A reporter and photographer from the Yorkshire Post visited our class the other day. I remember their visit. Here's their report: Raising the barre: Pirouetting pensioners.
I had an off day on Monday and asked myself whether I wasn't getting a little too old for this sort of thing. I suffer from fallen arches and my right foot was playing up. For the first time in a dance class I caught myself watching the clock. "Why do you put yourself through this pain?" I asked myself, "Aye and paying for it" I added. "Are you sure it is worth it?" Until I read this report I was beginning to wonder but it reminds me why I turn up to Quarry Hill on Tuesdays and Thursdays as often as I can, week after week.
The first reason is that Northern Ballet's Over 55 class is more than a ballet class. I have got to know my fellow students over the last 18 months and have made friends with some of them. We meet in Café 164 after the class for a cup of tea and a chat. They are all have a story to tell. This class is where I get to meet them. It does not seem to happen in other classes. Or at least not so much. In other classes we exchange smiles and greetings at the barre and look forward to seeing each other next week. But then we get into our cars and scatter to the four winds.
The second reason I love class is that I like the tinkly music even if it is recorded. At Northern Ballet we usually have a pianist for the main class though our teacher uses a DVD for an extra class where we work on more difficult exercises. That used to be one of the highlights of my week until my arches started to give me grief. There's something about ballet exercise music that attracts me. There's one particular recording that all my teachers have played which almost brings tears to my eyes when I hear it. The music plugs me into a tradition which links me albeit very tenuously into a tradition that has been followed by every dancer, choreographer, teacher and student who has gone before.
And I think that is the third reason I need class. In Le jour de gloire est arrivé - Dame Antoinette Sibley with Clement Crisp at the Royal Ballet School 3 Feb 2014 I wrote how Sibley spoke adoringly about her teachers, particularly the great Karsavina. I added:
"As Sibley spoke about her teachers I realized that every teacher represents to his or students every dancer, choreographer and teacher who has gone before. Sibley loved her teachers and I can relate to that because I love every one of mine. Those who have gently corrected my wobbling arabesques and feeble turns."I feel that connection with the great balletic tradition in every class but particularly strongly in Northern Ballet where we sometimes meet members of the company as we file out of their studio.
Oh and I get fit in the process, mentally as well as physically. I have a lot of stress in my work. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. I have to concentrate on detail and that happens in class even in simple exercises. Class helps to relieve that stress, to clear my head, to stretch my body and think straight when I am in court or con. I don't think I could do my job - or at least not so well - without it.
Post Script 20 April 2015
I had another class with Fiona Noonan on Wednesday night at Huddersfield University and it couldn't have been more different from Monday. It was 90 minutes instead of the usual hour and the teacher worked us hard. Yet even though there was more jumping there was no pain. The class set me up for a really long day on Thursday which began 2 hours after I had gone to bed and included a 200 mile dash to London, several meetings and La Fille mal gardee. Friday was just as hectic with a three and a half hour con and another long drive home but now I am back and looking forward to Ballet Black.
More on the Over 55 Class
Gita Mistry Coming Back to Ballet 12 March 2015
Jane Lambert Elizabeth Rae 7 Oct 2013
Jane Lambert New Term at Team Hud - and around the World 2 Oct 2014
Jane Lambert Coming Down to Earth Gently 30 June 2014
Mel Wong The Dance DID go on - Northern Ballet Academy Show 2014 29 June 2015
Jane Lambert The Time of My Life 28 June 2014
Jane Lambert Nervous? Shhhhh...... Northern Ballet's Over 55 Class End of Term Show 24 June 2014
Jane Lambert A Treat For Us Old Ladies 27 Feb 2014
Jane Lambert Realizing a Dream 12 Sep 2013