Saturday 28 June 2014

The Time of My Life

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I have just danced in my first ballet and I am over the moon. I don't have a programme but I think it is called something like "And the Dance Goes On".  I danced it as part of the Over 55 class's contribution to the Northern Ballet Academy's end of year show. We performed in the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre which is where I have seen Northern Ballet, Ballet Black and MurleyDance.

Our music was Shostakovich's Waltz for Flute, Clarinet and Piano "The Return of Maxim" 1937 Op 45. If anyone is interested, it forms part of the soundtrack of a film by the same name which I have tried to watch. Our choreographer was our instructor Annemarie Donoghue.

Annemarie had asked us to meet her in the foyer of Northern Ballet at 14:15.  It was very crowded and I sat with my guests who had just arrived from London until she appeared.  She led us up to a rehearsal studio where we did some pliés, tendus and ronds de jambe at the barre.  We then rehearsed the ballet twice from  the top before we were led down to the stage for a final rehearsal.  After that rehearsal we were led back to a waiting area on one of the landings where we applied our make up and adjusted our hair and costumes.

After a wait that seemed to last for hours we were summoned to the stage. We piled into a goods lift which afforded the only anxious moment because the doors shut but the lift refused to move.  Happily it juddered back to life and we crept by the back entrance into the wings.  Some young women were on stage as we came in. The music stopped.  We heard applause.  The lights went out.  The girls slid past us and we heard the first few bars of our tune.

The ballet began with pairs of dancers running across the stage.  I was one of the second pair on the right.  I saw the second pair prepare to set off from the left and followed them.  Another pair joined us from behind. At the count of 7 we started swaying.  My teacher in Huddersfield had coached me in swaying a few days earlier.  She told me to imagine that I was stroking a delicate and precious fabric. Her voice came back to me as if in a recording.  

Next we broke out of line and began a movement that had been taught in the one rehearsal that I had to miss.  It consisted of a curtsy, balancé, turn, hop, chassé, pas de bourrée, soutenu and scarper.  I know I missed some steps and was flat footed but hell's bells who was counting.

Next I had to run across the stage with another lady. Originally that was to have been a temps levé but the choreographer wisely turned it into a run.

Then the final movement.  Four of us dashed across the stage from the left and stood with our arms in open fifth. One of our colleagues wove round us and we turned in the same direction as her run. Then the lady in front of me and I circled each other and set off in opposite directions.  One temps levé  to the right, a turn, two to the left, turns dehors and dedans and then back to our original positions.

In the last movement my partner led me to the front of the stage where she knelt.  I ran round her from the left and right.  We got up, more swaying each row in opposite directions, a soutenu, more swaying, another soutenu and eye contact.  

The music stopped.  We curtsied. And again we scarpered, ecstatic and excited but quite exhausted.

Waiting for me on my return to the waiting area was a beautiful bouquet from Mel.  

Being on stage in front on a paying audience in a commercial theatre of a major city was delicious.  It was altogether different from rehearsal and very different from class. Strangely it was very like advocacy and the part of my brain that switches on when I go to court kicked in on stage. Just as you can never betray lack of confidence to a judge or opponent however weak your case or however appalling your witness you can't let your smile slip on stage. But I wasn't acting. I really did want to be there. The same buzz that I get in court was there on stage. I was as happy as Larry.

I have no idea what the audience thought of us. I don't think anyone threw a tomato or egg at us or if they did they missed. Mel was there and she has offered to review us for this blog. Somehow I don't think she will encourage me to give up my day job.  I hope she will be kind.


  1. Your review has brought the thrill of our performance flooding back to me. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you

  2. Thanks Jay, There will never be another first performance for either of us but I hope to dance in next year's show. We were so lucky to dance to a full house on a perfect surface in Northern Ballet's own theatre.