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Inside Karis Scarlette’s Transformative Ballet Retreat at Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort


Two women, Karis Scarlette on the right, striking a ballet pose infront of the ocean at Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort.

This fall, Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort is gearing up for a special event as Karis Scarlette makes her way back to this slice of paradise. Karis, with a background that took her from a young enthusiast at the Royal Ballet School to an inspirational figure in ballet education, shows what you can do when life throws you a curveball. After an injury, she didn't just sit back; she decided to share her love and knowledge of ballet with the world.

Her retreats at the resort are not your typical dance classes. Imagine performing pliés as the sun rises, filling the sky with hues of pink and orange, or discovering the strength and flexibility within, inspired by the majestic views of the ocean. For Karis, ballet mimics the ocean's grace — a philosophy that comes to life beautifully at the Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort.

Her approach to ballet is unique, making it accessible and enriching for everyone, from eager beginners to seasoned dancers looking to deepen their practice amidst the Maldives' breathtaking scenery. It's a chance for guests of all ages to experience ballet in a setting that's as beautiful as the dance itself.

In her sessions, Karis weaves a connection between the art of ballet and the art of living. In addition to learning ballet steps, you get to experience joy, wellness, and the beauty of movement, all in one of the most serene locations on Earth.

In our chat with Karis, she shares insights into her teaching philosophy, the transformative potential of combining ballet with elements of holistic wellness, the thought behind making ballet accessible to all, and what makes the Maldives the ideal place for her retreats. From discussions on the therapeutic benefits of ballet to the joy of teaching in such magical natural beauty, Karis gives us a peek into the enriching experiences awaiting guests at her ballet retreats.

See what makes her ballet retreats a must-try experience and book yours today. More than just about dancing, it's about creating memories, finding new passions, and maybe, just maybe, discovering a bit more about yourself along the way.

Q&A With Karis

Karis Scarlette performing ballet on a sandy beach.

Q: Could you share a bit about your journey in ballet, from your early days at the Royal Ballet School to performing at the Royal Opera House?

Karis: I began ballet at the age of 2 because I couldn't keep still at home and was really theatrical! By age 6, I was training at the Royal Opera House with former Royal Ballet teachers and at age 7 was taken into the Royal Ballet School Junior Associate program a year early, before progressing onto the Royal Ballet School itself. I trained full-time here until I was 18. My first time on stage was at age 9 when I danced the role of a baby mouse in "The Tales of Beatrix Potter" with The Royal Ballet. I can still remember being backstage in my costume ready to go and feeling like it was the most natural thing in the world for me to be doing. I wasn't nervous at all. The last time I danced on the Royal Opera House stage was in the production of "Serenade" by George Balanchine, the music of which by Tchaikovsky still makes me well up to this day, it's so beautiful! My swansong though was at the National Theatre when I was 24 years old (early retirement due to injury) under Director Nicholas Hytner and alongside veteran actor Simon Russel Beale in Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens". My role was a mixture of ballet and acting in Early Modern English language which was a wonderful yet challenging experience.

Q: Overcoming an injury must have been incredibly challenging. How did this experience shape your approach to ballet and teaching?

Karis: I like to think of my injury as something that happened for me, not to me. It meant I needed to pivot in my career path and redesign my dreams to suit my reality. The person I have become since has been shaped by this event. Although a long stage career would surely have been magnificent, I feel so grateful and proud of what I've accomplished through my teachings and travels, which is something I wouldn't have been able to nurture had I still been dancing full-time. When I began teaching, I found the people who gravitated towards me were those who had gone through similar life-altering circumstances so I felt a desire to bring ballet to them in a more holistic way to help them heal. I have met so many inspiring people along the way who have also enriched my life which feeds my passion for teaching.

Q: Your ballet retreats are known for welcoming people of all ages and abilities. What inspired you to create programmes that are inclusive of everyone, from beginners to professionals?

Karis: Ballet can be enjoyed by everyone whether that be recreationally or professionally. Ballet has a reputation for being elitist and unattainable because as an industry over the decades, we have placed so much emphasis on "perfection". Yes, of course, to become a professional ballet dancer, there are certain natural qualities and abilities which are required in order to be successful, as in any profession. However, for many people, they learn ballet as adults simply because they love how it makes them feel and how it contributes to their overall wellbeing and happiness. I wanted to nurture this love for ballet against stunning backdrops such as the Maldives to give participants that much-needed dose of nature which enhances its overall health benefits. And so my ballet retreats were born! It's important to me that the art form is inclusive of all dancers so my retreats range from complete beginner to those at a more advanced level and take place all over the world, which makes my work very exciting and diverse!

Q: Returning to Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort for another ballet retreat is exciting! What aspects of the resort make it a perfect backdrop for your ballet programmes?

Karis: Last time I was at the resort, a guest told me that dancing ballet reminded her of the way the mantra rays swim under the water just off the resort's reef! I love that the graceful movements of ballet mimic the ocean and its marine life. I also find all the senses are enhanced when you are somewhere so beautiful; the sun and sea on your skin, the sound of the waves and birds in the trees, watching the colours of the sunsets all help to bring us into the present moment and creates more awareness of our bodies which is what ballet also encourages.

Q: The "Tutus & Twirls" programme sounds delightful for kids. Can you tell us more about how you integrate storytelling and interactive props into teaching ballet to children?

Karis: Children's ballet classes are all about encouraging the use of their imagination while providing them with tools to improve their coordination, strength, musicality, and technique. For example, we can use colourful scarfs to mimic butterfly wings and wave them in ways which resemble classical ballet port de bras (movements of the arms) and practice running on demi-pointe (the tips of the toes) like we're flying to strengthen the ankles and prepare them for balancing steps later on.

Q: "Sunrise Serenity" combines ballet with elements of mindfulness and breathing. How do these practices complement each other, and what benefits can participants expect?

Karis: "Sunrise Serenity" is a unique class which explores elements of breathwork, meditation, and mobility. Using specific breathing modalities we can begin to connect to ourselves on a more deeper level and really discover how our bodies are feeling and what emotions are present. Then we work to shift through any tensions or anxieties using gentle, ballet-inspired stretches and deep diaphragmatic breathing patterns, before finishing with stillness and a positive affirmation meditation. The breath responds to and also feeds our emotions which then has a physical effect on the body. If we find ourselves in a persistently negative loop of thoughts or suffering from chronic stress this can lead to dysfunctional breathing patterns, illness and injury which ends up being a self-perpetuating cycle, and so in this class, we work to reduce this, rewire our thoughts to a more positive outlook and build more awareness of ourselves.

Karis Scarlette in a ballet pose between two trees, in front of the ocean at Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort.Karis Scarlette draped in fabric, striking a ballet pose facing the ocean at Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort.

Q: One-on-one sessions offer a personalised ballet experience. What are some common goals your guests have, and how do you help them achieve these during their stay at Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort?

Karis: For those who have never tried ballet before, one-to-one classes are always a great entry into the art form as it help us get to know each other much more personally, and this means I can prepare a training plan to best suit the guest's needs. At a beginner level, there are also certain fundamental movements which need to be taught before any real dancing takes place! One-to-one classes also help break through any personal barriers or hesitancies people may have about starting something new. I endeavour to create a safe and encouraging environment for everyone and often a bespoke private class is the best way to get started. Common goals from guests are a desire to improve posture, strength, and flexibility, to increase their existing knowledge of ballet, injury rehabilitation, and simply to enjoy dancing!

Q: Ballet is often seen as an art form, but it also offers profound wellness and fitness benefits. How does participating in ballet at a retreat like yours at Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort contribute to transformative wellness journeys for guests?

Karis: Ballet is an art form with many wonderful physical and mental health benefits. It's a great way of increasing our nervous system's function as it helps improve our muscular strength, posture, coordination, mobility, proprioception and balance, memory and concentration. It's great for cardiovascular health and hormonal regulation, plus there is a myriad of psychological benefits. Dancing produces higher endorphin levels than regular exercise, meaning you are literally a happier person when you're dancing! The classical music that accompanies ballet classes is proven to mitigate stress and lower cortisol levels just like the effects of being immersed in nature, making a retreat at Avani + Fares Maldives Resort a truly healing experience.

Q: Given the growing interest in holistic wellness, how do you see ballet complementing other sports and activities, from football to yoga, in promoting overall wellness and performance?

Karis: Ballet is a very unique art form and way of moving. And because of its very focused use of muscle groups to perfect certain steps, it can definitely complement other movement forms and sports. I have worked with footballers in the past who have suffered hamstring or foot injuries. By giving them alternative strengthening and mobility exercises (which are only really utilised by dancers) they found new ways of moving which helped support the demand on their bodies and prevent further injuries. I also believe the mindset of a professional dancer is very similar if not identical to the mindset of a professional athlete. We work so hard physically and that requires a person to be incredibly strong-willed and disciplined, but also confident. As well as relying on technique, you have to train your brain to visualise and then physicalise challenging steps in order to execute them successfully, which is also a very useful tool for other activities in everyday life.

Q: Throughout your career, you've led numerous ballet retreats. Could you share a memorable moment or success story from these experiences, perhaps even an encounter with a notable attendee?

Karis: I have been very fortunate to have taught ballet across the world and to many different people from all walks of life. One experience which stands out is when I was invited to teach ballet to local children at the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka in 2011. Throughout the day I danced with over 200 children and although we were limited by language, we connected beautifully through dance and mime (the arm and hand gestures which replace speech in ballet) and music. To this day, it still fills me with immense pride and I have such admiration for those young children who attended my workshop despite many of them never having seen or heard of ballet before. A few of them even wrote letters to me when I was back home in London saying they had started regular ballet classes after that day! On the other end of the spectrum, I was hired to coach Hollywood actor and artist Billy Zane when he was filming in London for a period of months back in 2016, from which a wonderful friendship blossomed after he became a huge advocate for ballet and my teaching philosophy. I continue to cherish that experience also.

Q: For someone attending your ballet retreat for the first time, what piece of advice would you give to help them make the most of their experience?

Karis: Nobody walks into a ballet studio as an expert, everyone is a beginner at something in their life and you should not miss out on an exciting and potentially life-changing opportunity simply because you feel like you don't "fit the mould". Be brave, give it a go even if it's just for a laugh and to say you've done it once! Wear something comfortable that you can move in; tutus not necessary!

Q: Looking ahead, are there any new elements or programmes you're excited to introduce in your upcoming ballet retreat?

Karis: I have just completed my higher-level Breathwork Facilitator qualification which allows me to coach people on breath science and therapeutic breathing practices to better their overall health, manage their stress, resolve deep-rooted emotional stagnation, and improve brain function. I am deeply curious about marrying the two practices of ballet and breathwork together to provide an overarching health discipline which participants can continue in their everyday lives after the retreat.

Q: Finally, beyond ballet, what do you enjoy doing during your own time at Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort? Any favourite spots or activities?

Karis: As a busy working mother in my everyday life, I relish any opportunity to relax on a beach in front of the ocean and watch the sunset with my family! The Maldives is the perfect place for this. I also enjoyed the fitness centre, going snorkelling, and the spa; the Vinotherapy massage was a particular highlight. My young daughter spent most days in the Kids Club where there is a fantastic water park, and I have to admit I also enjoyed it! Next time, I would love to try scuba diving as this is on my bucket list.