Wednesday, 22 February 2017

"And what a class we had."

 Although I had blogged about Martin Dutton's class at KNT Danceworks this evening, I thought I knew better than actually to attend it. I wrote on Facebook:
"If I were young enough, good enough and strong enough I would be first in the queue for this class. I hope all those who can attend it enjoy it."
 I drew the class to the attention of Wendy McDermott who had taken part in Jane Tucker's intensive workshops on La Bayadere and The Nutcracker and who contributed an article on Hannah Bateman's Ballet Retreat  (see Ballet Retreat Revisited - Wendy McDermott's Experience 22 Jan 2017). She is preparing for her RAD grade 7 exams and she really is "young enough, good enough and strong enough" to benefit from a class with Martin yet she, like me, wondered whether she could keep up. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we dared each other to come and I found myself on the train to Manchester asking myself whether or not I had been just a little bit too rash.

Well, you see the result. It was a great class from the moment Martin introduced himself to the final curtsey.   He has a great eye for detail and he took us back to first principles from the way we held our arms in second making sure that we could just about see our fingers in our peripheral vision to the way we should carry our whole bodies while executing a balancé. He stressed the importance of the plié and tendu as the building blocks for just about everything else.

Wendy mentions her notebook in her tweet.  For a long time, I used to carry one too. It was a tip I picked up from Dave Wilson (see The Dance Journal – what is it and why should I have one? 14 Dec 2014 Dave Tries Ballet). It was a real treasure trove of tips and tricks and anecdotes that I had picked up from teachers from literally across the world from Annemarie in Leeds to Adam in London. Then I carelessly left my ballet bag with shoes, tights, leotards and notebook on a tram on the way to the Dancehouse while temporarily distracted by line closures in central Manchester. I was able to replace the leotards, tights and shoes easily enough from Mr Frog in Huddersfield and Planet Dance in Batley but I got out of the habit of keeping a journal after class because I never thought I would ever replace all that lost wisdom. My dancing has definitely suffered as a result.

But you know what. Wendy has prompted me to start again. I shall buy another notebook today on the way to Jane Tucker's class in Leeds and I shall write it up on the train back to Huddersfield because I always learn a lot from her. Three particularly important tips from Martin that are going down straight away are a balancing exercise, a coordination exercise and the importance of smiling. "You are all passionate about dance", he exhorted. "That's why you are here, Then show it in your faces." And so we tried.

Martin's class was hard work but also fun.  We did pliés, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe, frappés and grands battements and stretches on the barre, then an enchainement using everything that we had learned at the barre plus pirouettes dehors and dedans, some balancés and jumps finishing off with temps levés, glissades and assemblés. At the end of the class, he commended us on how hard we had worked. "Harder than some of my usual students he added." When I thanked him for the class he asked rhetorically whether we would have him back again. "As far as I'm concerned," I replied, "anytime you want."

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