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Chapter 2, Cécile Kaltenbach: My Injury Comeback

Corps de ballet dancer with the Berlin State Ballet

I got injured during my second season with the Royal Swedish Ballet. It was a foot injury that turned out to be quite complicated to diagnose and it wasn’t until the end of the season that I was told I needed surgery. As I started rehab, the new season had just begun along with a new director in the company.

Unfortunately, my recovery process took much longer than expected and though I was making a comeback, it was slow at best and that November I was told my contract would not be renewed the following season. I wasn’t in a good mental or physical shape to start searching for a job so the idea of auditioning couldn’t have come at a worse time. Even as a professional dancer, I never thrived in open auditions and knowing that I wasn’t at my best (I wasn’t able to dance en pointe) it made the situation even more daunting. About that same time, I had heard that job opportunities often opened up at the end of the season where some dancers forego their contracts for their preferred companies, so I decided to take that chance. I knew it would be better for me to not rush into things and instead, focus on my rehab, get back into shape, and build the confidence again post-injury.

Photo by Carlos Quezada

That May I decided to do a couple of private auditions in Helsinki, Oslo, and throughout Germany, after all, I had nothing to lose. Luckily for me, it turned out to be the right choice and I was offered two contracts! I decided to join the Berlin State Ballet shortly after.

Transitioning into Berlin was slow and steady. Even when the company changed directors things continued to go well for me and I was cast in more roles. However, things took a horrific turn when my luck ran out and that same foot injury came back to haunt me— the one that had resulted in me losing my job. To make matters worse, Berlin had welcomed yet another new director, specifically, my former director from Sweden! It was a horrible déjà-vu feeling I couldn’t shake off.

So what was I to do but to go through the entire rehab process, yet again? And right when I was about to come back to work I was told for the second time that my contract wasn’t going to be renewed. I couldn't believe that it happened a second time. Though I could have given up at that moment, I was so determined that I hadn’t wasted all those months recovering in rehab for nothing because things were different this time around. I was physically stronger and I wasn’t going to let my job slip away without a fight, so I decided to plead my case. Fortunately, the director was willing to give me another chance to prove myself and in the process, I got my job back!

If one thing’s for certain in this career it's that we simply can’t predict what will happen. As horrible as it was to go through the same injury to almost losing my job twice, going through those struggles made me an even better dancer— both mentally and physically, and as I hit my almost eighth year in Berlin, I have to say, things have never been better.