The First Class

two legsSo I took a deep breath and walked into my first adult ballet class.

Our class is a real mixture, some of us have danced when we were children (me), and some have never taken a ballet class in their life. We are all friends, but it still took some courage to walk in to the studio, especially since the class before ours is an Advanced Vocational class! We were slightly early, so we got to watch and marvel at their beautiful dancing en pointe, secretly (or maybe not so secretly) wishing that we might one day look like them.

Then it was our turn. We started out by jogging, skipping, or walking energetically (depending on our individual ability) around the perimeter of the room to warm up. We all laughed together, making comments about how unfit we were. After a few minutes of warming up, it was time to go to the barre.

The first thing Miss Leigh-Anne talked about was weight placement of our feet. You should always have your weight forward with your heel just skimming the floor. We practised shifting our weight forwards and back onto our heels. It’s amazing how such a slight shift of weight can make a difference in the way you hold yourself. The next thing we learned was ballet posture. Holding your core in , flattening your back and focusing on lengthening your body. Again, such small movements make such a big difference!

After all this, she told us to get into first position remembering all the things she had just taught us about weight and posture. We had a little laugh as she then reminded us to BREATHE at the same time!

In first position she talked to us about turnout. How turnout should always use the whole leg and come from the hip, never leading with the foot. So much to remember, and we hadn’t done a single exercise yet!! 😀

THEN…came time for the first barre exercise. Miss Leigh-Anne thought grade 3 of the RAD syllabus would be a good start for us so we began with battements tendus and battements glissés. It’s hard to believe, but just doing that one exercise trying to remember everything we had learned about placement and posture took up every last bit of my concentration. But oh, it was such a glorious feeling to be back at the ballet barre. Especially with all the wonderful encouragement we were given. Miss Leigh-Anne is such a gifted teacher. I have seen her bring out the very best in every one of her students in the years I have been bringing my girls to her. And our little beginner class was no exception. No matter what we really looked like, she made us feel like we could do it!

And then… suddenly, class was over! The half hour had passed so quickly! I loved every minute of it.

We ended with a few stretches and she asked us if we wanted to continue with 45 minute classes or a full hour. We all agreed that we wanted to go for broke with the full hour and a slight time change to 8 pm.

I left already counting down to next week.

 

I’m Goin’ Back to Ballet…Ballet…Ballet…

backtoballet

I have three girls who have been going to ballet since they were 3 yrs old (they’re now between 7 and 10.) Watching them, I sometimes (frequently) wistfully longed to be able to go back and learn it with the dedication that I didn’t have when I was a child.

I took two years of classes when I was about 7 yrs old, but had to stop because of family circumstances. Then I forgot all about ballet until my own girls started dancing.

I think it’s true that the love of dance never leaves you, even if it lays buried for years. I was beyond excited when the principal of our dance school finally agreed (after our endless pestering,) to start a class for adult beginners.

I was even more excited when I saw a new physio who finally seemed to understand my unique circumstances and thought that ballet would be an excellent form of exercise to rehabilitate my back with its various disc problems. Ballet… as my treatment plan? Had all my Christmases just come at once?!

Preparation

Our ballet teacher, (not just any teacher, but the principal herself,) Miss Leigh-Anne, decided to give us a half hour taster class for week 1. That way she could gauge interest and we could decide as a group if this is what we really wanted and how intensive classes would be (45 minutes to 1 hour). I think she was hesitant because she had run an adult class before but for various reasons, the students hadn’t shown the level of commitment necessary to keep the class going. I could understand her reluctance.

But my friend and I (who had already shown our ninja powers of persuasion by getting the class re-started) managed to drum up seven brave souls to try the class! All of us are mums of kids who dance at the school, and when we told them we were taking a ballet class with Miss Leigh-Anne, their reactions ranged from mild amusement to ‘you’re not REALLY, are you?!’ We assured our cherubs that yes we were and booked our first class. I can’t comment on other people’s children, but I think all three of my daughters were intrigued by the idea. I’m pretty sure they thought it was a passing fancy. I can assure you, it was not.

Before the first class, I discussed what to wear with Miss Leigh-Anne and she said that t-shirts and leggings would be fine to start with, but that we would need to get ballet shoes. I researched the myriad of manufacturers and styles on dancewear sites and in dance forums and finally decided on the Bloch Pro Arch. Having had some discussion about my fallen arches, I thought they might be a good option. Now, I bought them online, and it’s not something I would recommend if you have the option of going and trying them on, because I had to exchange mine twice before getting the right size. Unfortunately, on this first week of classes, the shoes I wore were too small so I wasn’t as comfortable as I could be.

I’m a bit of a geek about these things, so I wore a black leotard that I already had from tap dancing (something I also really enjoyed, but had to give up because of a schedule clash,) and treated myself to a black crossover skirt and pink tights. I had read that the classic combination of dark leotard and pink tights makes it easiest for the teachers to see your leg musculature and since I was going to this class as part of my physio regime, I thought it would be best. Also, the truth is, it was totally nostalgic! It transported me right back to when I was in my first ballet classes. I might look like a middle-aged mum, but when I put on that ballet uniform, I sure didn’t feel like it. OK, I’ll confess, I squeeeezed myself into those tights, but it was worth it. It was! Honest!

Our class is on a Friday evening and all week the anticipation and excitement grew. I got my dance bag ready.

Finally, it was time….