So, this is the third post of my trilogy today. I was going to post just one – but I can really prattle on, so thought I’d better “break it down”, to quote MC Hammer. As you do.
Anyway, for the best part of two years, I’ve been dabbling with ballet, whether that’s through working out with DVDs at home, taking classes or poring over books and websites.
I adore ballet – when I get it right, it’s a truly beautiful feeling. And I want to get better and better so that I can experience that feeling more and more often. For me, that involves repetition of moves and working hard towards exams. Today, I began that process.
A friend of mine, who knew I did ballet last year, told me about a new adult ballet class at a dance school nearby. I was interested – but only a little as I was already doing my barre class and really enjoying it.
Anyway, I headed to the school’s Facebook page, scrolled down a little and, sure enough, there was graphic showing a ballerina’s legs and feet, en pointe, in pink satin shoes and ribbons.
“Want legs like these?” says the caption. “We’ve got just the workout for you – adult ballet.”
The accompanying blurb mentions the benefits of ballet, along with the times, dates, phone number for booking and so on. And this:
You decide what you want from the class…
Come along for fitness and fun…
Or take part in our annual performances and examinations.
OMG! Two years of searching for a local class that might be happy to put adults through ballet examinations and I’d finally found one. I was overjoyed and, straight away, sent a message to the school asking all manner of questions.
I wanted to know about the exam board, uniforms, you name it. And then I hit a snag. The class takes place at the same time as one of my prior commitments – and that’s not something I’m willing to stop.
The school suggested some of its other classes, such as fitness and boot camp, but it was ballet that I wanted, and no other form of workout or dancing would do. Another slot was suggested – but I couldn’t make that one either. And then the school principal suggested a private lesson.
Now these don’t come cheap – £30 an hour or £15 for half an hour. But it’s something I badly want to do, so I signed up for an hour-long session to test the water.
I don’t like using real names on here, so I’ll change them, but the principal, we’ll call her Miss Sarah, said that my teacher would be (name changed again) Miss Joanne.
I had a holiday between now and then but, sure enough, this morning – the day of my lesson – arrived and I was nervous – veeeeery nervous. I suppose I was before, when I started my other classes, but this was different. This was going to be a private lesson – so no place to hide! And this was serious. This was the first lesson of what I hoped to be many, leading up to exams.
I used to work near the dance school when I was a student and hadn’t been back since those days about 25 years ago. The signs above the shops have changed, but it’s basically the same place. The dance school is above several shops, on the first floor.
I found the side entrance, opened the door sheepishly and headed upstairs before pressing the buzzer on another, locked, door. I heard a voice on the other side and it was Miss Joanne, who answered the door, all smiles and very friendly.
She introduced me to Miss Sarah before we all went into the studio, which is massive. There are huge mirrors down one side and barres screwed to the wall.
Incidentally, they insist their students – both children and adults – refer to them as “Miss Sarah” and “Miss Joanne”, rather than just the first names. I rather like that. The studio and staff are anything but stuffy and formal – on the contrary, the studio is bright and airy and the staff friendly and funny.
But that formality of the names just reminds you that you’re there not just to have fun but to work hard to achieve something great.
Miss Joanne asked me a few questions about my ballet experience and what I hoped to achieve, and then we began some exercises – starting right in the centre. No safety net of my beloved barre!
Miss Sarah was there to supervise and all three of us started with some demi-pliés, in first position and parallel. We gradually worked up towards relevés, switching from one foot to the other, and then moves and jumps to the side. This was all new to me and I forget some of the terminology. At the start, I was panicking a bit because I kept getting it wrong.
But once we’d repeated it a few times, I got better. Miss Joanne was brilliant – really praising me when I did something right and encouraging we when I’d got it wrong. She’s only young, but a wonderful teacher. She’s clearly been taught well by Miss Sarah, who gave her some useful pointers throughout, too.
After this, we headed to the barre and did a second exercise. This involved third and second position, demi-pliés, grande pliés and relevés, plus some armwork and petit jetés. I also learned terms new to me such as devant (in front) and derrière (guess what that means!)
At the end, we combined both exercises, starting in the centre and then heading to the barre. We ended in the centre with a curtsey (I said I’d prefer that to a bow).
After a bit of a shaky start, I’m really pleased with how I did. Both “misses” were full of praise, which was great, and Miss Joanne kept saying I had “wonderful feet”. I’m very lucky to have such small girly feet, with a lovely arch – ideal for ballet.
Maybe I can progress to pointe work in the future. Now, wouldn’t that be just beautiful? But that’s a long, long way off. For now, I’m just all smiles after a fantastic first lesson. Grade 1 exam is next February – bring it on!