What’s your inspiration?

It seems that recently I’ve been talking quite a bit about inspiration.

First off I’ve had a couple of emails. The first was from a guy in his early twenties who decided to take ballet classes after reading my blog (and the awesome BalletForMen) and, according to him, it’s “changed his life”. Well, ballet certainly changed my life, so I completely believe him! The second was from my old English teacher from High School, who I recently got back in touch with. She had read my blog and was inspired by my courage to try something so different to what I normally do. What I found so touching about this, was that she was the teacher who inspired me most in High School – even though I was dong mostly science subjects. She instilled a real inquisitive nature into me, and a deep love for literature and other art forms, so it meant a lot for me to receive her email.

What really surprised me, was that it was me who inspired these people. I don’t think I am all that inspiring – I’m just doing something I enjoy! And it’s not like I am at a particularly inspiring level: I still struggle with double pirouettes (singles en dedans if I’m honest!) and only have a slight grasp of moves such as tours en l’air or most of grand allegro. In fact, I recently posted some videos of me attempting some rather dodgy pirouettes on Twitter (If you fancy a giggle – the evidence can be found at the end of this post…). My intention was just to get people smiling – the attempts at doubles ended with me either sliding or hopping out of the turn – but in fact, I had a few replies saying how inspiring the videos were and how far I had come from last year.

So I thought, in return, I would talk about what inspires me: and top of the list is all of you! I absolutely love ballet, but I also love sharing my journey. It means so much when I get comments or emails from adults who have started or restarted taking ballet classes. Hearing about your first class or first time buying a dance belt (I know, it’s scary, right?!?) reminds me how far I’ve come and how exciting this journey is. And recently my blog passed 100,000 hits – I can’t express how thankful I am to every single one of you that reads my ramblings and I hope you keep enjoying the blog.

Another major inspiration to me is, of course, the professionals. The dancers who work their butts off to perform for us. It’s especially inspiring when the dancers share a glimpse of their life with us through mediums such as Twitter and Facebook. The list of dancers on twitter keeps growing but special mentions have to go out to Bennet Gartside (@Bennet76), Lauren Cuthbertson (@LondonBallerina), Daniil Simkin (@Daniil) and Ashley Bouder (@AshleyBouder) – all of whom constantly inspire me and remind me that these superhuman dancers are, in fact, just like the rest of us (well with better technique, more grace… you know what I mean!) . On top of these there are some wonderful blogs out there – especially Tights and Tiaras and Tendus Under a Palm Tree; Henrik and Rebecca have done so much to make ballet accessible and friendly.

Finally, I have a website to thank – YouTube! I can’t even begin to guess the number of videos I’ve watched of variations, interviews and even the odd company class! It is such an amazing resource to let us watch clips of performers that geography and money would otherwise not allow. It also allows us to watch footage of some of the greatest dancers to have ever lived that aren’t dancing anymore. Talking of these legends, I leave you with a clip of one of the greatest male dancers ever, dancing one of my favorite variations: Baryshnikov dancing Albrecht from Act 2 of Giselle.

So what’s your inspiration? Please let me know in the comments!

Until next time, keep dancing!

Oh, and here’s the links to those pirouette videos! First up, two cleanish singles…

Cleanish single 1 on Twitpic Cleanish Single 2 on Twitpic

And now two rather dodgy attempts at doubles/triples! I call the second attempt the “hoppity hop hop” :)

Dodgy Triple on Twitpic Hoppity hop hop... on Twitpic

Rediscovering Pirouettes

As I’ve mentioned before I recently started at a new dance school and have been getting back up to speed after a summer with hardly any classes… A ‘humbling’ experience, when your classmates are 10 years younger than you and include a former West End Billy Elliot!

We’ve been working on the old RAD syllabus as three of the students are taking their exams next week, after which we’ll be working on the new RAD Intermediate Syllabus (hopefully leading up to me taking the exam!). As such, the last few weeks have mainly concentrated on the centre work, and it has mostly been a case of following along at the back. Obviously this isn’t ideal, and the teacher keeps on apologizing, but I’m quite happy – it lets me get back into the swing of things without being under a great deal of scrutiny.

But I’ve had a problem. Since coming back my pirouettes have deserted me. It’s like they decided to stay in America when I moved back to the UK. How rude! Well I’ve obviously been searching for them high and low (and down the back of the sofa) and last week the whole class were given 5 minutes to work on our pirouettes by ourselves. Meanwhile the teacher called out some general pointers – “keep your arms strong”, “keep your eyes up”, “snap to the passé”…

I suddenly realized probably the biggest mistake I was making. Somewhere whilst flying across the Atlantic I had decided to not bother spotting!

Sure enough, I prepared in 4th, concentrated on a strong head spot and immediately cranked out a semi-clean double en dehors! As I landed my grin appeared and it didn’t stop for the rest of class. I’ve since spent the rest of the week practicing spotting at home, although that did result in a close encounter with my (unlit, thankfully) fireplace!

And as I was walking home last week I remembered this scene from Billy Elliot and it pretty much summed up what had just happened (including that slightly embarrassed feeling when you realize you’re smiling to yourself about something no-one else has seen). Oh, and just a warning, if you’ve got delicate ears watch out for the swearword at 2:07…

Until next time, keep dancing!