“Take your work seriously, but never yourself”
Famous ballerina Margot Fonteyn’s quote illustrates Annik Coatalen Heal’s approach to life beautifully. Celebrating her 74th birthday this year, Annik Coatalen Heal has lived a life truly dedicated to ballet.
Her dual French and English heritage has one strong theme pulling everything together, her love of ballet, and how she first instilled it in her daughters, and then hundreds of children both in France and the UK over the years.
Annik had always wanted to be a ballerina; Annik persuaded her parents that training in Classical Ballet was what was meant to be, and was selected to attend The Conservatoire de Versailles, where she obtained a First Prize. She then applied to and attended Elmhurst Ballet School where she continued her ballet studies and stayed further on after her O Levels with peers such as Anna du Boisson and Susan Robinson. She then finalised her studies at The Royal Ballet School, obtaining her Teaching Diploma studying a 3 year course, which had been newly designed by Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of The Royal Ballet .
Annik then achieved her childhood ambition, becoming an international professional classical dancer and dancing for The Opera de Nantes in France, The Gratz Opernhaus in Austria, The Theatre des Stadt Bonn in Germany and The Opernhaus Cologne in Germany. After her professional dancing career in ballet was cut short due to suffering from hallux rigidus in her toe joint, a degenerative form of arthritis, Annik decided ballet was still to be her life. In true ‘Margot Fonteyn’ fashion, she did not allow personal problems to come between her and her service to Ballet.
Having taught for more than 40 years through her Ballet School in France, her internationally renowned Summer School in France, and her Ballet School in the UK, Annik has truly brought this art form to life through the thousands of students she has taught over the years.
It is exceptionally difficult to become a professional classical dancer, however Annik’s passion and heartfelt teaching style has resulted in many success stories. Quite a good many of her students have gone on to train at schools such as Elmhurst Ballet School, The Royal Ballet School, The Central School of Ballet, Northern Ballet School, Laban School of Dance, Tring School for Performing Arts, and Ballet West. Many of her students have taken part in performances with the English Youth Ballet, London Children’s Ballet and National Youth Ballet. And then some of these students have then become professional dancers for companies such as Royal Swedish Ballet, Contemporary Myrian Dodge, Dream Jazz, The Paris Opera, other Companies in Europe and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
The students that do not pursue dancing careers do not miss out; the positive effects of Annik’s firm but fair teaching aside, her poise, determination and drive makes her a perfect role model, even as she is turning 73 this year. “Ballet certainly teaches more than "steps" and is a complete education for life” says Annik.
“Annik constantly finds a way to infuse our lives with dance; she not only teaches from the soul but also brings forth some very famous names to teach our children, so that they receive a diverse experience. So much more than the usual once a week ballet school in the Home Counties” said one parent. Like her friend, Violette Verdy, international ballet star and tutor at Annik’s Summer School, used to say “It’s surprising how, if you stick to the one thing you should do, life is going to deliver what you need.”
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