Why I’m Trying Ballet

Ok, so I’m going to try to explain in this post some of the reasons why I’ve decided to try Ballet, why I’ve decided to do it now and what I’m inspired by!

First off – why do I want to do Ballet?

First off, I’m fairly sure if you are reading this blog then you appreciate just how beautiful, expressive, strong and generally amazing Ballet is! I have only seen two Ballets in the past, both amateur, and thoroughly enjoyed both. The first was a local production of Romeo and Juliet that I saw when I was around 11 with a friend and although I can’t remember much about the actual production I can remember being pretty amazed at everything they did on the stage.

The second time I saw a Ballet was around three years ago when I was around 20 and my then-girlfriend Jo took me to see a touring company do Swan Lake. After she had come to watch me row in the rain for four days straight I agreed to take her out on a date the next to week to anything she wanted to do. She decided on the Ballet, I bought some pretty good tickets and we dressed up smartly for our night out.

Arriving at the theater I was pretty skeptical about how much I would enjoy the evening – although I consoled myself that at the very least I could just listen to the music! This skepticism wasn’t helped by Jo unleashing a barrage of knowledge about the story, famous versions of Swan Lake and the dancing. I hadn’t realized she was such a Ballet buff, and although it was slightly intimidating to me the Ballet-novice, it was useful having someone so knowledgeable with me, even if she scared me slightly by telling me that the more important the dancer in the company the more padded the dancebelt they wore (I still don’t know if this is true or not!).

When the Ballet started I was entranced. I have no idea as to the calibre of the dancers, but I was stunned at some of the things they were doing, be it the ballerinas en pointe or the male danseurs leaping, and how effortless they made it seem. I had expected to struggle with following the storyline (especially seeing as the synopsis in the program lasted for 4 pages) but I found two things: that the story was surprisingly considering there was no dialogue and, more importantly, that the storyline didn’t matter – this was about the dancing after all. Normally I would feel the need to know about all the little details in the plot, but I knew the basics (Siegfried needs a wife, falls in love with swan, gets tricked into promising himself to magician’s disguised daughter, runs off with swan in the end) and I got so caught up in the dancing that the details didn’t matter.

So I suppose my main reason for wanting to learn Ballet is to try and get a tiny bit of skill in such a fantastic artform. I have always been a fan of classical music and acting, and Ballet seems like a perfect way to combine both while adding a sense of beauty.

As an added bonus, I hope Ballet will help me improve my body – dancers seem to generally have an amazing physique. Dancing seems to generate the perfect balance of building muscle without bulk and I don’t think I even need to mention the flexibility! As a current member of my University’s cycling team flexibility is important and it was actually while looking into the NYC Ballet Workout book to help increase flexibility that I started to seriously think about getting Ballet lessons.

On the subject of bodies, one thing I am also hoping to work on through Ballet is body confidence and how I view and hold my body. I was quite overweight as a child and teenager (I weighed 270lb when I was 17) and through hard work, good diet and exercise I lost quite a portion of weight, and after dropping another 35lb this year I am now down to 180lb, the lowest I’ve weighed since I was in my early teens. This has certainly given me some (much-needed) extra confidence, but I still struggle to accept that my new body is actually me. In short, I have some days I look in the mirror and see the 180lb me, and other days I still see the 270lb me. I’m hoping that Ballet will give me a better awareness of my body and better posture and in the process help me accept my new body. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be writing a longer post dealing with my body changes and issues later on, so expect more on this subject.

Why Now?

There is a bunch of reasons as to why I’m deciding to take Ballet class now, many to do with a lack of time or opportunity in the past. As for other reasons, a lot has to do with the fact that i physically couldn’t have done Ballet before, I don’t think my body could have dealt with the strain, and even when I was 220lb before this year I feel the extra bulk would have prevented me from putting my all into this venture – and I believe that if you are going to do something, you should do it to your full potential.

Inspiration so far?

So where do I stand at the moment? I’ve picked out a school, bought my first set of ballet slippers, tights, dancebelt and am now just counting down the days until Ballet 101 class starts in September. In the meantime I am contenting myself by exposing myself to Ballet and dance through various means.

First off, one of the first resources I used to learn more about doing Ballet as a guy was Ballet For Men, and I’ve been reading articles and listening to the excellent podcasts – check them out! I also keep on doing the NYC Ballet Workout, which I originally got to gain a little flexibility. I try to do the 10 minute stretch after any kind of exercise, and try to do the full workout at least every week.

I also purchased a couple of DVDs from Amazon: one of “Great Pas de Deux” and the ABT’s production of Swan Lake starring Gillian Murphy and Angel Corella. I have become slightly obsessed with the second of these – it is mesmerizing to watch so many brilliant dancers, and the two leads are perfection (at least to my untrained eye they are!). In particular I find the chemistry between the two almost palpable, especially in the stuningly beautiful Pas de Deux:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fs9A9Tos85U]

Finally, I discovered So You Think You Can Dance – expecting a show along the lines of Dancing With The Stars (I’m not a huge fan of ballroom), but finding something entirely different. Although there hasn’t been much Ballet, the routines have been fantastic, and all the dancers are both impressive and inspirational. I particularly enjoyed Alex Wong and the following Contemporary routine set to Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah left me speechless:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAFYYi6Jn7g]

Oh, and Billy Elliot was set only about 30 miles from where I live in the UK so that film is a pretty good inspiration for me!

What to expect from the Blog…

So that is a little bit about why I’m going to take Ballet class. I’ll be posting in the future about my expectations of my first class, how I found shopping for my first set of Ballet clothing, how I chose the Ballet school I’ll be going to, as well as so much more! I’m hoping this blog will be useful for any complete beginner in Ballet, whether young or adult, male or female. You never know, it might be of some interest to some more experience dancers too.

Until next time, keep dancing!

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