Thursday, 12 March 2015

Coming Back to Ballet

I've danced all my life including 30 night show at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. But I haven’t done much ballet. 

It wasn't something that many kids of Asian heritage did when I was growing up in Bradford In the 1970s. I did have a friend at school who was taking ballet lessons. She would show me what she had learnt and was not best pleased when I was able to do the exercises somewhat more easily than she could. She gave up in the end and passed some of her ballet things on to me. 

The only other time I had a go was when I kept Jane company at The Base in Huddersfield. I took a few classes on Tuesday evenings which I enjoyed very much until the teacher moved the classes to a local university on Wednesday evenings which clash with other commitments.

Just before Christmas I created a lavender and sweet martini dessert to celebrate Isaac Lee-Baker’s performance as Wilson in The Great Gatsby. Jane wrote an article about it called Food and Ballet which was read by one of the members of her over 55 class at Northern Ballet.
“We ought to get her in here” said Jane’s friend.
“But she’s not 55 yet” replied Jane.
I understand that the teacher said that wouldn't matter if I wanted to try ballet again, so Jane passed the invitation on to me.

I turned up to Annemarie Donoghue’s class at Northern Ballet a few weeks ago and enjoyed it very much. We did all the barre exercises that I had done in Huddersfield - pliés, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe and battements tendus – and then some exercises in the centre. We did rises, marches and little sautés with our feet in parallel and then first position. Then a lovely port de bras. Finally some travelling exercises in which Annemarie showed us a movement and got us to imitate it.

Annemarie is a very good teacher and she taught a very friendly crowd. Several of the students complimented me on my dancing which made me feel very welcome. After the class I joined the students for a hot drink and a bite to eat at Café 164. Altogether it was a lovely day.

One thing I enjoyed in particular about Northern Ballet's class was that we had a live pianist. Dancing to the piano and feeling that rhythm was great. Piano is another of my passions. I longed to indulge it. After pestering my parents for lessons which they could not stretch to, I used to sit on the fence at the home of the piano teacher and watch others take their lesson through the lead patterned windows in the hope that would help me learn a thing or two. 

Anyway life is for living and its never too late. So I now attend ballet classes and I am heading back to taking a few more piano lesson too this year. 

There were only two problems with the Over 55 class. The first was that it met during the day which is difficult for me as I run a business. Most of the other students seemed to be retired or in jobs that allowed them a lot of flexibility. The other problem was that I don’t yet have any shoes and had to dance in bare feet which was a bit stressful for my poor soles... I wish I could do ballet in soft cushioned trainers but that would be sin I think... I dare say I will get used to that... So I’ve been looking for classes that meet in the evenings and found Ailsa Baker’s at KNT Danceworks in Manchester.

Ailsa is another good teacher and clearly very popular. I counted 50 students in her beginners’ class. She let me dance in socks - much easier than dancing barefoot . She was very friendly but still commanded everybody’s attention. She made us work very hard in the stretching and strength building exercises. There seemed to be a wide range of ability and experience from professionals to newbies. Ailsa was very encouraging. Because the class was large the vibe was magic and very chatty. Like all the other classes we started with barre exercises and stretches and then proceeded to port de bras and jumps. It was great fun.

As Manchester is a bit of a trek from Bradford I am checking out Chris Hinton-Lewis’s Thursday evening class at Northern Ballet. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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