Wednesday 14 May 2014

More than just Hype - Beginners and Improvers Classes in Sheffield

Sheffield Town Hall                                                                    Photo  Wikipedia

For the last year and a bit I have been taking Fiona Noonan's adult ballet classes at The Base Studios and Team Hud in Huddersfield (see "The Base Studios, Huddersfield"  2 March 2013 and "Team Hud Adult Ballet Class" 22 Jan 2014).  Recently she has been engaged to teach advanced, intermediate and pointe classes at Hype Dance Academy in Sheffield while the regular teacher is on maternity leave. For the next three weeks she will be covering Hype's beginners and improvers classes too.  Yesterday I followed her to Sheffield to take her classes at Hype.

The first thing to say is that Hype is not easy to find. I lived a mile from Hampton Court Palace between 1955 and 1982 so I know all about mazes but not even that labyrinth had prepared me for Sheffield's one way traffic system. I suspect it was devised in the days when Sheffield City Council was said to be slightly to the left of Fidel Castro and it was the local local authority's policy to drive motorists off the roads and onto the excellent trams.  Hype's address is 67 Earl Street, Sheffield, S1 4PY which my satellite navigation seemed to think was on planet Zog. The first time I tried to find it I missed the class altogether as I crawled around the city centre from one traffic jam to the next as the minutes ticked by. There are directions on the "contact page" of Hype's web site but these are not much help unless you know Sheffield well. It is no good calling the studio for directions because the switchboard is not covered for the whole of the day.

If you are a motorist the trick is as follows:
  • get on the A61 (inner city ring road in the clockwise direction) which you can join at the Park Square roundabout from the Parkway which connects with the M1 (watch the cameras they are super-sensitive after the 50 mph sign), 
  • follow the ring road past the station which should be on your left, 
  • make a sharp right onto St Mary's Road, 
  • then another into Matilda Street, 
  • carry on down Matilda Road past the UTC college which should be on your right, 
  • then a left into Sydney Street, 
  • a sharp right on Arundel and 
  • then left on Earl.
To say you can't miss the studio would not be true because it is a very undistinguished two storey brick building which must have been a warehouse or other light industrial building in its heyday.  There is signage for the observant pedestrian and no doubt aspirant taxi driver if they have anything like The Knowledge in Sheffield but it is easy to miss.

One good point about the location is that there is plenty of street parking which costs £1 after 18:00.  Don't be fooled into using pay by phone because the app tried to charge me £2.40. Another is there are some very good Chinese restaurants and a grocery within a few hundred yards of the dance school. My favourite is the Wong Ting where I celebrated my 60th birthday.

Once you find Hype and get inside it is very nice. There appear to be two studios and Fiona's class was in Studio 1.  That is a long narrow room with barres along the right hand side and a mirror at the front. The walls are decorated with posters and playbills and Victorian schoolroom style exhortations such as dance is 20% talent and 80% labour. Yeah!

There must have been between 15 and 20 people in the beginners' class, mainly women nearly all of whom were in their twenties.   We filled the fixed barre and 4 of us spilled on to a travelling barre. They were a friendly crowd and most of them were well kitted out in leotards and soft toed ballet shoes.

Fiona introduced herself to the class and told us a little bit about her training in Australia and her career as a dancer and teacher. She then asked the students what they had learned from their regular teacher and how she had taught them. The answers suggested that her method was very much like Fiona's.

We had a warm up exercise in the centre for toes and legs.  I was dismayed to find that my balance was well below the class's because I had to let my feet touch the floor once or twice. We then sidled off to the barre for the usual exercises.

Fiona is a good teacher but I have never seen her teach better than she did yesterday. She likes a big class of enthusiastic students and she found them at Hype. Through the barre exercises she focussed on technique particularly on basics such as weight distribution and the use of abdominals and abductors. She has an eye for detail and I think we all had a correction to make. Once she was happy with our pliés, tendus and glissés we moved on to fondus and développés which do not come easily to this old lady but nevertheless have to be done.

In the centre we followed a port de bras exercise that I had already attempted several times in Huddersfield which consists of chassés starting on the right, then left and en croix, a lunge, a pivot, arabesque which is substantially repeated on the left.  Annemarie in Leeds has a similar exercise for us old ladies except that we soutenu rather than pivot and cut out the arabesque.  We marked it without and then with music and then tried it for ourselves.  To my joy I found that I could just about hold my pivot - at least for the first time.  The second was a bit of a dog's breakfast.

Fiona asked the class about travelling steps and two of the students set off with something that looked very much like temps levés to me.   That is certainly what we ended up with.  The long narrow room gave us plenty of space for building up some momentum.  We did that exercise in groups of three and loved it.  In the last few minutes we did a few sautés and jetés again making good use of the room's length.

All too soon the class was over. Fiona explained that another teacher would be taking over from her in a few weeks' time. That announcement elicited a few sighs showing how much everyone had enjoyed the class.

A few of us stayed on for the improvers' class which started immediately afterwards.  One of the students in that class was Mel with whom I had driven down to Lincoln the previous Friday (see "Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance" 10 May 2014). Mel is a good dancer and I had feared that I would find myself out of my depth.  Although she and all the other students were in a different league to me they were also friendly.  Everyone was keen to learn.   The barre and centre exercises were similar to those that we had done in the beginners' class but they were done by my fellow students even more slickly and elegantly.

The final class of the evening was beginners' pointe for which I did not stay. I doubt that I shall ever reach that standard because try as I might my ankles are weak and my core is jelly but you never know.  When I started ballet again just over year ago I couldn't do any of the centre work.   Now I am at least having a jolly good bash.

Before coming to Sheffield I had done two classes in Leeds and I had expected the Sheffield classes to be a bit of a slog but they weren't. They were a lot of fun and I could have carried on for more.  I have not met the other teachers but judging by the standard I found at Hype they must be good.  I have no hesitation in recommending that dance school.


  1. What a lovely review! Thank you so much for coming to the classes last night, Jane, it was great to have you in the classes. I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself and that you felt welcome. I hope you didn't feel too out of your depth in class with me, despite my tendency to hog the space ;)

  2. I thank you and all the other dancers at Hype for making me feel so welcome. I enjoyed the classes very much and am looking forward to more. I shall certainly be back next week. I will also be back whenever it is not possible to take Fiona's class in Huddersfield.

    I am glad my review prompted one of our number to join Balletco Forum. She also about last night

    I am so glad that you all like Fiona. She is not only a great teacher, she is also a lovely human being,