Happy fit and fab February all!
We are delighted to introduce Ms Mary E, our new guest blogger! Welcome, Mary!
Photo: Mary dancing in our Int/Adv Ballet Classes. Images are Copyright of Ballet4Life.
Greetings, ballet blog readers.
I’m Mary. I go to a range of Ballet4Life classes and it’s fair to say that I am obsessed with dancing.
If you’re reading this then you probably are a little bit too.
I recently retired from full-time work and have vowed to take my dance training as far as I can, by doing class most days of the week when possible. Despite a long term minor knee injury, my body still allows me to do strange things in pink tights, so here goes.
I will share my experiences here in the hope that they might resonate with some of you and possibly inspire others to ‘have a go’. Also if I see any dance performances I will tell you about them.
For any thwarted ballerinas/ ballerinos of yesteryear, or any grown-ups wanting to start from the beginning, Ballet4life offers the best there can be in the world of adult ballet.
There is psychology involved when you approach your ballet class. Some of us might have had off-putting experience in our dancing past, some newcomers might be feeling a little nervous. All our antennae are madly crackling as we try to look cool at the barre.... Donna, Ballet4life’s founder, understands all of this and chooses her teachers extremely carefully. The standard is high but there is a prevailing ethos of kindness, friendliness and inclusive support for everyone. It’s like coming home and good homes give you the confidence to try. And try again when it doesn’t go to plan.
It was Donna’s birthday today and she regularly attends the inter/advanced morning class with us on Saturday, taught by the fabulous Beatrice Ghezzi. I don’t think many of us knew it was her birthday but Beatrice introduced the first exercise at the barre saying, “And it goes like this ....... Happy Birthday to you!” and the entire class burst into song! The applause afterwards was resounding and long. Donna is much loved and respected by her dancers.
Sometimes I feel like I have the heart and soul of a dancer trapped inside the body of Shrek ( No reassuring comments, please. Self-deprecating humour is a thing) but in the wide, airy studios of B4L I started to believe that I can fly.
This week I did Beatrice’s Thursday a.m. Beg/Imp, the Friday lunchtime General level teacher rotation class, this week taught by the fabulous Johanna and the Saturday morning Inter/ Adv., as mentioned, with Beatrice. All three classes were extremely well planned, well-paced with clear demonstrations, whole-class corrections and individual support sensitively delivered where appropriate. Both of these teachers set a motivating energy level and always ensure that smiles and fun punctuate the hard work. Anyone who loves to dance will agree that without great music there will be precious little enjoyment or opportunity for artistic development.
Fantastic music in all these classes.
Makes you fly higher.
Notes to self:
1) When your teacher gives corrections or suggestions it’s a good idea to try them out a little bit straight away so your body can start to understand them. Teachers always seem to be pleased when they see us do that, even if it’s a bit wonky at first because you are feeding back to them and showing that you are engaged.
2) Don’t go in the first group travelling from the corner if you don’t know it! ( cringe)
Tip of the week:
Pirouettes. My bête noire Yes, the black beast of fear!
It’s silly really because I can do one usually. I even did a double once but of course, the teacher wasn’t looking my way. That was in 1997.
I’m sure many of you will relate. We know who we are. Or maybe it’s just me.
But the golden pirouette tip I picked up this week was to do the ubiquitous juicy plié and “keep the retiré high when you turn”. It felt daring as I need to have that foot ready to fall over onto but I decided to go for it, et voila! You’re somehow more ‘up’ more strong and determined and it seems to help regulate your centre of gravity. I did one or two shiny ones and then went back to wobbling over. But hey.
Backstage shot of Mary with Ballet4lifers and guest artists at a fundraising performance in London. Ms Mary E is third in from the right.
I saw a slightly tinkered-with Bolshoi production of Giselle, live-streamed from Moscow, in the cinema last week. It was gorgeous and heartbreaking, with truly evil Willis but for some bizarre reason at the top of act two the ghost of Giselle suddenly went thundering across the back of the stage on a scooter holding a nervous arabesque. Suspension of disbelief shattered. But quickly regained with lovely dancing.
If, like me, you can’t afford good seats at the big theatres then I strongly recommend seeing a live-streamed ballet at the cinema. Ok, you don’t get the same thrilling vibe but you do get recorded rehearsal footage, live interviews with directors and dancers as they are warming up backstage and your views are front row of the circle throughout with the added bonus of close-ups.
Try to pick your cinema though. Floating away from three hours of classical ballet heaven straight into the horrors of Westfield shopping mall was deeply shocking and I had to do some discreet yoga breathing on the bus home.
I am booked to see the Viviana Durante company’s tribute to Isadora Duncan at the Barbican this month. Anyone else going?
I LOVE being retired.
So keep your pliés juicy and your retirés high when turning, ballet thrill seekers!
See you at the barre x