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Ever since I was a child I have tried to imagine what it would be like to be a dancer. A lot of hard work of course. And pain. And injury. And probably disappointment. But also, fleetingly, delight and beauty. Early in my life I had the good sense to realize that it was not for me but that did not stop me from wondering.
Well today at the grand old age of 64 I came as close as a member of the public possibly can to finding out. I attended Northern Ballet's over 55 class at their magnificent premises at Quarry Hill in Leeds. After registering - filling out a simple form and paying £5 - and then the £6.50 fee for the class I introduced myself to the half dozen or so other ladies who were taking the same class. Reassuringly they were all about my age and none more than 9 years younger than me. Though I try not to be downhearted there is nothing more dispiriting than dancing with teenagers with elastic limbs. Perhaps I was once supple like them but I am certainly not now.
Our teacher Annemarie Donoghue appeared and greeted us all individually. Although advertised as a beginners' class several had taken it before. As this was my first class with Northern Ballet Annemarie welcomed me to the class. She led us to the lift which took us to the top floor. We were in Studio 7 which is supposedly a small one but it is the biggest space in which I have ever danced.
Then the pianist Alena entered and that was a treat. When I studied ballet at St Andrews over 40 years ago one of our fellow students played for us but during my more recent classes at The Base in Huddersfield we have had to make do with recorded music.
Annemarie started by gathering us into the centre and getting us to stand with feet in parallel. She told us to make sure our weight was properly distributed and to adjust our posture as though a thread passed through our bodies. Ideally we would rise to our toes without wobbling. Well I didn't quite get that but never mind. Next we worked on our arms. Then we moved in a circle, walking at first, then using our arms and finally a skip.
After warming up we worked at the barre. Toe exercises first and then pliés in parallel, first and second, tendus, glissés and cloches.
Finally, we moved to the centre with simple chassés. While doing the centre exercise Alena played a few bars of Adam's Giselle. Me. Dancing to real ballet music in a real studio in a real ballet school. Imagine!
The class was over far too soon. It's a friendly class and I shall be back as often as I possibly can. In the meantime I have Northern Ballet's Midsummer Night's Dream at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Saturday to look forward to. I shall review that performance next week. Then it's going on tour to Newcastle, Woking and Nottingham.
PS. in a text my dear, long-suffering ballet teacher Fiona wrote:
"Oh Jane! You do of course realise you have done alllllll those with me & you caaaaaaaaaan do them! Enjoy your classes xxxxx Anne Marie is fab xxx"Well Annemarie is indeed fab but then so too is Fiona who got me to this point in the first place.