The thing I was most excited about? Ballet shoes and The Barre.
My relationship with ballet ended promptly when I was twelve; the secondary school I moved to didn’t offer it and thinking back, I didn’t even notice that ballet was off the menu. My memories of ballet are a mix of pain (wide-pronged Kirby grips scraping against my flesh, ballet ribbons tied too tightly and the pincer-grip of my ballet teacher as she pinched bottoms and thighs to make us tense) and pleasure (my red character skirt with ribbons around the bottom, my basket of flowers, the feel of the smooth thick tights).
So it was with mixed emotions that I accepted City Academy’s offer of a Beginner’s Ballet course.
Beginner’s Ballet at City Academy – Course Outline
Beginner’s Ballet Level 1 comes with several different start dates, lengths and tutors. Mine is an 8 week course, taken by Adrian Arroyo. Since it’s been twenty years since I last pointed my toes, I chose the class for those ‘with only distant memories of taking classes at school.’
It covers the basics – posture, co-ordination, combinations, barre exercises, an introduction to allegro (I’ve just looked this up – and I’m none the wiser. It’s a term applied to fast or brisk movements. Examples given were echappe, jete, entrechat, changement etc) and an introduction to turning.
To say I was nervous was an understatement. I’m a competitive person and rather critical of myself, yet believed I should have a bit of an upper hand, having continued ballet past the age of 5.
On the day I wore leggings and brought a lively ensemble of tops just in case. I hadn’t, as advised, bought any ballet shoes – I wanted to see what everyone was wearing first. And I also wasn’t sure whether there was any fashion faux-pas in buying the ‘wrong’ brand. As it turned out, 95% of the class (of around 20 people or so) had ballet shoes – in all styles and colours (ok, I’m exaggerating there – black and pink) – so I needn’t have worried.
After I had examined people’s feet, I moved up their body; most were in leggings or tights (apart from the two boys – they were wearing shorts) and unlike my initial fear that everyone would be like the girls from Ballet Shoes (who’s read that?) body shapes were varied.
I’ll say what everyone in the class was thinking – Adrian Arroyo isn’t human, he’s actually a goat. We looked on in amazement as he effortlessly sprung several feet off the floor, landing with a whisper. He’s friendly, funny (SMILE, PEOPLE!) and speaks in an accent that’s fascinating to listen to but doesn’t at all sound like English.
The lesson flew by so fast, I can barely remember what we covered. I do know that it was unlike any ballet lesson I experienced as a kid – there was no fastidious going over movements nor pinching of thighs. We worked on footwork and armwork at the barre before moving to the floor to put some of those movements into practice. The whole lesson was a wake up call to me – I scored zero points for co-ordination, almost yowling with frustration as my arm went one way and my leg dithered pathetically. Everyone else seemed to have perfect co-ordination, although I must confess, I spent most of my time concentrating on tucking my bottom in, tensing my thighs, turning out my heels and goodness knows what else.
Thought of the Week: Ballet is harder than you think
Ballerinas certainly aren’t a pushover. Not only was my bottom, feet and thighs aching, but my brain was frazzled too. This co-ordination malarkey is a lot harder than it looks. Throughout the lesson, Adrian was giving feedback – and they were always small things. ‘Small things that would make a big difference’, he explained. Currently, there were so many small things that I was worrying about, my head was at risk of exploding.
Top tip of the week: if you don’t bring ballet shoes, make sure you have matching socks to wear.
I am attending the Beginner’s Ballet Level 1 Course with City Academy, tutored by Adrian Arroyo. For more information, see their website.