Tuesday, 16 August 2016

La Bayadère Intensive Day 1: There's Life in the Old Girl Yet


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I hesitated before signing up for Jane Tucker's La Bayadère intensive at KNT  even though I had voted for it when Karen Sant polled us on what we wanted to learn because I was not sure that I would be able to do it. Much as I had enjoyed last year's Swan Lake (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3) and this April's Romeo and Juliet (see We had a stab at that! KNT's Romeo and Juliet Intensive Workshop for Beginners 9 April 2016) they nearly killed me and now I am a year older, slower, stiffer and generally wonkier. Truth to tell, my anxiety that I might no longer be up to it is the only reason why I did not bite Hannah Bateman's hand off when she advertised her Ballet Retreat in Leeds earlier this year.

I am really glad that I did sign up for Jane's intensive because I had a whale of a time yesterday. Although I am as stiff as a board this morning with aches and pains in muscles and joints that I never knew existed despite soaking in a hot bath followed by a cold shower I am buoyed up by two news items.  The first was the 97 year old dentist and entrepreneur featured on How to Age. The second was the story on The World Tonight about Doreen Petchey from Reading who has just passed her RAD Grade 6 exams at age 71 (see Congratulations Doreen 12 Aug 2016 on the RAD website and the video clip on her (Britain's oldest ballerina: 71-year-old passes Grade 6 exam). I might add in passing that there are lots of ladies of that age or older in Annemarie Donoghue's Over 55 class at Northern Ballet in Leeds and that at least 4 members of that class regularly attend Jane Tucker's improvers' class in Leeds on Wednesday evenings which is definitely not for wimps.

Our intensive started with 30 minutes of floor exercises on Pilates mats at 10:00.  We then had 90 minutes of class which consisted of a full barre and the usual centre work which took us through to noon.  Between noon and lunch we learned our first bit of repertoire which was the second shade's solo dance from the last act of the ballet. The first and the last bits were easy enough but I got a bit lost in the middle but Jane seemed to be reasonably satisfied with our effort overall.

We broke for lunch at 13:30 and I found a Japanese restaurant behind The Dancehouse that Gita the Eater had discovered in April.  I really love Japanese cuisine having been to Japan three times but although there are lots of places that claim to be Japanese restaurants there are very few that would pass muster in Tokyo. This is one of the very few that would. I refuelled on tempura and rice with plenty of green tea.

After lunch we ran through the second shade's solo again and then started on the descent into the kingdom of the shades. Jane had already taught us a version of that dance which I had struggled to master in her improvers' class in Leeds and the Romeo and Juliet intensive in April.  It was a considerable relief to find that she required us to do the version that appears in the video. Yoshie led us out to the centre of the studio and we followed her in height order. The first bit consisted of a sequence of arabesques followed by a right tendu with our arms in 5th which was just about doable but then an almost interminable couru which we did on demi punctuated by a développé and two descents to the floor which I dared not risk for fear of never getting up again. I couldn't do them in cygnets last year either.

We repeated the dances that we had learned before Karen who filmed us with her tablet.  Our day finished with 20 minutes of floor exercises. I left the Dancehouse just after 16:15 to begin the trek back to Brockholes which turned out to be surprisingly smooth once I had caught a through train from Oxford Road to Huddersfleld.

The first thing I did when I arrived home was to run a hot bath. Jane's advice last year of a hot bath followed by a cold shower was the best tip I have ever picked up from a ballet class and it really works. I was going to give alcohol a miss last night but when I heard about Mrs. Petchey I felt compelled to drink her health in Argentine Malbec. If she can do grade 6 at age 71 I should be able to finish this course at age 67. And perhaps I should have a shot at the RAD exams too. If I passed them I might eventually be allowed to turn up to Chelmsford Ballet's company class. I am looking forward to another year of classes with Annemarie and Jane in Leeds and Karen and Ailsa in Manchester. Maybe there's life in the old girl yet.

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