HMS Ocean may have been busy guarding the Paralympics, but one member of her crew swapped the Games for an altogether different venue – the Boston Ballet School.
Lieutenant Anna Sanocki (30) secured one of 25 places on the school’s prestigious summer programme on the back of her ten years’ experience as an amateur ballerina. Anna, who took up ballet when she was at university, spent two weeks in Boston studying and training under some of the best instructors America has to offer before resuming her post as one of HMS Ocean’s Officers of the Watch.
Anna, who is already in the US, said: “There are a lot more ballet schools in America than there are in the UK, and it’s much more common for adults to do ballet over there. Boston’s always been on my list of places to visit, so I get to kill two birds with one stone – I can see the city during the day, and dance at night.”
When the opportunity to go to Boston came up, Anna was encouraged to apply by HMS Ocean’s commanding officer, Captain Andrew Betton. She said: “Initially I was a bit nervous about bringing it up, because I knew about our tasking for the Olympics and how busy we were likely to be. But when I spoke to him about it the captain was really supportive of the idea, and told me I had to go, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that he was sure they could get around my absence somehow.”
While a warship may not exactly be the best place to practise, Anna stayed flexible by taking her ballet exercises on board and used one of HMS Ocean’s spare compartments as an impromptu dance studio.
She joked: “Some of the crew bring bikes and golf clubs on board. I just bring a barre instead. Lots of people think ballet is easy, that it isn’t exercise. But it is. It’s a very different kind of fitness and it’s all about making it look easy and graceful when you’re actually working really hard.”
Needless to say, Anna’s pastime means she gets a lot of teasing from her crewmates: “It’s a pretty weird hobby for a naval officer to have. But it makes me happy so I don’t mind. When you’re focusing so intently on every movement, the rest of the world just disappears into the background. It’s very cathartic.”
Anna is now back from the ballet school and serving on aboard a P2000 fast training boat of the inshore training squadron providing universities with their own sea-going training vessel.
HMS Ocean is providing logistics support to the London 2012 Olympic Games security effort.