Ballet Items of the Non-Pink Variety

So I recently got an e-mail from Amazon along the lines of “you recently purchased items to do with Ballet, here are some other items in Ballet.” What followed was an assault on the eyes of ‘fluffy Ballerina-ry pinkness’. I mean, from pink children’s ballet slippers to the film “Ballet Shoes” and lots of “I want to be a Ballerina” books in between there wasn’t a single item that wasn’t pink. I don’t particularly like pink and I have never wanted to be a Ballerina. Male Ballet Dancer, yes. Ballerina, no.

So that got me thinking. I seem to have had to trawl through a lot of pinkness to find some useful stuff to do with Ballet – DVDs, books and the like. So I thought I’d share what I’d found (with Amazon links) so if anyone wants to avoid the pink-ness they can just look at this list. I’m going to try and be brief about each item, so if I babble feel free to yell at me… Also, I’m not affiliated with Amazon or anything like that – these are just my own, honest opinions.

DVDs

Okay, so Ballet is a visual art and so the first things I’m going to talk about are some DVDs I’ve watched/rented (and where I’ve rented the DVD I’ll indicate that it is available on NetFlix). This is by no means a complete list of Ballet DVDs (far from it) but these are some that I saw and enjoyed.

  • American Ballet Theatre’s Swan LakeThe first full-length ballet DVD I bought. I’ve watched this countless times and for many reasons. First off, Angel Corella as Siegfried steals the show in my opinion – his jumps and turns are spectacular, and although Gillian Murphy (Odette/Odile) gets to do Odile’s famous 32 Fouettes, Angel’s turns in that Pas de Deux are just as spectacular. As to be expected of ABT, every dancer on the stage is phenomenal, and this has some of the best camera angles/editing I’ve seen in Ballet DVDs. A classic ballet, and a must-see.
  • Born To Be Wild – The Leading Men Of American Ballet Theatre – As a guy starting Ballet it was great to find a DVD all about guys in Ballet, after all most of the time the Ballerinas get all the attention. This DVD follows Jose Manuel Carreno, Angel Corella, Vladimir Malakhov and Ethan Stiefel as Mark Morris choreographs a “Pas de Quatre” for the four men. It’s very interesting to see the guys dance and hear about their backgrounds, but the DVD is woefully short (only 54mins!). Still a great watch though! (Available on NetFlix)
  • Prokofiev – Romeo and Juliet (Corella, Ferri – Kenneth MacMillan)I bought this DVD after watching the Balcony Scene on YouTube and the rest of the DVD is just as great! Corella and Ferri manage to convey such youthfulness and naivety, while at the same time being technically astounding. A special mention should go to Ferri’s feet – which have to be seen to believed. Even as a beginner I can see how amazing they are; she seems to just float across the stage. Have a tissue ready for the death scenes though… (I also saw the DVD of Ferri in Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Ballet [which is on Netflix] but I much preferred this version).
  • Great Pas De Deux – I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t watched this DVD the entire way through. I feel this DVD is a good one to “dip” into and watch a Pas De Deux or two at a time, but I don’t think I would sit and watch it the whole way through. I think I would much prefer to watch an entire length Ballet than just a snippet. That being said, there are some superb performances here, and it is a good introduction to some of the “classic” Ballets.
  • Billy Elliot – The ultimate rags-to-riches Ballet story, and it’s about a boy dancing as well! Rightly nominated for a handful of Oscars (although it was a shame Jamie Bell didn’t get nominated) this is a fantastic film. Although it contains very little actual Ballet, it is nonetheless a must see (although I may be a little biased as it is all set just a few miles down the road from my hometown!).

Books

I said before that Ballet is a visual artform, but that does not mean that books aren’t useful! Here are some I’ve read/are still reading:

  • Ballet Apparel For Men: A Complete Beginner’s Guide – So I’ve mentioned before the free e-book on BalletForMen.com and this is the print version. Why would you want to buy a print version of a free e-book? Well first off it looks really great in ‘real life'; second, you can pop it in your dance bag so that if you are ever buying new stuff or having to fix old stuff you can quickly look at it; third, you can support someone who is doing great things in spreading the word about guys dancing Ballet. Anyways, I love my print copy of the book and highly recommend getting one!
  • The NYC Ballet Workout – This was one of the first things I got when I started thinking about taking Ballet classes. It’s a great book with lots of stretches and exercises that work specific muscles used in Ballet. It’s really clear and has some suggested workouts at the back, ranging form a 10-minute stretch to a full-blown body workout (that hurts!). All exercises should be safe to do in the comfort of your own home and it proves you don’t need to be taking Ballet classes to enjoy the benefits of a more supple and stronger body.
  • The Joffrey Ballet School’s Ballet-Fit – I’ve only just picked this book up (mainly because I took a class with the author, Dena Moss, last week) but so far it looks great. Aimed at the adult beginner it covers what to expect as you start learning Ballet including all the little things no-one thinks to tell you!
  • Ballet 101 – I got the Kindle edition of this, but I expect the paperback is just the same. This is a great read about the history of Ballet and the storylines of the “great Ballets”. Although it can be a little dry at times there is a wealth of information here. Also, for each of the Ballets he discusses, he has a recommended DVD/video so you can ‘watch along’
  • Basic Ballet: The Steps Defined – This is a great little pocket book with all the basic Ballet steps defined with clear pictures. I’ve looked at it loads of times after a class to work out exactly what the step was we did, or to work out how on earth you spell glissades etc. Small enough that it fits in my dance bag with no difficulty, this is really handy to have around and not too expensive either!
  • Your Own Dance Journal! – Finally, arguably the most important book for a dance student to own – a dance journal. This can be any kind of notebook you like, and is where you write down anything you want! I have a page per lesson, and note down any pointers the teacher had, corrections he made on me and any interesting combinations we did (sometimes with little, badly drawn diagrams). I also note down if I felt pain anywhere (nothing much yet, thankfully!) so I know to be wary of it next time. In the back I note down any clothing I bought and what size it was so I can easily re-order. I also note down in the back my weight at regular intervals so I can keep track and see if I need to adjust my diet appropriately. In fact, as this is your dance journal, you can write whatever you want, but I would certainly recommend starting one!

Well that’s all I can think of right now, but feel free to add your own suggestions (or thoughts on some of the things mentioned here) in the comments.

Until next time, keep dancing!

Four Classes, Four Teachers…

So this week I stepped up my Ballet a bit. And when I say a bit, I mean from 2.5hrs to 5.5hrs!

Normally I take two 75 minute classes each week (Mondays and Wednesdays at ARB) but this week I decided to also head into New York on Saturday to take a couple of classes at the Joffrey Ballet School.

I’m going to talk about all four classes, and the four teachers I had, and compare them all – I got very different things from each class and if you are deciding between different styles of classes hopefully this might help!

Class 1 – Ballet 101 at ARB School with Mr. Douglas Martin

Okay, so first up was my regular class at ARB with Mr. Martin on Monday. Mr. Martin’s mantra is that putting people in the deep end is the best way to learn how to swim. I personally like this approach when it comes to learning Ballet – it means that I have never had a boring class with him, and he manages to keep the balance between stretching us and not making us feel uncomfortably out of our depth.

One interesting teaching tool he used this week was getting us to correct each other while in fifth releve. As he pointed out, if we can recognise what other people were doing wrongly (such as leaning back or not lifting the rib cage) we were more likely to be able to correct ourselves. This was not only an interesting exercise, but later in class, when we had to hold a position, I tried to imagine what I would correct on myself if I was looking as an outsider. So I suppose the technique worked!

One other thing we worked on was the femininity/masculinity of our movements. This l consisted of doing pique arabesques across the diagonals twice, first with “wafting arms” then with “spartan arms” – inherently feminine and masculine moves. The challenge was, for the guys to make the wafting as masculine, and for the girls to make the spartan position as feminine as possible. This reminded me that Ballet is primarily an art form – something that can easily be forgotten in the midst of the technical work.

Class 2 – Ballet 101 at ARB School with Mr. Edward Urwin

So Wednesday’s class was Ballet 101 again at ARB and would usually be taught by Mr. Martin. But this week we had Mr. Urwin instead. Mr. Urwin is a member of the company and teaches the boy’s class that takes place before our class on Mondays and Wednesdays. Usually there is only one boy in his class so I guess it was a bit of a change for him to suddenly have 10-15 adults!

Mr. Urwin concentrated a lot more on the basics than Mr. Martin. This was really great, and made me look at some moves with a new eye. That being said, we also covered some new moves, like assembles. He also concentrated a little more on our arms, and making our centre work more of a ‘performance’. I suppose this is to be expected from a company member – every day for him is working towards a performance.

One really useful image he used was about having your arms in second. He first pointed out the three points of rotation: shouder, elbow and wrist. He then showed how they should be aligned, before finally telling us to think of water flowing down our arm to the end of our fingertips. This last image really helped it click in my head and whenever I thought of it I found I could adjust my arms more easily.

Class 3 – Advanced Beginner at Joffrey School with Ms. Dena Moss

So on Saturday I packed my bag with two sets of ballet clothes (tights, t-shirt and dance belt) and headed into the city on the bus. On the web, the 1:30-3:00 class had been advertised as “Beginner” which was suitable for “anyone who has had some ballet training” – which I guessed (and was told by others in my Ballet 101 class) was the best level for me. However, arriving at the reception it turned out it was actually “Advanced Beginner”. I said to the receptionist I would only take the true “Beginner” class at 4:00-5:30 instead of both as planned. On second take, I asked what level “Advanced Beginner” was. The receptionist replied that it would be the same as “Beginner” and that it was just naming convention at the school. After a little reassurance I decided “what the hell” and signed up for both classes.

The studio was huge – around 3 times the size of the studio at ARB, and the class had at least 3 time the people in it! In walked Ms. Moss (If the name sounds familiar, it may be because Ms. Moss is one of the authors of The Joffrey School’s Ballet Fit book) and we launched straight into class. Without any marking we launched into Plies – with a couple of differences in the exact sequence to what I was used to. Luckily I was sandwiched between two seemingly experienced dancers at the back of the studio.

Soon, Ms. Moss was over to me, and she got me to lift my rib cage and give her my foot. She pointed out that during my tendus I wasn’t pointing my foot enough. She also moved me so I could see the mirror better. This made me realise that I still don’t look in the mirror anywhere near enough to be useful. I still think I am slightly nervous about staring at myself in the mirror (due to my issues with body image etc) but really need to start using this tool more and more. Also, if I look in the mirror and see something looking half-decent it makes me proud and I stand a little taller and walk a little prouder for the rest of class (if not day) which can only be a good thing.

I felt quite a bit out of my depth during Barre work, especially as a some of the combinations she didn’t mark, just said a string of words and off we went! Next up we were on the floor for some stretching and core work. This is something we don’t spend much (if any) time on at ARB, I think partially because our classes are 15 minutes shorter. What I did like was that even though we were doing fairly standard stretches, we still retained musicality while conducting them, making them less like gym work and more like actual dance moves.

We cracked out some stretches, crunches, on floor rond de jambes and some batterie work (wow, they hurt!). Next the girls got to do some gentle stretching while the guys had to drop and give her some push-ups (in time with the music of course). I was a little surprised, but then again I suppose if I ever have to do lifts (which I seriously doubt!) the arm strength will come in useful!

Finally was center work – and I’ve never felt so out of my depth during a Ballet class. So much so, I actually stayed out of a couple of the combinations, observing from the back or side (a couple of others did this too). Following the lesson (there was no Reverence which I found strange) I went to thank Ms. Moss and apologise for misjudging the class level. However, she turned to me and said that I was not completely out of my depth and that I did just fine. I’m not entirely convinced she was telling the truth, but she then carried on by saying that I have amazing feet and arches, I just need to use them more. She also said she would be happy for me to come back to the class whenever I want to.

Class 4 – Beginner Ballet at Joffrey School with Ms. Stephanie Godino

After quickly grabbing a bagel and coffee I headed back  for the second class. I was slightly surprised to see a couple of dancers in the class in pointe shoes but tried not to let it intimidate me and as soon as she entered the room Ms. Godino was full of energy, and had a great rapport with the class which put me at ease.

During the Plies she came over to ask my name and adjust me slightly (the usual need to lift my chest). I was impressed that she remembered my name for the whole of the lesson, often calling it from the other end of the studio when she saw something wrong. She said during the tendus and frappes for me to point my foot more, and when I did she complimented me on my feet and arches (nice to get the compliment, even if she only noticed while correcting me!).

The level of this class was, I felt, much more appropriate for me than the class with Ms. Moss. Sure, I still felt stretched, but I didn’t feel so out of my depth. We worked on some stuff I hadn’t covered before, and also concentrated a lot on head direction which none of the other teachers had mentioned much. I managed all the Barre work and we then knocked out another set of stretching, core work and push-ups before starting center work.

And then, get this, I DID A PIROUETTE! To be fair, it probably wasn’t recognizable to anyone else as a pirouette, but it was something remotely resembling a turn on demi-pointe with my non-standing leg in passe! We had to do both en dedans and en dehors with both legs and although they were nowhere near the standard of most of the class, I felt proud of them. I coped pretty well with the rest of the center work (even getting a compliment for my saute arabesque) but I struggled with the glissade in one combination. I get the move theoretically, but still get confused if I have to do it in a combination. Nevertheless, when thanking Ms. Giodano she complimented me, asked where I was from, and when I would be back!

Conclusion

So all in all, which teacher and class did I prefer? Well, I would have to say all of them! By that, I mean that all the classes complimented each other nicely – some concentrating on basics, others on stretching me; some spending more time on arms, others on the head; some pointing out the technical parts of a move, others the performance aspect of the move. While I think I’ll wait for a few months before heading back to Ms. Moss’ class, I definitely want to head back to Ms. Giodano’s class whenever I’m in New York. I’m also going to start working more on my core strength in between classes (as well as those push-ups for lifts!).

That’s all for now, but feel free to post your thoughts about teaching styles in the comments section!

Until next time, keep on dancing!

A Night At The Ballet!

So yesterday I headed into New York to see the NYC Ballet for the first time and I thought I’d share my experience, as well as giving you all an update on how my classes are going and what’s coming up the next few weeks.

A night at the New York City Ballet

So first, the NYC Ballet. If I was forced to sum my entire evening up in one word I think I would have to go with:

Stunning.

My trip to New York started with a trip to Capezio for some supplies, but I’ll expand on that later and concentrate on the Ballet first. So what did I see? I seem to have picked a perfect evening for my first ‘real’ trip to the Ballet as I managed to catch a little of everything in the triple bill:

  • Serenade (music by Tchaikovsky, choreography by Balanchine)
  • The Magic Flute (music by Drigo, choreography by Martins)
  • Stars and Stripes (music by Sousa, choreography by Balanchine)

A delightful mix of deep emotion, humor, solos, partnering, ensemble dances, “story Ballet” and “plotless Ballet” – a bit of everything really!

The David H Kock Theater and the Met at the Lincoln Center

The David H Kock Theater and the Met at the Lincoln Center

First off, I just want to say how stunning the David H. Koch Theater is – I have always loved going to the Lincoln Center however had never been in the Koch Theater so I was taken aback when I entered. The foyer is a relatively innocuous space but as soon as you walk up either of the side staircases you are faced with a huge atrium surrounded on each of the four levels with a walkway around the entire atrium. I had a ticket for the fourth ring which meant a trek up a few sets of stairs but I was pleasantly surprised to find that even that high up I had a pretty good view of the stage. I was towards the center of the ring and could see the stage in its entirety, the only thing I seemed to miss out on was detail in some facial expressions of the dancers. The seats were fantastically comfortable, and I had plenty of leg room. But now onto the Ballet.

Serenade

Principals: Ashley Bouder, Rebecca Krohn, Jennifer Ringer, Ask la Cour, Jonathan Stafford

I had heard of Serenade referred to as a seminal piece, and the first piece Balanchine choreographed in America and so was eager to see what made it so special. The strings lifted their bows, started playing the opening bars and the curtain raised to an array of women, bathed in blue light and fabric, with their arms outstretched as if trying to catch the moon in the night sky. It is such a striking image, and I really can’t do justice to it with mere words.

From then on I was transfixed. Serenade is essentially plotless, and was originally conceived by Balanchine as an exercise for his students to practice stage technique. As any balletomane will surely tell you, the piece evolved as classes progressed and he worked in little nuances from the practices: a girl arriving late, the sudden appearance of men at a class, a girl falling down (which begins the final Elegy movement). Balanchine also took a little artistic licence in switching the final two movements therefore ending the piece with the Elegy, a much darker ending than if he had stuck with the original finale.

Serenade by NYC Ballet (Photo © Paul Kolnik)

After reaching for the moon the “lesson” begins, with all the women working in unison before the centre dancer starts to distinguish herself. The rest of the story is essentially a love story (or perhaps two) all taking place in the soft blue lighting. Soon the men are introduced, first the two principals each partner one of the females and then later four of the corps danseurs enter to partner multiple women in the corps.

I’m not going to try and describe what happens in terms of combinations or specific moves, but I can remember some delightfully intricate sections with the corps and some superb partnering between the principals. I do want to describe the final movement however.

At the end of the third movement (the pieces original finale) one of the principals has collapsed and lies on the floor. In enters one of the male principals with his eyes covered by a woman, who has her arms clasped around his chest and he is dragging towards the body. As he reaches the body the other woman finally uncovers his eyes so he can see the fallen girl. What follows is a stunningly beautiful final movement which culminates in what I took to signify the fallen girls death followed by a gorgeous scene where she gets raised by three men with her back arched and arms back in agony and walked slowly to the back of the stage while her “sisters” raise en pointe and mimic her pose while the curtain falls.

All in all, Serenade left me utterly speechless. I am glad there was an intermission straight after as I could walk outside and reign my emotions in. For having no real story, Serenade somehow managed to pull very strong and deep emotions out of me, and I had tears in my eyes for most of the final movement. The dancing was impeccable, and it made me realise how much the dancers must have to open themselves up emotionally to perform this piece. I can honestly say that Serenade is one of the most beautiful things I have seen. A masterpiece.

The Magic Flute

Principals: Megan Fairchild, Andrew Veyette

Next up was a complete change of pace – The Magic Flute with music by Drigo and choreography by Peter Martins. Now many of you, like myself, may know Mozart’s fantastic opera Die Zauberflote, however this is completely different music, and indeed a completely different storyline! The basic plot is as follows: peasant girl Lise (Fairchild) is in love with peasant boy Luke (Veyette); Lise’s parents then pretty much sell their daughter’s hand in marriage to an old, creepy king. Oberon appears disguised as a hag and peasant boy helps him/her (I thought Oberon was the king of the faeries, yet in this production he is actually a she) and in return gets given the Magic Flute – an enchanted object that, when played, forces all around to dance. Much jollity ensues as he torments the villagers and king, however he soon gets threatened with hanging because of his misdeeds. Just in time, Oberon reappears and explains that it is his/her own flute after which suddenly everyone wants Lise and Luke to marry and everyone ends up very happy. Kinda typical fairytale stuff, and a nice happy ending for all!

So now that the story is out of the way, what about the dancing? Well first off, this dancing was of a much different style to Serenade and there was a lot of miming to convey the storyline. In fact, other than the villagers, Lise and Luke most of the rest of the cast wore heeled shoes and refrained from dancing, sticking solely to mime. That being said, Fairchild and Veyette easily filled the dancing quote with a stellar performance. You could feel their connection on stage (even in such a comic Ballet) and this was explained when I found out later that they are in fact engaged in real life!

Fairchild and Veyette in The Magic Flute (from NYC Ballet's Twitter account)

One scene in particular I enjoyed was Veyette’s first solo which was basically his character showing off to Lise – involving lots of grand jetes, fouettes and other impressive stuff. What made it even better though, was through all this 6 boys from the American School of Ballet were onstage with him as his backing dancers, doing smaller versions of the moves he was performing. It was great to see the boys enjoying themselves so much, and they were ridiculously good considering their age. Needless to say, they got one of the loudest cheers of the night!

There were some beautiful partnering sections between Fairchild and Veyette and some lovely dancing from a handful of soloists and the corps including a section when the young boys got partners and danced once again. The culmination was a fantastic staging where Fairchild and Veyette danced at center stage surrounded by soloists and the arrangement was matched upstage either side by the young boys and girls.

On that note, I think The Magic Flute would be a great Ballet to take a family to see – that’s not to say that the dancing isn’t exemplary , it is just that there is so much pantomime and humor to the plot that it is ridiculously fun to watch also!

Stars and Stripes

Principals: Erica Pereira, Savannah Lowery, Daniel Ulbricht, Sara Mearns, Charles Askegard

So the night was rounded off with Stars and Stripes which, as the program put it, “contains as much pure dancing as many full-length classical ballets.” They certainly weren’t lying, and as soon as the snare started up for the first movement, the ‘Corcoran Cadets’ appeared, resplendent in military dress (and bright pink tutus!).

This was yet again another style of Ballet completely different from what had preceded. Whereas Serenade was comprised of lush, almost sensual movements, and The Magic Flute filled with expressive, story-based combinations, Stars and Stripes is instead filled with sharp movements, carried out with military-like precision and a smattering of salutes.

The first two ‘campaigns’ were with all female dancers, Corcoran Cadets in pink and the Rifle Regiment in Yellow. Both principals were fantastic however unfortunately during the second campaign Savannah Lowery slipped while running through the stage. She finished the section of dancing but did not return for the rest of the movement, resulting in the corps dancing without a principal for the rest of the campaign. For the final movement (where every regiment dances) Savannah had been replaced by her understudy so as not to affect the overall choreography. I haven’t heard exactly what was the matter with her, but I really hope that she is okay, and just remained out of the final movement as a precaution. In a weird way, this did remind me of how live and real watching a Ballet is. There isn’t room to “do another take” if something goes wrong and as someone once said to me “Ballet is truly an art set in the present, the here and now.”

After the Rifle Regiment, out came ‘Thunder and Gladiator” – the all male regiment. Unsurprisingly, I was looking forward to this regiment the most and couldn’t wait to see plenty of jumps, leaps and turns. I was certainly not disappointed! Every single member of the corps was fantastic but were ultimately overshadowed by the brilliant Daniel Ulbricht. His leaps looked effortless, his turns crisp and he dominated the stage, even while surrounded by 20 or so guys. It sounds a little thing, but another thing that impressed me was his salutes: he had the crispest salutes of anyone dancing, so crisp that I am convinced he must have spent some time in the army! They really gave a feeling that he was the commander of these troops and just added another layer to the performance.

NYC Ballet's Stars and Stripes (Photo © Paul Kolnik)

Following Thunder and Gladiator was Liberty Bell and El Capitan – the Pas des Deux of the piece. This was fantastic, with Mearns and Askegard feeding off each other. They put just enough humor into it to make it fun, while retaining the integrity of the piece. Mearns shone, and I also loved Askegard’s jumping in the coda (where he brings his feet up so his legs form a flat-diamond shape).

For the finale all regiments re-enter, with a stand-in for Savannah, and each get a little highlight before all finishing together while a red and white striped flag was raised at the rear of the stage. I did note with a smile that the men ended up doing a lot of work in this finale – having to partner both sets of women, and not getting much of a break in between!

And all of a sudden it was all over, the lights were raised and I headed out to the Lincoln Center fountain still a little shell-shocked by my night. I had gone through a wealth of emotions during Serenade, laughed through the story of The Magic Flute, and been impressed by the virtuosity of Stars and Stripes. I had experienced a feast for the eyes: dancers with perfect technique, sets varying from effectively bare to immensely detailed, and on top of that the orchestra sounded fantastic. In fact, whereas usually I would concentrate on the music I was amazed at how much of a back seat it took in my mind. I certainly didn’t ignore the music, but it definitely took second place to the dancing.

So to sum up, I will reiterate my one-word description of my evening: Stunning. I can’t think of another word to describe it so perfectly.

Ballet Class Update

So that was my evening at the Ballet – but how are my classes going? Well after my second class I had decided I wanted to do more each week, whether in the form of classes, pilates, yoga or just stretching. With this in mind I headed to my third lesson eager as always. I had more fun than ever and felt I was coming along by the minute. My favorite part was some travelling we did involving two pique passe followed by an arabesque and step. We did it along both diagonals and felt I was starting to nail it when my teacher singled me out for a demonstration. He then handed me a flat tabor-style drum and told me to hold it inside my leading arm. He then made me do the move again, moving the drum out during the arabesque to point out how to hold my arm during the movement. Repeating without the drum I was a little surprised how enthusiastic my teacher was with my technique – he certainly seemed pleased!

One thing that I did find a little confusing was Glissades vs Sissones – it turns out I liked glissades so much that I kept doing them when we moved onto sissones! Definitely something to work on.. I also need to concentrate on my bum (the first time I’ve ever been told that in my life!) and use it to help my weight distribution.

At the end of the lesson I asked my teacher for a quick word and told him my desire to do more and asked what he advised. The first thing he replied with was “can you make the Wednesday class?”. I told him I wasn’t sure and he said that he hoped I could as I had “natural aptitude” and it would be a shame to waste it on only one class a week! I was a little taken aback by this and asked him if there was anything else he suggested. I asked about stretching and the first thing he warned about was lots of static stretching, as this could damage ligaments. His alternative was active stretching: things like grand battements with my back to the Barre (or bathroom sink in my case) to feel the stretch.

After a quick look at my schedule after class I realised I could make the Wednesday class with a little shifting around of stuff, and so signed up straight away. Tuesday seemed to take forever, and Wednesday morning/afternoon even more so but soon enough Wednesday evening came around and I headed back to Princeton for class.

This second class is also taught by Douglas Martin, which I’m really pleased about, and is much smaller than the Monday class – only 10 or 15 students compared to more like 20 to 25. This meant a lot more individual attention which I feel will really help me improve. Another thing that I think is going to help is that there is also an early-twenties beginner guy in this class! I didn’t get much chance to talk to him before the class but as the only two men in the class (and being pretty much the same height and build) we were paired for things like the spotting exercises and travelling across the diagonals.

It was nice to compare technique too – I think at the moment it seems he is a little more flexible whereas my legs are a little stronger so it will be interesting to see how we both progress. Having two young guys also meant Douglas concentrated on a few male specific points during the class – for example, as we are ‘princes’ we have to hold our arms a little lower than we were, as princes only speak softly… I don’t know if I quite got the link between the two, but it certainly was something to think about during the lesson. Oh, and I learned I suck at skipping – obviously not enough practice as a kid in the playground!

So now I’m taking two classes a week (Mon & Wed, both Ballet 101) and the other guy is going to start taking Monday class too so it’ll be good to have someone my own age and sex to discuss class with (most of the class are 40yrs+ women!)and hopefully keep progressing with. So that was why I ended up taking a trip to Capezio – my kit was only just dry for the Wednesday class after washing on Monday so I bought a spare dance belt and tights so I don’t need to worry so much in the future.

As a final note, I’m looking for ideas for what to write posts on – I have a few ideas for some future posts but would like to know what you guys want to read about! Leave any ideas in the comments or send me an email at info@davetriesballet.com

Until next time, keep dancing!