I don’t injure myself at a rehearsal. Plus with training I keep getting better.
Not me! When I’ve got a day off, I’ve got a day off! Even in summer, when we have six weeks off, I barely ever move (laughs). The body needs its rest, so no way, nobody’s getting anything out of me.
Well it hurts, but it’s manageable. You gotta start slowly, with pilates or the like.
Not yet. My hip joints hurt a bit, that’s probably going to be a problem in my old age. And I already have a bit of a hallux on my foot.