Friday, 27 February 2015

My First Contemporary Dance Class

A dancer performing a contemporary
dance piece
Photo Wikipedia
I have enjoyed watching contemporary dance on stage for almost as long as I have enjoyed ballet but yesterday was the first time I took a full contemporary dance class. Even though I have to say that I woke up this morning as stiff as a board I enjoyed the experience tremendously and I look forward to my next class.

My teacher yesterday was Ailsa Baker who has already taught me some ballet (see So Proud of Manchester - KNT Danceworks Complete Beginners Class 29 Aug 2014). My only other experience of contemporary dance had been half an hour or so at Liverpool town hall on 8 Sept 2014 which was also with KNT (see It's not every Class that you can use Lord Canning's Eyes for Spotting 9 Sept 2014).

The class started off with pliés and balances as in ballet though we did not use the barre but then we had our first floor exercise. I had done quite a bit of that sort of work with Fiona Noonan in ballercise as well as some private lessons that she gave me a year or so ago so it was not a complete shock but I did find myself using muscles that had been left undisturbed for far too long.

After the exercises Ailsa taught us a routine which seemed to go step, step, step, arms in open fifth, a lunge to the right, step, step, step, arms up in open fifth again, a lunge to the left, step, step and then something like a rond de jambe and grand battement followed by a run back across the studio. We then rose on demi with our arms outstretched. Then something called step hop which was nothing like the temps levé that I had done in the Over 55 class in Leeds earlier in the day followed by run, run and leap on the other foot which was vaguely like a grand jeté, run, run and another step hop, run, run and a turn in the air, then run, run along the side of the studio with step hops and leaps back and finally a run to the centre. So far so good but then this poor old lady ran out of steam. The next move was a jump from a lunge to the floor followed by a roll to the knees, arms up a couple of times, then getting up, a couple of turns rather like chaînés, then another roll and up, a turn and yet another roll and run. It was those rolls which defeated me. Getting down was easy enough but springing up again was the killer.

We marked the routine a couple of times as a class first without and then with music.  Then we divided into groups. My group had lots of good dancers plus me and although I started off OK I am sorry to say that I let my group down by losing my balance after the third roll.  But nobody seemed to mind too much and I wasn't hurt.

I may be wrong but I think that these rolls are something that would improve with practice and the more times I take this class the better I shall become. It is definitely harder than ballet but I have never been one to duck a challenge. There was a time when I found ballet impossible whereas now it is only very, very, very, very difficult.

I really enjoyed that class. As I have said several times before, Ailsa is a great teacher who clearly loves to dance and extracts the last ounce of effort from her students by communicating to us her love of dance. I enjoy her ballet classes too for that same reason. I would love to do more with her but it is not easy for me to get to her classes as I usually take a class in Leeds on Thursday mornings.  "Nobody pays you to be a ballerina, Miss" my clerk never tires of reminding me (right now nobody is paying me much to be a barrister though I seem to be working every hour God sends) but after a gruelling day in court on Tuesday and after the disappointment of missing Fiona's Wednesday class after driving all the way to Huddersfield I felt justified in taking a second class yesterday. But, as I say, I woke up this morning stiff as the proverbial. Nemesis for Terpsichore perhaps?

Post Script

Just want to say that after the class my friend and I repaired to Panchos Burritos which is literally just round the corner from the Danchouse and Northern Ballet School. There we had two enormous burritos - one in the bowl and the other in a wrap plus a Fentimans mandarin and Seville orange jigger and a half litre of mineral water for £11.82. I had acquired a taste for Mexican food when I was a graduate student at UCLA in the early 1970s which was more or less the first time I saw contemporary dance. For many years Mexican food was almost impossible to find in this country and hardly worth eating when it was found. I am happy to say that Pancho cooks a mean burrito - as good as any I have consumed in Southern California. So - as jumping up and down and rolling about on the floor is bound to work up an appetite - Pancho's is the place to satisfy it.  That was another reason why yesterday was a very special evening.

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