So before I got carried away writing about leotards and tights in my last post, I wrote that my first ballet exam is the month after next.
I’ve never really thought of it as being so close. It’s always been “aaah, February next year – that’s another lifetime away”. But now I’d really better get practising.
Every week, Miss Joanne says I’m doing really well – and that I’d improve even more if I practised at home. I’ve only done this three or four times since June, so it’s time to stop fannying about and actually do it – every other day or so.
So, I’m doing the IDTA (International Dance Teachers’ Association) grade one ballet exam – and I’m doing all the girl moves and no boy moves. It’s curtsey-a-go-go.
There aren’t many transgender ballet dancers. The only ones I can think of off the top of my head are the Trockadero folks and Sophie Rebecca, who’s had all sorts written about her in the press.
She’s the first trans person to have ever taken exams with the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance). I wonder if I’m the first one to have done them with the IDTA? I really have absolutely no idea.
All I know is that the exam board has been cool about the whole thing. Miss Sarah called them up months ago, explaining she had a trans student who wanted to dance the female role – it wasn’t a problem at all, and I get to wear whatever I want (within reason) for the exam.
I think I shall keep it simple – black leotard and tights. I will be nervous enough as it is without making the process any scarier for myself by wearing a pink tutu in front of an examiner I’ve never met before.
Anyway, the lessons have been going well. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m getting there. Some exercises, such as the pliés, foot exercise, positions of the arms and preparatory grands battements I’ve all but nailed. There’s always room for improvement, but I’m nearly there.
With others, especially grand dégagés and the warm-up, I’m still struggling a bit. They’re getting better and better, but they’re not quite there yet. The YouTube video above show the same grand dégagés exercise I do – but this lady does it far better than me!
In more recent weeks, I’ve learned the allegro warm-up, which again needs a lot more practice. Although the preparatory glissade seems simple enough.
But the real bane of my life has been creative improvisation – where you’re played a piece of music and expected to make up a dance on the spot.
Miss Joanne has been really encouraging, but I know my dances leave a lot to be desired, and sometimes my mind just goes blank and I can literally think of no moves at all.
Again, practise is needed, so I should start doing it instead of just saying it. I know that’s all I need to do to get better.
There are another couple of exercises to learn, plus a dance, which Miss Joanne will choreograph. I’m not so fussed about that – it’s just the improv I struggle with. Oh, and then there’s the curtsey to learn off by heart and we’re done.
I love the word curtsey. I remember as a little lad of about four, learning to bow – I forget why – while all the little girls got to curtsey.
I was insanely jealous. Even back then I knew something wasn’t right gender-wise, though I had no idea what.
Now I get to learn a real curtsey – a beautiful ballet curtsey – and I get to perform it at the end of an actual exam.
So much of my life is rubbish – the depression, the anxiety, the whole Georgie situation. But much of it is brilliant, too, and I can’t really think of anything that touches my soul like ballet does.
Miss Joanne, you’re the best teacher I could ever wish for. I hope to do you proud – and then we can look at pointe work one day. Bring it on!