Thursday, 27 November 2014


Edgar Degar  Ballet Class
Photo Wikipedia

Exactly two years ago I took my first ballet with Fiona Noonan at The Base Studios in Huddersfield.  It was my first class for 45 years. It wasn't easy. Most of the other students were young. Some were still at school. All had studied ballet for years. I was so unlike them. An overweight 63 year old barrister. I didn't even have the right kit. I took my first class in jogging trousers, tee-shirt and socks. I am sure the other students wondered why I was there and I certainly did. I can't say I enjoyed that class because I could  do hardly any of the exercises. I still can't do all of them even now. And my body ached for ages afterwards.

But I came back. I took private lessons from Fiona who patiently taught me to stack my body and balance first on two legs in demi and then one leg with the other in retiré. I managed to do the barre exercises and some of the jumps. Turns are a different matter - soutenus are all right and even chaînés but I just can't stay in relevé with my non-supporting leg in retiré long enough to do a full pirouette (see A Really Useful Video on Pirouettes 22 Nov 2014). And when I tried posé turns in Leeds I fell flat on my back.  I did wonder then whether I was getting a little too old for this ballet malarkey but I got up, dusted myself down and carried on.

I'm so glad I did because I love class and I have been trying to work out why. The music is one reason. We have some lovely pianists at Northern Ballet, particularly Alena Panasenka whom you can hear in the video but even the recording that Fiona and some of my other teachers use for the adagio is beautiful.

Camaraderie is another reason. The ladies in the film speak about it and it was that video that drew me to Northern Ballet. Those ladies and I danced together last June in And The Dance Goes On in which I had the time of my life and I am glad to say that the ladies are now my friends.  I have also made friends in my other classes in Huddersfield, Sheffield and Manchester.

I have also been fortunate in having wonderful teachers.  None of them resembles the awful Miss Polly in Ballet Black's Dogs Don't Do Ballet. The bond between dancer and teacher is very special. Dame Antoinette Sibley spoke of it when she talked about her classes with Tamara Karsavina (see Le jour de gloire est arrive 3 Feb 2014) as did Elena Glurdjidze and indeed my friend Pamela Newton when remembering Olga Preobrajenska. Look at the interaction between teacher and students in the classes in Moscow and San Francisco in Adult Ballet in Moscow and San Francisco. I have experienced something like that in my own short ballet career as you may recall from my dialogue with Fiona after I told her that I had spent the afternoon listening to Clement Crisp and Antoinette Sibley:
"'Oh super jealousy' she replied.
'Don't be jealous' I responded 'You are also part of the tradition. You live it, I just see it. And you pass on your gift to others.'
'Awwwww Thanku xxxx'
'When I go to class you or Annemarie represent every dancer, choreographer and teacher who ever lived'.
'Aw Jane! I won't be able to leave the room soon'
'I am only paraphrasing Sibley. She should know. Through you I am linked to your teacher who is probably linked to someone at Ballet Russes who is linked to Petipa.'
'xxxxx wise woman!'"
And that brings me onto my final and most important reason which I only appreciated fully this month after watching the company classes of English National Ballet and Chantry Dance who do some of the same exercises that I do with my teachers. It is the sense of being part of a worldwide community with a 200 year heritage. 

That is why I push myself to class even when I feel rotten and why I am always so glad to have done so after we bow or curtsy and clap our teacher and pianist.

Further Reading

Adult Beginner   First Class Stories  Adult Beginner 
David Wilson    Just Started Ballet  Dave Tries Ballet
Greta Wright   How to choose a Ballet class  Danceworks
Jane Lambert  For Emma 28 April 2914
Jane Lambert  Realizing a Dream 12 Sep 2013 

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