“Dancing gave me a good foundation for my job as a pilot” – Andrés Ferraz-Leite

Andrés Ferraz-Leite

Our guest today was trained as a classical ballet dancer up to the age of 19. Born in Uruguay he moved to Vienna, Austria with his parents as a young child. Encouraged by his father, he took up classical dance training at the Vienna State Opera ballet school. Fully immersed into the prospect of becoming a professional stage artist, it slowly dawned on him that he would rather become a commercial airline pilot. And that’s what he did.

So how did he manage that shift and has the dance education been helpful for his training as a pilot? Find out in my new episode of the Me in Ten Years Podcast and please welcome Andrés Ferraz-Leite!

Please find below the transcript of our conversation

ballet, dancer, pilot, flight academy bremen, lufthansa, dance, airplane, vienna state opera, nureyev, ballet teacher, stage, memory, life, decision, moment, big, school, training, mormon, schwarzenegger, coordination

Andrés Ferraz-Leite, Harald Krytinar

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 00:00
I wasn’t thinking about being a pilot for a long time. Also, I was not the best student in school and my grades were not that good because I was concentrating a lot on dancing and I was not very disciplined on doing my homework and studying. And I was a bit frustrated because of a new teacher that had arrived in ballet school that was not approving of me as much. And I was kind of set aside to remember his name. Now, it was from Germany, and everybody thinks very highly of him until now. I didn’t like him at all. I still don’t. Maybe it’s very biased.

Harald Krytinar 00:40
Hi, and welcome to the ME IN TEN YEARS podcast. I’m Harald and I bring to you stories from dances and stage artists who share their experiences about career transition. Our guest today was trained as a classical ballet dancer up to the age of 19. Born in Uruguay, he moved to Vienna, Austria with his parents as a young child. Encouraged by his father, he took up classical dance training at the Vienna State Opera ballet school, fully immersed into the prospect of becoming a professional stage artist, it slowly dawned on him that he would rather become a commercial airline pilot. And that’s what he did. So how did he manage that shift? And has the dance education been helpful for his training as a pilot? Find out in my new episode of the ME IN TEN YEARS podcast and please welcome Andrés Ferraz-Leite.

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 01:28
Thanks for having me here.

Harald Krytinar 01:30
It’s a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time. And thank you very much that you made yourself available. Maybe you could just quickly start by telling me where are you sitting today?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 01:39
Well, I’m sitting in my house in Bavaria, Germany. That’s where I live. City of Dingolfing. I live close to the airport of Munich. Well, close. It’s 45 minutes drive. But that’s close enough for me since I work as a pilot for Lufthansa Airlines. So this is why I’m here.

Harald Krytinar 01:58
So thanks for telling us. And I’m just wondering, I mean, you know, this podcast is about career change for dancers. And but you just said that you work as a pilot for Lufthansa and you live just outside Munich airport. There is a reason that I invited you. And the reasons actually, because we know each other from like, literally 30 years ago, probably 40 years.

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 02:21
It’s quite a while

Harald Krytinar 02:21
It is quite a while and maybe you could just tell us where you grew up. And there is obviously a connection with dance. And I would love to just hear where that connection was made.

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 02:33
Connection from flying and dancing, like flying an airplane dancing, or what are you talking about? Is there a connection?

Harald Krytinar 02:41
Now, well, if there is a connection between flying an airplane and dancing, I hope we get there as well. But you have a connection with dance. And I would just like to know what that is. And it dates back to when you were a child. And I would just love to hear you know, what is that connection with ballet in your life?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 02:59
Oh, there’s a big connection with ballet in my life. It still has an influence on me actually. When I think about it, I was thinking about this podcast, of course, the last days and I was thinking. Yes, I am still somewhat of a dancer inside deep inside. And because, yeah, what we do in our youth really influences us a lot. So I started dancing ballet when I was eight years old, we came to Austria from Uruguay. First I could hardly speak any German. And my father is a great ballet lover. And he’s an artist, in all the sense of the word he paints until this day, and he loves art. And so he sent me to the admission of the Vienna State Opera ballet school. And I passed and I got admitted. And yeah, and that’s how I started doing ballet. And I stayed with it until I was 19 years old. I think that’s when I decided to quit to stop because I had other plans for my life. But yeah, it was something that influenced me a lot. And all of my friends we were talking before about Vienna and how I go there. And when I am Indian, I like visiting with my friends that made a career in dancing. So I’m still connected to that life. And they always asked me a lot about what I do about, you know, flying airplanes, and I love asking them about how it was to be a dancer and to do that life which I abandoned. Yeah. So I’m still very connected to dancing.

Harald Krytinar 04:44
If you go back actually, in this time when you said you were admitted to the ballet school and you started the training, which you know, it was five times a week. It was a full time, professional,…it was a professional ballet school. So you went there every day of the week. And do you have any memories of that how that felt at the time. I mean, the environment, was it like your thing? Was it, because you felt you had to do it? What was the motivation for you to go there?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 05:10
I think at that age, the motivation, generally in a child is to please their parents. I think so I think my father told me Yeah, this is, this is nice, and you’re gonna be a great ballet dancer, whatever. And so I went there. And also, I think, if I remember correctly, I was very good at it. So right from the start from the beginning, they were all very satisfied with me with what I was doing. And yeah, and I, you know, I, I have my antennas, I realized, Oh, I’m good. So I like doing it, you know, we like doing things that we’re good at. And, yeah, and that’s, that’s what got me hooked. And, and of course, immediately, I think, we started getting possibilities to perform on stage. And, yeah, I liked all the attention I was getting, and my parents were very proud of me of what I was doing. So that was the first motivation. And then, of course, you start developing a taste for this art for you start developing a more sense for the movement for the aesthetics of it, and I started loving it more and more. And I think by the time I was 12, I was talking about, you know becoming a great dancer, like Baryshnikov he was my idol back then. And from then on it was my motivation really, to become better and better at it.

Harald Krytinar 06:50
You mentioned something very interesting, you said the sense of movement. You said making it yours in a way? I don’t know. Could you tell me about this feeling of this movement? Like you said, take pleasure in this physical aspect of the job? Do you remember how, how that felt at the time for you?

I remember, in my best times, I’d say like when I was 17, 18 and I had developed all these abilities that you get when you train so hard. I remember jumping and being amazed at how high I could jump. I remember I felt like flying you know, when you do this grand jeté is and so I remember it was really enjoyable. And it was a pleasure to feel that control over my body and to feel to be almost amazed at myself at what I could do. And I also like doing pirouettes, and it was always, you know, a challenge. Let’s do 6, 7, 8 pirouettes. And I was really good at pirouettes. Yeah. I had a teacher who called me the “Drehteufel”, that was Birckmeyer. And what’s that translated? This spinning, spinning devil spinning devil? So and it was it was just fun for me to do pirouettes Tu Tu, Tu, Tu, Tu Tu. And I think when I when I see dancers dance, you know, you see videos on Facebook, maybe and I see their enjoyment. And I think there is great pleasure in developing that ability. And, and of course, learning more and more to express yourself with your body.

Harald Krytinar 08:35
Do you have memory also how your relation was with your colleagues and friends, I guess, I don’t know, even if at that age, I don’t have memory if I considered my classmates as colleagues really, but I don’t know. Do you have a memory of the ambience, how it was with the others? I mean, was there an element of competition that you were aware of at the time?

Yes. But more or less, it was friendly. We were a family. And I felt they were all my friends. But sometimes there was some jealousy with maybe the guys that we didn’t like each other that much as friends. I felt there was some jealousy. And also when there was some new production going on, and they would get the role that I wanted. Yeah, I was a bit jealous, maybe. And maybe they were at me, I don’t know. But there was some competition I think also going on, but it was okay. It was not that much. All together. I feel. We were really, really good friends and it felt like a family. I have good memories.

Harald Krytinar 09:44
Being in the Vienna States Opera School. One big part is, of course, that the young students they get to perform on stage. Do you have memories how that experience was for you actually to be exposed on this big stage of the Vienna State Opera and this big productions? Do you have any memories how that was for you to prepare for that and to perform on stage.

Oh, yes, I have memories. How was it? Exciting! What we call in German “Lampenfieber”. You know, being excited before the performance I was? Well, it depended on what role you had what you had to do if it was like an opera of Manon, where you just had to walk around in the in the big scene, and you know, we’re not doing anything hard, then I was not.. I was not as excited to go on stage. But if it was a role where we had to do something a bit tricky, maybe, yes, I was nervous about it. And but I liked it. Yeah, it was awesome.

Harald Krytinar 10:47
And I don’t know is there any special feeling or memory that you have, I don’t know the smell backstage or the warmth of the of the of the projectors on your skin or is there are there some of those small images where you almost don’t know where they come from. But they sort of sometimes you just have this memory.

I have the memory of the first time I was on stage was putting flowers on the feet of Nureyev, Rudolf Nureyev. I was, you know, very, very small, eight or nine. Yeah. And it was just my job to go out. And at the end of the performance and put these flowers and bow down and then turn around and just walk offstage. That was it. That was my big appearance. And I remember going out on stage, and seeing this huge idol, Nureyev in front of me, and I remember how black and dark everything was where the audience was sitting, you don’t really see the audience, you have all these lights on you and the audience is just a black hole. So that was that’s my first memory of being onstage.

Harald Krytinar 11:59
Do you remember, I mean, obviously, the ballet took a lot of time. Was there much time to do anything else besides dance and normal school? And I don’t know, were the other interests or other occasions that you could do something besides dance?

Good question. I would say yes, I found the time to ride my bike a lot. With my family. We even went skiing Hey, I learned skiing as a child, which was kind of forbidden as a dancer, but I did it anyways. I had a very active social life in my church community. I was raised as a Mormon. So I went every Sunday to church and everything. I’m not a Mormon anymore. That was one of the other big changes in my life, almost very similar to leaving ballet was leaving the religion I was brought up in. But so there I had also a very active social life within that community. So even though it took a lot of time, took up a lot of time in ballet school, and regular school and so forth. I think I’ve found ways to Yeah, have other interests have other friends outside of ballet and so forth. And that was good for me.

Harald Krytinar 13:25
I don’t know there’s this feeling I have and do you mind if I like your feeling idea? Would you mind if I shared it with you?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 13:32
Go ahead.

Harald Krytinar 13:32
You mentioned something and please correct me if I got this completely wrong. Again. It’s a feeling. You said that you moved from when you were young from Uruguay to Austria? ((Yes.)) You didn’t? Or hardly spoke any German? I guess. I don’t know how old you were. But you were old enough to speak already. So and German was not your mother tongue. So I guess you arrived having to learn German. ((Exactly.)) Then when you found this when you found ballet when you found dance, and you saw actually that you know you this was good. I mean, you were good at it. You actually enjoyed it. Like you said it got a lot of attention. I wonder if that for you was also important in a way to feel I don’t know that there was something there for you that it despite the difficulties maybe of adjusting and adapting. I don’t know if you felt that there was this transition from one environment into a new environment in the dance sort of, did that help you arrive in a way or is that completely fabricated my idea here?

I don’t know how much that played a role. I would say it played more a role that I always say felt being very weird, in a senses. Like being a boy and dancing ballet is kind of kind of weird outside the scene of ballet. Maybe. So Oh, really? And it still is. I mean, if I tell people that my job I used to be a dancer. I exaggerate a bit. I say I was a ballet dancer. I just did the dedication, but I think I can claim I was a ballet dancer because I did it until I was 19. So yeah, it’s kind of a weird thing, then I was. I was from Uruguay. So at first I had quite an accent in German, it took a while until I learned it. So that was a bit weird too. As I mentioned before, my religion was a weird aspect about me, I was used to being weird, being somewhat different than others. And but you are right that in ballet class, we were all the same. We were all training with the same purpose and intent. And that I did like that. I felt I think I mentioned I felt we were all like a family. And that was very painful. When I left ballet, I had the, I remember how I cried. Because I fell, I was leaving a family.

Harald Krytinar 15:59
Before we get into the transition, actually, when you decided to develop differently, I just wondered, because before you mentioned, when you were on stage, and you had the education, you were really good at it. It’s always sounds like a big success story. It’s I only heard positive things about it. But I wonder if sometimes you also hit limits, if sometimes there were moments where it just didn’t work. Like something technical, or you didn’t get a roll you know, this feeling of disappointment or getting it messing something up on stage or, you know, getting it wrong. I don’t know if you remember, at this time when you know, everything was possible in a way that there were moments where you really noticed that not everything is possible limits do exist. You know, do you remember any of those moments in those years?

Yeah, there was a big thing that happened to me when I was I think I was around 12. Actually, we had to take care of our performance schedule by ourselves. In our dressing room, there were these papers hung out that just pretty much were handwritten, by our “gouvernante”. I don’t know by our I don’t remember I okay by people, they are they handwritten when we were supposed to be at the State Opera, when our performance was. And so what I should have done is take notes and write down have a calendar and remember, and I didn’t do that. I thought yeah, I’ll remember. And that I have to go to the State Opera. And it happened to me once, twice and also three times, I think that I missed the performance. I didn’t show up. And I didn’t call for an excuse. And then I was banned from performing. And this ban lasted for, I think, for almost two years. But it was a lesson for my life. Which I just remember now to you know, keep my appointments. It was really a lesson because when I think it was a performance, like third performance I missed, and it was on a Sunday, and it was a mess because I had like an important role. And it turned out really bad. And when I showed up at ballet school on Monday, I think everyone was like, shame on you. What did you do? And then I realized I hadn’t really messed up. So yeah, there were also very negative experiences along with it. Also, sometimes, there were new teachers that arrived at the ballet school, and they didn’t approve of me. They didn’t like how I danced or how I know there was sometimes. Yeah, I didn’t feel as much appreciated as I was before with the last teacher. So the now the new teacher comes and suddenly I’m like, yeah, go away. You’re not that good. As I don’t know, that that happened to and those were some setbacks, you had to work with. And I think it happens. It’s the it still goes on like that, you know, the new ballet director arrives at the State Opera and he fires have the company because he doesn’t like the dancers and he wants to have his own. And I think that happened to in ballet school when new teachers arrived. So that was a bit hard at times.

Harald Krytinar 19:36
How did you deal with that?

A bit of an arrogant way. I was very convinced of my abilities. (laughs) I okay, well, I thought I felt very confident about me and what I could do and I think I was a bit arrogant back then sometimes. I hope I’m better now. But yeah. It didn’t bother me that much. I just thought it was being they were being unfair because I was better maybe than the other guy that they were preferring. But, yeah. So that was my dealing with it.

Harald Krytinar 20:22
As your education moved on, and you said, when you were 12, approximately, you started to own that role. And you felt like this was something he could, you know, you enjoyed it. I mean, how did it develop? Did you protect yourself to become a professional dancer? Or did you never really project yourself into that professional role? How did that develop? Then you said that you moved out of dance when you were 19. But how did you end up at that decision? Were the other phases before?

Yes, yes. Well, pretty much. I had this other wish to become a pilot. Also, since I was eight, 9-10 years old. From the actually from the first time I got into an airplane, which is when we moved from Uruguay to Austria, I was fascinated by it. We were invited into the cockpit. And I said, Okay, I want to be a pilot. So these were two competing ideas that I always had. But okay, I was into ballet. So I wasn’t thinking about being a pilot for a long time. Also, I was not the best student in school. And my grades were not that good, because I was concentrating a lot on dancing. And then I was not very disciplined on doing my homework and studying. And yeah, but when I was 16, I was a bit frustrated because of a new teacher that had arrived in ballet school that was not approving of me as much. And I was kind of set aside. I don’t remember his name. Now. He was from Germany, and everybody thinks very highly of him until now, I didn’t like him at all. I still don’t. Maybe it’s very biased, because he didn’t like me. And he was, he didn’t treat me very, very well. So that’s the point where it was hard for me to stay motivated. I started declining a bit also in my portfolio in my performance overall, as a dancer. And I started exploring the idea of how is it how do you become a pilot? How, what are the possibilities. And actually, I got some other guys that were also in Bali, very hooked up with exploring this idea. I remember going with a friend of mine from ballet school to do a presentation of Lufthansa and Austrian Airlines about becoming a pilot at university. And I was 16 then, and I was so hooked up to it. I actually started calling the Lufthansa Flight Academy in Bremen and started asking questions about you know, what is it? Like? How much do you, how much money do you make, I was collecting all this information. And actually, From then on, I’d say age 16 the idea of becoming a pilot was a bit stronger than becoming a dancer. So I still hadn’t left dancing, and I was still looking at it, you know, how far can I can I go? And how good can I become, and also I realized, then you, you are able to analyze the situation a bit more, that I was rather small, I am only 170 height, and that I had this disadvantage. And then that I will always have to be in a lot of teachers had told me that you would you will have to be better than all the other guys, you know, to compete, because you’re smaller. And so I realized, okay, it’s gonna be a lot of hard work. Being a dancer, and yeah, and then the frustration grew and grew and the prospect of becoming a pilot was becoming more and more exciting. And yeah, I started being a bit more focused on School Matters and less focused on ballet matters. And I realized also okay, I can be a better student and improve my grades as well. And yeah, so that’s how it developed.

Harald Krytinar 24:14
What I hear there’s a lot of drive. Somebody who’s really organized strategic, almost, well not almost but organized and strategic thinking and that you also had so much awareness about this influence you had about your own path. Is that something you feel you have today? Because in hindsight, it’s always easier to see those things or do you think at the time it was those conscious decisions that allowed you to move forward in that way?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 24:51
Yeah, it is. That’s the way I am. I, I do have I do aspire for things. I have goals. I set goals. And I, I know what I want in life and, and I just work for it and go for it. Maybe that’s something belay gave me I don’t know. But yeah, I had this, this idea. And I follow through with it.

Harald Krytinar 25:17
And how did that develop? Because you said, you know, you saw that he could be a better student, you’ve found flight academy and you asked all those questions. I mean, to me, it sounds a bit like you were doing your thing. How were your parents, or your friends or family involved into this adventure of yours?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 25:36
Not much, not at all. It was all done by myself. I remember my mom was laughing. As she was listening on the phone the questions I was asking this lady from the Flight Academy, because I called her like three times in one day to ask about the routine life of a pilot. So I could, you know, make make a picture, if this is what I what I really wanted. And I was 16. And I was calling there and so but so this was all my idea and my drive. And actually, my father was very disappointed when I quit ballet. And later on, he was very proud of me becoming a pilot. But back at that, back at that moment, yeah, he loved seeing me on stage. And he loved having a son that was an artist, and that was going to have a dance career. So that was a bit hard on our relationship. Actually,

Harald Krytinar 26:40
You said at 16… Sorry, you wanted to say something?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 26:42
I just want to say to be fair, although he’ll he accepted my decision fully, but he was disappointed. Yeah.

Harald Krytinar 26:49
Thanks for mentioning that. So taking that decision, because you said at 16, you started to investigate, and you called people and you tried to get a picture and a better idea of what was necessary. And so the idea grew on you. Do you remember a moment when actually, the weight really shifted? I mean, were you just fed? Or were you even took the decision? They said, Well, actually, this is what I will do. Do you remember a clear day that that happened? Or was it like a graduate thing that you evolved into?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 27:17
It was gradual, until the moment where there was a day when I decided I’m going to go to the ballet school and tell my teacher, I’m not coming anymore. I don’t want to do this. ((Okay.)) And, yeah, so there was this point. And he was one of those teachers that I just didn’t like working with him. And I don’t want to mention his name. Because maybe, I don’t know, he maybe he’s a nice guy. And I cannot judge him for that. But I just didn’t, didn’t like working with him. And so I was getting more and more frustrated. And yeah, I remember the day I went there, in my street clothes, you know, not prepared for the lesson. And I asked him out, and I thought I was gonna, I’ll tell you about that. Okay, I thought I was gonna tell him all proud, you know, yeah, I’m not coming anymore. But actually, what happened is, as I told him, I started crying. Because I realized, well, this is, I had put so much effort in this. And it took me so long to take that decision, because we have this loss aversion. You know, as human beings, you have invested so much effort so much of your life into one thing, and that sometimes it takes us a bit too long to, to leave. In this case, I wouldn’t say took me too long, because I didn’t know yet. But it’s loss aversion is like a logical fallacy that happens in in relationships in investments in so many aspects in your life. And so I had that too. I had this, at that moment of thought, while I had put so much effort in this, so much sweat in the ballet rooms. But and now I was leaving. And for many, many years. I had that thought I, I wished I had done something else. Like playing the piano. For example. Just imagine I would have practiced all my youth for five hours a day playing the piano. I think that would be a skill that today maybe I could enjoy more. Well, but I have other thoughts ambivalence also on that one. I still think I profit a lot from ballet and the feeling it gave me for my body and movement. So he was even good for becoming a pilot.

Harald Krytinar 29:50
I would love to know more about this. In what aspect you say that that it was good to becoming a pilot. But I would like to ask you first in that moment when you spoke to that teacher and it went differently from what you had expected. Did you feel as you said it that this is the wrong thing? Or did it feel right? I mean, how did the decision as such the quality of the decision feel to you in that moment?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 30:11
It felt right, it felt that there was what I wanted to do, I wanted to quit. But I felt sad. Every decision is letting go of something. And letting go always is a painful process. So it was and also it really, I was emotionally very attached to ballet. And actually, for many years, I couldn’t watch ballet without crying. Because I’m an emotional guy. And I, yeah, I saw ballet. And I thought why that could have been my life as well being on stage dancing, and it’s a very idealistic lifestyle. You know, people that do ballet, I admire them. Because you don’t earn a lot of money I miss I mean, unless you’re a star. And it’s a lot of hard work. And you do it for the love of this art. So…

Harald Krytinar 31:10
And how did people around you react? You spoke to the teacher first. I mean, what did the teacher say? And then what did your friends your family, the people who knew you in that role? How did you find out about your decision?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 31:22
The I told everyone then, I think the moment I that moment, when I told my teacher, I started crying, and he was very consoling; actually he said, yeah, that’s hard on you. I know. And so he was a very nice guy at that moment. And that was very nice with him. But then when I told others and friends, I was like, all proud of it. Yeah, I quit. I don’t mind at all. But it wasn’t like that I was, I was fighting a bit with it. And then I remember I got into building some muscle. I bought Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book and started pumping iron and stuff like that doing other things, because I knew it would be a bad thing to stop altogether doing sport, it’s not good for your heart for your body and stuff. So I knew I had to do something else. And I always wanted to build more muscle, you know, as dancers were quite skinny, actually. So that’s what I started doing sports wise. Yeah.

Harald Krytinar 32:18
When you took that decision, I mean, how real was that idea of becoming a pilot? How close? Were you to actually be accepted for the training? How was that? Where was that on in your, in your projection of what was going to happen?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 32:32
Not at all, it was still years ahead to come. But I knew exactly the path that I wanted to take, I wanted to do that admission test, and pass it. And that was my, that was the only option. And actually only like, I think only like 2% of the people that do the test pass. So but I was confident again, I was confident that I would pass I had confidence in my abilities. Also in between that religion, my religion also had its path there, and I serve the two-year mission for my church, maybe you’ve seen the Mormon missionaries, you know, when I did that, also, that was a contributing factor to quit dancing, because I was back then still thinking of living a Mormon lifestyle, which is having a family, kids. So being responsible for providing for a family, meaning having a secure job. And that was also a thought of mine, you know, it’s not really secure job to be a dancer. And also, I knew I wanted to do this missionary thing, which was something I was supposed to do. And that would mean taking almost a two-year break from dancing. I mean, there would have been possibilities to stay in shape and train during that missionary time. But yeah, I think it would have been hard to re-enter the ballet world after that.

Harald Krytinar 34:13
Maybe you could explain to me then. So how did you come to the decision that you wanted to stop to dance? And what did you think you would do after that? Why did you actually say I want to stop to dance and what was the plan then for the day after that?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 34:25
Well, the reason to say I want to stop to dance was because I wanted to concentrate more on school to make my material to have better grades. And because I was frustrated also with ballet. I have to mention, I did the admission test at the Vienna State Opera, along with my other colleagues that got accepted into the Opera House. I was asked in and they spoke with me and they told me Yeah, they spoke about me. But I was too short for them to be accepted in the corps de ballet, they would only want me as a solo dancer, so to say, but before that I would have to have more, be more ripe as a dancer and have more experience and that I should go and get it somewhere else. Because for me, there was no room in the corner ballet at the Vienna State Opera. So there I encountered again, frustrating moments of being a bit too short for this job, and having that disadvantage. Yeah. And maybe that was also the contributing factor to say, Okay, I’ll stop now. Yeah. And I think it was like a week after that, that I went to my teacher and told him, so that was the tipping point, really. And then the idea, I am going to be a pilot was there. So I started focusing on school and to do my “Matura”. Right, high school degree in Austria. And, and then I had to plan to go on a two-year mission for my church, come back to the admission test, become a pilot. And that’s what I did. It worked out.

Harald Krytinar 36:14
That’s what he did. And it worked out. And okay, that’s the story. So tell me what you get in the training to become a pilot, I don’t know how many years is that training?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 36:27
It’s two years of flight school, and then another half year, with line training than already flying the passengers and airplanes. So altogether, it took me two and a half years until I was working as a pilot. rather fast. That’s good. Yeah.

Harald Krytinar 36:45
And how did that feel? I mean, yes, it was a dream. Yes, you had informed yourself a lot. But to really do it, I guess there’s still a big gap to fill. Did you feel it that way? That there was a gap to fail? Or did it just, you know, do they prepare you so well, that it was completely a smooth ride? To get into that responsibility? How did that transition work out for you?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 37:05
The tests they do are like four days long. So I went through a testing procedure, that was very, very intense. And actually, these tests are really good, well designed by psychologists. And if you pass those tests, you will pass the training, there’s, unless, unless you’re really lazy, but we were all pumped up, you know, to do to become a pilot. And so obviously, I have the talent for it. And I pass those tests. And from there on, it was a lot of hard work, of course, to learn the theory and everything in Arizona, or the flight training. In very, very hot weather conditions. It was really tough. Two years very intense. You have no holidays, or maybe one week off somewhere, but it was two years, just full off a full schedule. So, um, yeah, so there was no no guy, but it was hard work. But as, as I had passed the test, against also so many other competitors, I knew I had the ability to do this. And I actually had, so I never had a problem then. And just went through the education without any, any big problems.

Harald Krytinar 38:35
Yeah. You mentioned a bit earlier in our conversation, you said that this awareness of movement and it actually also helped you it was a really good asset actually to have for your job as a pilot, would you mind maybe sharing that what you meant about those, some of those qualities as a dancer that you think are useful in your job today, as a pilot?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 39:01
Well, as a pilot you, you have pretty much a model of the movement of the airplane in your head. It’s an abstraction of the instruments that you see. And, and you have to have that visualization of how the airplane is moving on, so that you stay oriented. And also you need good coordination between hands and feet. As you with your feet, you steer one axis of the airplane and with your hands, you steer other axes, and it’s not like driving a car, you know, it’s there’s more movement to the whole thing going on. So it’s all about movement, visualizing. And I have the impression that it did help me all this, this training, and actually that was one of my very, very strong points during the test and later on during education, we call it stick and rudder abilities. So the ability to steer the airplane really precise, at something that I would always do very well at very good at. And it’s my impression that dancing gave me a good foundation for that. And actually, I also learned to play the drums now, because I like playing drums. And I always wanted to do that. And I started taking some lessons. And as I was playing the drums is now Joel, the teacher asked me, and just did you ever dance or something? And I told him, yeah, I did ballet, and he says, okay, it’s, he was a drum teacher. And he says, All the people that learn this so fast, the way you’re learning this, you know, coordinating hands and feet, they always they were dancers, he recognized that there were some famous drummers that were dancers before. So dancing does give you you know, it creates some neural pathways there that helps you later on in life, with many, many other things. So as I said before, on one hand, I wish I had learned a piano, maybe I had something more of it. But no, actually dancing gave me a foundation for so many other things that I started doing, maybe even racing cars, which is also another thing that I did, or going snowboarding or playing drums or flying airplanes. It’s all somewhat connected to this talent of movements, of visualizing movements, and coordination and feeling your body and so forth. So I’m thankful for all the years that I did ballet. And even though at that moment in, it felt like a great loss. It’s not, I gained a lot.

Harald Krytinar 42:01
It’s fascinating to listen to you and how you connect the dots and how you had this very strong vision. But there is no doubt that you must have also had a lot of agility to adapt, because I think if it had been like a concrete wall, I don’t think you would have managed any of it. Do you do notice that sometimes you said you’re very driven, you’re very, you know, you set your goal to get that you notice that this sort of agility also to being able to react to what’s going on at the moment? Is that something also from dance maybe or even the life of a pilot, I guess depends on that there’s very strong routine, but at the same time, or protocols rather. But at the same time you need to take in what’s going on around you otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know disability it is situational awareness. Is that a topic for you where you find sometimes you have capacities that connect from a dance experience to or stage experience to the cockpit experience today.

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 42:57
Our situational awareness is a big word in aviation, you have to be always aware of where you’re at what you’re doing, why you’re doing it. And also what’s important right now at the moment. Also, dealing with stress is important. And so you mentioned the stage, dealing with, you know, going out there and having to perform, I have that as a pilot a lot, we actually have to renew our license, every six months, you go in and have you know, like a test, you have to show and prove that you’re still able to handle all abnormal situations of that airplane. And also in real life, sometimes you encounter situations that are stressful. So to be able to control that inner stress you have is maybe the same control that you have to have before you go on stage and perform and do what you know you can do. So yeah, there’s lots of dots that one can can connect. And everything you learn is always good for some other purpose. Yeah.

Harald Krytinar 44:09
To slowly round it up. Maybe I’ll exchange today I would just like to ask you, is there anything else that you know came to your mind when you heard this, that we would have this talk about career transition for dancers and I found your story so interesting and weird, I guess, like you said about yourself, you know, so many things have parts of your life were different maybe from the people around you, but honestly, I’m you know, different than normal are very, very big words for me. We can have a very long debate about what they mean or in what context they actually mean something. But for you. Is there anything that you would like to share with dances nowadays that you think that would have been maybe helpful if somebody told me that at the time?

Andrés Ferraz-Leite 44:52
Well, one thing that I can say is I mentioned that earlier. I also ad this this other moment in my life where I left my, my religion. And I said it felt in it was different, but it felt also somewhat similar. And I think, sometimes the way we were told in ballet school, you know, you’re, you’re a dancer and your will or you’re always a dancer, even when you sleep and, you know, the they drill into you, you know, all this idealism of dancing, and it hijacks your emotions quite well, and you identify so much with being a dancer. And so the, the to take the decision to leave that is kind of an identity crisis almost. And sometimes I think, dancing, and being a dancer and ballet schools and all that has almost the flair of a religion around it, it felt very similar to that. And yeah, I remember, we would ask the question, is he normal? Or is he ballet, you know, when we met a guy in school, maybe or something, because they were the normal pupils in high school and the ballet guys, so we were not, we were some somewhat different. And that’s the same aspect that, you know, maybe religions work with, and things that and i think it’s a bit unhealthy sometimes to think that way. I think even if you’re a ballet dancer, you’re normal. You’re just, it’s also a job like any other job. It’s good if you do it with a great portion of enthusiasm, and, and, and also idealism, but don’t let it get too much over your head, I don’t know. It’s, it’s, there are many things out there in life that are special and that are good and interesting and worth, you know, doing and living for. And maybe, I think it was drilled too much into us how important ballet is and, and it’s not it’s one aspect of life and it’s very beautiful, and I love this art. But there are many, many other things one can do in life and still be happy and be as special.

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