Where to Start? Beginning Ballet as an Adult

Recently I’ve been getting lots of emails from people wanting to start (or come back to) ballet, often in their twenties. I’ve been more than happy to reply to people and help them prepare for their first class, and it has made me think about what advice I would give myself, if I could go back 3 and a half years to when I first started ballet.

I thought I would share some of the advice I have been giving out in the hope that it might answer some questions people have, and calm some fears. I also asked for some help from my twitter followers and got some great questions and tips that I’ve tried to include. These tips are in semi-chronological order and I’ve tried to cover most of the big topics – let me know if I missed anything off! Continue reading

How time flies!

They say that time flies when you are having fun. This is certainly the case when I realised that this week marks my 3rd “Ballet-versary” – it’s three years since my first ever ballet lesson!

Me dancing with Ellie in the Le Corsaire Adage (© Derwood Photography). Would never have believed I could do this!

Me dancing with Ellie in the Le Corsaire Adage (© Derwood Photography). Would never have believed I could do this!

I can’t quite believe it. It seems like only yesterday that I did my first ever plié and got confused by “the glissande-thing” (at least I know my terminology has improved since then!).

Since my first class I’ve managed to do so many things I could have never imagined. I daren’t think of my reaction if you’d told me before that first class that I’d perform in a full-length Swan Lake as Rothbart, or that I’d perform the full adage from the Le Corsaire pas de deux.

The only reason I’ve been able to do so much is that I’ve been lucky enough to have some truly amazing teachers. Not only have they been patient and welcoming, but they’ve inspired me to push and stretch myself beyond my self-imposed boundaries. I cannot thank them enough, and hope that they can see just how grateful I am.

I also need to thank all you readers! You help inspire me with every comment, tweet, or hit to the website. In particular, I love receiving emails from people just starting ballet. If you have any questions then feel free to tweet me or send an email to info@davetriesballet.com. And if you thinking about taking the leap into your first ballet class – DO IT!

Something else that happened this last week that I’d never have imagined three years ago. Thanks to being a Student Ambassador for the Royal Opera House last year, I was chosen to get a week’s work experience there. I was working with the Digital Development and Digital Media teams and had an amazing time! I can’t go into much detail about the actual work but I got to work on some exciting projects for their website and even wrote a couple of news pieces – my first ever article on the ROH website is about the awesome mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato!

Just being part of such an institution for the week was highly inspiring – everyone I worked with seemed so passionate about their work. Plus, walking past dancers like Lauren Cuthbertson, Steven McRae, Thiago Soares and Bennet Gartside in the corridor (and mainly being too ballet starstruck to say hello!) was obviously a massive inspiration, even if I never managed to escape work to go see Don Quixote rehearsals… I guess I’ll just have to wait until the opening gala at the end of the month!

This last Sunday (just like every fortnight) I had 4.5 hours of ballet – and loved every second. It was jam packed – my teachers had me learning Basilio’s variation from Don Quixote, the opening section of the Swan Lake Pas de Trois, and the following Pas de Quatre from Raymonda‘s Grand Pas de Dix:


Needless to say – so much fun!

I’m going to try to update the blog a bit more regularly than recently – my life is settling down into a bit of a routine so should be able to fit in more blogging. Unfortunately, work has meant I’ve had to stop my Tuesday class each week, but I’ll still be taking class every Wednesday and Friday, and every other Sunday for my mammoth rehearsal sessions. I’ll be blogging about stuff happening in class and preparations for two productions I’m going to be in – La Fille mal Gardée with the adult group in December (I’ll be performing as Colas), and Cinderella with the youth ballet company in March (I’ll be performing as the King and Dance Teacher). I’m also planning some pieces on specific ballets – Romeo & Juliet is top of the list (as it’s my favourite ballet!). Please let me know if there’s anything you want to read about.

You’ll also notice some changes to the DaveTriesBallet website over the next few weeks. I’ve been having some real difficulties with WordPress at the moment – all of my comments have vanished from the dashboard! So I’m also taking this as an opportunity to freshen up the site a bit – any feedback on the changes is very welcome.

Until next time, keep on dancing!

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P.S. An update on the website: Thanks to the truly amazing @clouddancefest comments should now be working! Unfortunately I’ve lost all previous comments (*sadface*) but new ones should work – yay!

Taking time to look back

Today I couldn’t remember which way round bravo, bravi and brava went in terms of saying it for guys, girls or groups (I’m currently doing #NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month] in my spare time and my main character went to see a ballet…). I typed it into google and was searching results when I suddenly remembered that I had written about it in my guide to seeing a ballet! After finding the answer I started flicking through a few of my old blog posts.

I ended up on this post from last October. While reading through suddenly a huge smile crossed my face, specifically at this line:

And then, get this, I DID A PIROUETTE!

I took a moment and realised that I’ve come quite a way since then. That post was from just over a year ago and I can still remember that excitement I had when I first made it around a full 360?. Sure, it weren’t pretty but it seemed like such a huge achievement, and at the time it was. I then reflected on how annoyed I had been yesterday when practicing in the studio and my double pirouettes were being decidedly inconsistent. Thinking of how excited I had been at a single pirouette (let’s be honest, it was a pretty ugly pirouette too!) put things in perspective.

The RAD Intermediate Syllabus that I'm working on

As much as I don’t like doing it (I guess my British modesty makes me feel uncomfortable :P) sometimes I think it is important for us adult beginners (and indeed all dancers) to look back and be proud of how far we’ve progressed. I’m doing stuff now that I would never have guess I would be able to do a year ago.

Mind you, I’m nowhere near where I want to be, and it frustrates me at times when I can’t do things (I’m looking at you tours en l’air…). But at the same time I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I’m currently working towards my RAD Intermediate exam which I will hopefully take some time next year. I may be sharing a classroom with kids from 14-18 years old but I’m still proud of just making it to a level where I can take the class. Who knows how I will do when the exam comes around, but put it this way – I love a challenge!

So I want all of you readers who dance to take a moment and think back on how far you’ve come, I think you’ll be surprised at just how much you’ve achieved. And next time you get frustrated in class think about that!

Until next time, keep on dancing!

Second First Day of Class!

What a difference a year makes. Or then again, maybe not…

Pretty much exactly this time last year I was getting ready for my first ever Ballet class at Princeton with Douglas Martin, former principal with the Joffrey Ballet and an amazing teacher. I was rather nervous but also really excited and it went great – class was awesome and it started my whole journey.

Then this year I’ve had a second ‘first day’.

Although I’ve taken a couple of classes “up North” and the ENB Petit Workshop I haven’t really had a chance to take any classes this summer – there were no classes nearby (the nearest was 50 miles away in Newcastle/Edinburgh) and my one day off each week from the pub was spent flat-hunting, furniture-buying and PhD-preparing. So the last 2+ months have been largely Ballet class free. Bad times.

So today was my second first day – I was going to a dance school in Bath I’d never been to before. I contacted them after getting a list of nearby schools from the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) and they seemed highly recommended online. I dropped them an email earlier in the summer but had a delayed reply as they’ve been undergoing renovations, and gave them a ring about a month ago. They said that I could come and take a class and after a few questions suggested I try the RAD Intermediate level class. They said to come along on a Tuesday evening, but they would kind of ‘reserve the right’ to tell me if they thought the class was too advanced for me and not to come back (in the nicest possible way). I thought this was perfectly fair – it’s not worth wasting my, the teacher’s or my classmates’ time. But at the same time it was kind of scary.

The old RAD Intermediate syllabus we'd be working on

Most of my previous classes have been Adult classes and as such have a sense of ‘freedom’ to them. We have all chosen to be there (not been ‘encouraged’ to go by our parents!) and there isn’t any pressure to do everything perfectly. That’s not to say I don’t try, but it’s not all that strict in the studio. And we don’t have exams! But I tried to calm my nerves: at least I could go and check out the school and be sure I was in the right level class.

So I called in yesterday and introduced myself to one of the ladies there. She showed me around and told me to come for 6:30 for the hour class. I checked what I should wear: just smart so my usual black tights/white shirt/black slippers would be fine. Then there was a slightly awkward minute or two when she asked “you do wear *ahem* ‘support’ don’t you?”. I assured her I would never think of dancing without a dance belt (and neither should any of my male readers!) and we swiftly changed topic!

Today I’ve been busy getting University stuff sorted (now the proud owner of a library card!) but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been nervous about class. In fact, I’ve been pretty terrified. Penguin Shuffle calls it the Bridget Jones Factor – the fear that you’re going to be “found out” as an amateur and thrown out of class. I had this fear that I would be woefully inept in class and not allowed to return. As with most things I worry about, I let it stew all day getting worse and worse. It didn’t help that I got an early bus (for fear of delays and being late) and ended up arriving at 5:30 for the 6:30 class. Oops. So there was plenty of time to worry in the lobby…

By the time 6 came around I went and introduced myself to the other ladies in the school office and went to get changed in the changing cubicle – for once no need to worry about dropping my tights down the toilet! Warming up in the corridor a couple of boys arrived and when we entered the studio we were the only ones there. Sure enough, soon six or seven girls arrived and I went to introduce myself to the teacher – Karen Paisley, former principal at the Royal Ballet.

Karen asked what Ballet I’d done previously and she explained that the class had an exam in 3 weeks so she wouldn’t be able to walk through each exercise as she needed to check the students had memorised the combinations correctly. I assured her that was fine and I’d try to follow as best as I can. I’m actually sort of proud with how I coped – I could predict some sequences and had the sequence nailed by the second side for the most part. Centre was tougher, but I managed to roughly follow along.

Karen is a great teacher too – she pinpointed almost immediately one of my main problems: sickling my foot during exercises like rondes de jambe en l’air. She also complimented me on my feet ( :) ) and spotted I’m a “leftie” when it comes to turning. I’m still not entirely sure why this is – I’m right handed for one – but I always find turning left easier. Like in the doubles en dehor tonight I was staying in my passé throughout my turns to the left, finishing en face before landing. On the right however I was dropping out of my passé midway through the second revolution. Part of this, Karen explained, was due to me sickling my right foot slightly in passé. I think it was also due to me being a little scared of pirouettes from 4th – I tend to ease off the power a little just in case it all goes wrong and so need to have a little more confidence, and impetus, next time. I’m also not used to a little fouetté to start en dedans turns (instead of straight to passé) – will have to get used to them!

And all too soon class was over. After thanking Karen and quickly getting changed I checked in with the main office. They asked how I had found the class and I was honest and said I felt it was just the right difficulty for me. That’s not to say I found it easy, but I knew all the steps and feel I could work towards getting the combinations right quite quickly. I don’t know if she had talked to Karen already but she seemed really pleased and said “great, come back next week”. :)

So all the worry was for naut in the end, I had an absolutely fantastic time and can’t wait to go back next week. I did ask about whether RAD do exams for people my age and she said they definitely do and Karen would certainly consider entering me for an exam somewhere down the line. This is really cool – as adults we rarely have a definite goal to work towards in our class, and I look forward to taking on the challenge of the exam. And hopefully passing!

So that’s one class a week. There’s also a couple of classes run by the university during term time I’m going to look at, and maybe head into London every so often to take some classes (although at £35 return that won’t be too often). Also, I’ve got a meeting with the university rowing team tomorrow morning to discuss their training plan. I don’t know yet if I will have time to do both (and get a PhD!) but I’m excited to see how my free-time is going to be filled up this year.

This happened to me on the way home. Twice.

Oh, and you know that scene in movies where a truck hits a puddle and soaks a pedestrian from head to foot? That happened to me on the way back from ballet. Twice. Back to reality I guess…

Until next time, keep dancing!

P.S. If you had a ‘first class’, a second ‘first class’ or a fiftieth ‘first class’ recently, let me know how it went!

Ballet Classes “Up North”

So I posted recently that I’ve headed back to the UK, and one of the problems with coming back here is the lack of Ballet classes. I live in rural Northumberland (just south of Scotland) and, to be honest, there isn’t much of anything around here, never mind dance schools! I live on a farm, my nearest village is a mile away and has a grand total of one greengrocers, one butchers, one delicatessen and four pubs (we have our priorities straight!). My nearest cities are Edinburgh and Newcastle – both 50 miles away. So it wasn’t going to be easy finding classes.

The lovely town of Alnwick

So I contacted a family friend, Clare, who is currently training in dance physiotherapy and is a really good dancer. I guessed if anyone would know where to take classes, it would be her. I sent her an email back in April and she sent me the contact details of her old teacher, Miss Moseley, who teaches at Alnwick. Alnwick is an old market town with a fantastic castle (that was featured as part of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films) and some cool open Gardens I worked in for two summers (including Europe’s biggest treehouse).

So I called Miss Moseley, who was very nice and explained that term finishes in three or four weeks time but I’d be welcome to take classes until then. I assured her this was fine; any classes are better than none! I got all the details and yesterday went to my first class at Alnwick School of Dance. Classes are held at the Mechanics Institute and after getting changed in the shower room (the room usually used as the boy’s changing room had a WI meeting in it) I headed on upstairs.

Alnwick Mechanics Institute - a bit of a change from Broadway Dance Center!

I’m sure most of you reading this blog will have seen Billy Elliot. I absolutely adore the film and have watched it countless times. You know the scenes where Julie Walters is teaching in the local hall – hard wooden floors and a couple of free-standing mirrors? Well this was kind of like that! Not in a bad way either – it was kind of quaint, but a big change from the big open studios of NYC!

I had been told tights were a no-no, so I had jazz pants and a white t-shirt on and headed in. Miss Moseley was really nice, and asked what I’d done before. Class was pretty busy; she was teaching the new RAD Intermediate Ballet (I think!) so the class was a mix of Grade 6 and 7 students. This did mean I was surrounded by 14-18 year olds, but after the first 10 minutes it didn’t really bother me – and they were really good! I was pleased to see quite a few boys there too, probably 5 or 6 out of a total class of 15 or so!

Class was very different to normal. First off, we were learning to a syllabus. So for example, plies were a set combination that the students are having to memorize for their exams. Also, we all started facing the teacher and that meant I started with my right hand on the barre. This was really strange! I always start barre on my right side and it was a pleasant mental exercise to start the ‘wrong way around’ for once. Other differences included relaxing my fifth – the English system seems to require not as tight a fifth as the Russian system, so the teacher recommended relaxing it a little to save my knees some stress.

During centre work we got to pirouettes and I was surprised to find separate boys and girls combinations. I’ve only ever had one class where there was any distinction between guys and girls (when we did tours en l’air) and it was cool to see the difference. I managed some clean en dehors doubles which I was pleased with and although she asked for doubles en dedans I stuck to working on clean singles.

Grand allegro was simply grand jetes across the floor and this was where I realised that taking open classes means there are some gaps in my training. Grand jetes still don’t come easy to me and I find them one of the hardest jumps to do, even though they seem like they should be pretty easy. They just don’t quite feel right – I always want to switch legs mid-air – and they dredge up some pretty painful memories of failed attempts at triple jump in Middle School. She also asked if I’d done jetes en tournant a manege – I think that’s what they’re called: those leaps guys normally do in variations in a big circle around the stage. When I said I hadn’t she said she might pop them into next week’s class! Here’s the step – if I’ve got the name wrong please correct me in the comments!

And the coolest thing was her saying that next week if I could stay around for the girl’s pointe class afterwards, I could do some partnering work! She asked how much partnering I had done, if any, and I told her I had done a workshop but nothing else. She said that was fine and I hope I didn’t come across too excited at the prospect of partnering! It is one aspect of Ballet I wish I could do more of, and hopefully will get a chance to do more in the future. And that was the end of my first class in the UK!

And before you know it, I was back again today for another class! Although I was originally meant to take Miss Moseley’s Grade 6 class, she suggested I take the Grade 7 class instead as she thought it would be more interesting for me. It was a non-syllabus class, so a little random at times, but a lot of fun. After a fairly standard barre (including a killer grand battement combination with releves and 24 on each side) we headed to centre for turning work.

I’m not a natural turner (far from it) but survived the soutenou/chaines combination. Then we did fouette turns, which was a crazy coincidence as just before leaving for class I had been reading about the physics behind fouettes (thanks to @TheDanceTheorem’s inspiration). I’ve never done them before, and did a couple to the right but then decided to play it safe and work on the coordination on the left at the barre. It’s definitely something I’m going to work on at home, and can’t wait to try them ‘for real’ again some time. The beats combination was also a lot of fun – including entrechat quatres, battu changements, echappe beats and entrechat cinq!

Another benefit of living here: seeing this every day!

So these are my classes for the next four weeks, but after that I don’t think there’ll be very much. I am planning on a couple of trips to London (including a trip to Cloud Dance Festival : Firefly where I’m really looking forward to seeing Tommy Franzen dance Kristen McNally’s solo) so hopefully will take a few classes in the city, as well as occasional trips to Newcastle or Edinburgh. Other than that though, I’ll be working a lot – so I guess I’ll just have to be content in thinking that I’m saving money that can go towards classes down in Bath!

Well that’s it for now – I’m off to stretch whilst eating freshly picked strawberries. There’s some definite perks to living on a farm!

Until next time, keep dancing!

Dave Tries Something New!

Today was one of “those” days.

It had all been so promising. I survived my Masters defense talk on Thursday (thus finishing my Masters), celebrated with friends that night, spent Friday morning recovering from the hangover then the rest of the day exploring the Delaware Water Gap.

Tried to celebrate with an outdoor arabesque at the Delaware Water Gap. Learnt two things: arabesqueing in tight jeans without warming up is hard, and trying to take a picture of it by yourself is also pretty hard!

So I was looking to continue my celebrations today with a trip to NYC, my usual Ballet classes at the Joffrey School followed by a night at the Theater. Perfect!

Well it would have been, if it had all panned out that way. First off I got up at 7, got the bus at 7:45, arrived at the Stephen Sondheim Theater at 8:50 and waited in the torrential rain (thank god for umbrellas and marquees!) until the box office opened at 10 for a rush ticket to Anything Goes. Except that at 9:30 a guy comes out to tell us that because the show is sold out today, there wouldn’t be any rush tickets. Great.

Oh well, I thought, I’ll just run and grab the pair of Ballet slippers I need for Coppelia at Capezio then head down to the Village for a bit. Except Capezio didn’t open until 10. So after my fourth Starbucks of the day (seriously) I arrived at Capezio to grab my slippers. Heading to the subway in the rain, I made my way down to West 4th.

I was still way too early for my class so headed to a pen shop to buy my professor a thank you present, and then sat in another coffee shop to wait until it was time for class. Eventually it was not so early as to be embarrassing and so I headed to class.

Except.

The school was closed for Easter! I felt like such an idiot for not checking before heading in, but seeing as adult classes had still run over the spring break holiday I just assumed they would still be on today.

I was annoyed at myself. I was frustrated. I was disappointed. And I seriously contemplated heading straight home and back to bed.

But then I stopped and realised that I could use this as a chance to try somewhere new! I’ve always avoided taking classes at other places as I never know what their class difficulties equate to, but I thought to hell with it. I’ll just try somewhere and see what happens. After all, the day couldn’t get much worse!

So I head up to Steps on Broadway. I hear so many people talk about Steps that I’ve been a little intimidated in the past, scared I’ll go and just be surrounded by pro’s and broadway performers. Turns out I had nothing to worry about – sure there is the ridiculously good dancers there (I had a peek through the door of a adv/pro ballet class – wow!) but then there are also people like me who just want to learn dance and take class for their own enjoyment and satisfaction.

The inimitable Steps on Broadway

The inimitable Steps on Broadway

Approaching the reception desk I found out that I had just missed an Advanced Beginner Ballet class but there was a Beginner Ballet later this afternoon, so I signed myself straight up. I had three hours to kill until then though, so with a little encouragement from the guy at reception, decided to try something different. Hell, I’ll try anything once!

So we looked for what beginner classes there were that afternoon, and an hour later (with a quick run to buy some yoga pants to use instead of tights) I found myself in a beginner theatre jazz class. I was more than a little nervous, but had been assured that with my Ballet knowledge I should be fine.

It was a small class with four guys and six or seven girls, ranging from one of the guys and a couple of the girls being really good, to me and a few others who were pretty much novices.

Well I wanted something different to a regular ballet class, and I certainly got it! First thing our teacher does: tell us the only thing he wants us to think about is “nose over toes” and launches into our warm up to some classic broadway numbers (I’m a bit of a theatre-geek so I approved). The next hour and a half was pretty nonstop but both intense and fun. I had to use my body in ways I’ve never done in Ballet that I had to really concentrate, but at the same time the ethos of the class was to relax, not care and just have fun.

This made for a great atmosphere where I didn’t feel afraid to just go for it, which was a good thing as I felt completely out of my depth! Between turning in, isolation of body parts, the occasional ‘jazz hands’ and a really fast pace, there were times I didn’t really have a clue what was happening. But the cool thing was my body managed better than my brain did! Most of the steps derive from Ballet, just with a different execution. For example, a grapevine? Just like a travelling pas de bouree! It makes a lot more sense to me now that there is such a crossover between Ballet and Broadway, with choreographers like Robbins, Balanchine and, more recently, Stroman being successful in both.

So all in all, it was a great class – throwing me out of my comfort zone in such a good way. Sure, I’m not going to be dropping Ballet to switch to Theater, but I think I might invest in some jazz shoes and I’ll certainly take a few beginner classes in the future. It is kinda cool that my 101st ever dance class was my first ever non-Ballet one, and I’m going to try to take some more jazz and theatre jazz before leaving for the UK.

As I was leaving I thanked the teacher, and told him I had never taken a jazz class before and throughly enjoyed it. He said I had done really well and asked about what I danced. Telling him I had only done Ballet before he revealed that the really good guy in class was actually one of his friends and a NYCB soloist! No wonder he was way better and much more flexible than me!

So after that change of pace I headed upstairs to stretch before the Beginner Ballet class. What I found really cool about Steps was that so much was going on that you could watch – in one studio there was the adv/pro Ballet (wowza, those guys were good!), in the next one some tap (would love to try that one day), in the next one some flamenco and then in the next a jazz class. There was such an energy it just made you want to dance and dance and dance!

We were following the jazz class, and as they were finishing I watched them doing a cool combination to Lady Gaga’s latest offering, Born This Way. The dancers put so much energy into the performance I felt like applauding as I got warmed up at the Barre. Our teacher then entered with even more energy – chatting away both to us and herself! The pianist then graced us with a lovely classical arrangement of Born This Way while we warmed our feet up, followed later by an arrangement of Cee-Lo’s Forget You (or rather *Expletive* You) and other current hits. It was really cool to have stuff like mixed in with bits of Coppelia, Tchaikovsky and the usuals.

The next 90 minutes were a really fun and surprisingly intense class with a few changes to what I’m used to. Like frappes from a pointed coupé (weird!) to travelling grand battement relevés (hard!) to a closed-eye port de bras exercise (enlightening!). One of the teachers main comments to me during our adagio was to think of having a “heavy pelvis” which seemed to help and she said that my “body has a lot of good training in there, now we just need to make it easier for it to use it.” I guess that means more stretching!

Class zoomed by and with our final set of pique and chaîne turns (narrowly avoiding a collision with the mirror) time was up and I was headed back to New Jersey.

Overall, today was so completely different to my usual classes that it is hard to compare. I still prefer a very classical Ballet class, but I enjoyed letting go a little today too. I think in the future I might try to mix up both the regular Ballet classes with some jazz or theatre jazz although I guess it’ll depend on when/where I can take class.

Well this Dave tried something different today, and now this Dave is headed for a good nights sleep!

Until next time, keep dancing!

Some Thoughts on Ballet Class

So this post came about rather unexpectedly, and stemmed from a video I posted on my Tumblr site (where I post random pictures, videos, quotes or thoughts that generally aren’t important enough to warrant a full blog post). I’ll talk about the video in a moment, but it got me thinking about some of the thoughts that go through my head during a Ballet class.

Let’s take this Saturday. On Saturdays I head into New York and take classes at the Joffrey Ballet School: generally taking Basic Ballet, then Advanced Beginner Ballet and finally, after an hour break, Beginner Ballet. This triplet is affectionately known to those who take it as the “trifecta” and never fails to leave me both satisfied and absolutely shattered.

I absolutely love Ballet class, as I’m sure you know if you read this blog or my tweets. But part of the problem with Adult Ballet classes in general is that there isn’t really a standard definition of the levels. In fact, the actual difficulty of the class often depends on who is teaching or taking it: the Adv Beg and Beg Ballet classes vary week-to-week as to which stretches me more.

As such, sometimes I can feel a bit like Dawn French in this hilarious clip from The Vicar of Dibley with the Royal Ballet’s then-principal Darcey Bussell

It is easy to feel like everyone else in the class is way better than you. It may be someone cranking out a few fouettes like in the video, but it might be something a lot more basic. I’m nowhere near as flexible as other people in class, and when we’re all on the floor with legs in second stretching forward, my attempt feels completely pathetic compared to everyone else who pretty much have their chests on the floor.

But I’ve come to a realization. Everyone in an adult Ballet class is there for themselves. No-one else. And that is exactly how it should be.

With that in mind, it’s clear that it is not a competition; we are all taking class just for ourselves so it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. Everyone has things they struggle with in class, and everyone works at their own level. If everyone struggled at the same point then class would be pretty boring! The important thing is to try and concentrate on what you struggle with, work out what your level is, what your achievable goals are, and then try to reach them!

As for my stretching, I went up to my teacher after class and asked if there is anything I can do to help. It turns out I don’t sit far enough forward when in second so I’m going to work on sitting forward with my legs straight in front before moving on to legs apart. Sure, I might not be as flexible as others in class, but the important thing is I’m working on it!

One of the amazing things I find with class is that, without fail, there is always at least one point in class where something goes awesomely right, so I try to concentrate on that if I’m feeling a little demoralized. In the first class on Saturday I nailed a great (for me at least) double pirouette from fourth – the best I’ve ever done! The teacher suggested anyone feeling comfortable with a single just try a double and it just happened. My leg was turned out, my head was up, my spot was quick and I finished in a nice passe before dropping my foot down. The teacher didn’t see it (the class was a good 30 or 40 students) but it didn’t matter. Because Ballet class is there for me, and no-one else. Something my teacher did see was my arabesque in the third class. I’ve been working hard with her on my arabesque because I have a tendency to tilt my shoulders and upper back and to drop my toes, but on Saturday I held a half-decent balance and was rewarded with a “well done”, which meant the world to me. Sure, my leg was nowhere near as high as others, but it was an achievement for me.

It was also great to see a guy in his first ever Ballet class on Saturday! Mark was about my age and took Basic Ballet and did ridiculously well for his first class! When we got to the center work he was having a little trouble with a tombee, pas de bouree, glissade, assemble combination, and I could remember how tricky I found this, so I stayed at the back of the class with him and took him through it slowly. When he got it, he beamed from ear to ear, and I had a smile to match! Like I said earlier, we all have our levels we work at whether it’s our 1st, 101st or 1001st class.

So at the end of the day, even if it feels like you’re way behind everyone else, we should smile and enjoy class, even when it’s tough. Perhaps especially when it’s tough.
Which brings me back to the video, because it makes me smile.
A lot.

Until next time, keep dancing!

Partnering – Finger Turns and Shoulder Sits and Fish Dives, Oh My!

So, as promised, here is the second part of my partnering post. If you haven’t read the first half (and if not, where have you been?!) then take a look here. Also, just like last time, I don’t pretend to be an expert on partnering – in fact the complete opposite – so if you want some tips from the Pro’s check out the collaboration by Tights and Tiaras and Tendus Under a Palm Tree: part one and part two.

So today I headed back to Doylestown for the second half of Ed’s partnering workshop. I was definitely excited but also a little nervous – as I mentioned in the first post, partnering is hard! That being said, I can now say that it certainly gets better! Not that it isn’t still hard, but I think with me and the girls being a little more confident (and hopefully they trusted me more) it certainly got easier, and we ended up doing some more advanced stuff too.

This week there was only Ed, Marc and myself to partner six girls, so it ended up with myself and Marc getting three girls each, leaving Ed to teach/observe. To start we did the same exercise as last week – girls in sous-sous and me tilting them side to side then front and back. The girls we much more stable this week and Ed got me to tilt a little more than I had previously. There was one new girl this week who was a little nervous to start but she soon got the hang of keeping still and trusting I had her safe.

We then went straight into a combination of bouree to fourth followed by pirouettes, passe or ‘assisted pirouettes’. After a couple of attempts I started to really feel where the girls were balanced, and Ed got me to keep their weight left when going for the pirouette which definitely helped them stabilise.

A couple of pointers came up here that were repeated a few times throughout class that I definitely found helped. First, keep the girls at around arms length. Although it initially felt to me that I had more control over the girls the closer in I was, in fact the opposite was true, and staying arms length away let me keep my posture strong (a nice strong second position), keep control of the girl and easily compensate if anything went wrong. Second, as Ed put it – don’t be afraid to manhandle a bit! I mentioned last week how my assisted-pirouettes were a little lacklustre at times and Ed got me to put a bit more force into it this week which definitely helped. The third pointer was to make sure I always returned to “home-base”: hands on hips with thumbs around her back to support her if her weight shifts back. Oh, and for you girls, skirts, t-shirts and the like are a no-no in partnering: it is easy for the guys fingers to get caught up in the strings and is much easier if you are wearing a good ol’ leotard!

Next up was some arabesque work with the girl pique-ing to arabesque promenade to a penchee promenade, then passe, devant, grand rond de jambe to a la seconde croise then to a final arabesque. This was a bit of a mental workout for me, every switch to a different pose would result in a weight shift for the girl (especially the a la seconde to arabesque), and the task for me was to slightly preempt this shift so that the changes were smooth. This was one point where keeping my arms stretched really helped, especially in the promenade. Holding the girl close resulted in me shuffling in a very non-graceful manner, whereas keeping her at arms length allowed me to effectively strut, and show the girl off for all to see.

One thing to note, that I stupidly didn’t realise to start with. When the girl is in penchee, it is nice to help her come back up by tilting her hips. On my first attempt I kind of left the girl down there and was confused why she wasn’t coming back up. Not only does the tilting help her up, but it also tells her when to rise – after all, the guy is in control!

Tiler Peck & Tyler Angle in a rather 'unconventional' partnering pose! (Estancia by Christopher Wheeldon, ©2010 Paul Kolnik)

This was also one of the points where Ed demonstrated the movement on me to help me understand what the girl was feeling. Having him tilt my hips while in penchee showed me just how much it helps the girl, and made me much more aware of my hands. I’ve also got a new found respect for the girls – it’s kind of scary trusting someone else when you are close to landing face-first on the floor. And I was only on demi-pointe!

While on the topic of demos, Ed and Marc also gave us an excerpt of a new piece ARB are doing this season, choreographed for 6 men and including a Pas de Deux between the two of them. I had seen this performed at the On Pointe session yesterday, and it is truly impressive stuff. Not only do the pair work very well together, but there are sections that are truly fascinating to watch – like Marc balanced on Ed’s thighs while he plies in second, or another point where Marc is in a one-armed handstand and Ed lift’s him from Marc’s other shoulder. If anyone lives in New Jersey, make sure you catch a performance!

Now came something new and exciting – finger turns! This is where the guy points a finger down above the girl’s head and she turns while loosely holding onto the finger to keep her balance. To start we did chaines across the floor, ending in a fondu to pique arabesque. As the guy I found that I should push down slightly on her fist, while the girl slightly pushes up. Otherwise, as with our first attempt, it is easy for the girl to lose her grip after which there is no way to reconnect while on the move. Also, something to note that seems obvious now but still proved slightly problematic – once the turns are over, the girl has to let go of the finger so that the guy can hold her in the arabesque!

Next up were more finger turns, but this time what I’ve deemed the ‘fouette finger turn’ (feel free to correct me with the proper term!). This is where the girl is in passe, right arm in high fifth grasping my right finger, and her left hand is in second holding my left. She then stretches to devant croise before whipping her leg around (and switching to passe) and turning. A lot of their initial movement comes from pushing off my left arm so it’s important for the guy to keep it strong – even giving them a little assistance. Then to stop them you catch their left hand as it is crossing your chest and ‘stretch them out’ as they finish turning. I was amazed how quickly we got the knack of this move – and all three girls were soon knocking out double – and it looks really impressive! I did get ‘told off’ for watching the girl in the mirror instead of in ‘real life';after all there aren’t mirrors on stage!

Following straight on from these turns were fouette turns without the finger – now it was up to me to give her the start of the turn from the hips. This is another case of the guy not only helping the girl, but also dictating when the turn should start. It turns out you can give quite a strong push/pull and get quite a few turns out of the girls! Oh, and girls please keep your arms in during these turns! I got a couple of bashes on the way around…

Next up was something that was really cool – the fish dive! The girl starts in arabesque and the guy wraps one arm under her hips and brings the other under her arabesque leg to meet the other hand on her far hip. Next the guy lifts her (and as Marc pointed out, the more you lift the easier it is) and she brings her ‘standing’ leg to passe as the guy steps back and kind of lunges. As the guy ,if you lift your elbows it seems to help the girl keep her back up and then make sure to place her back on her pointe. Oh, and if you are carrying the girl across stage (as we practiced) you have got to keep your chest lifted; not only does it look better, but it allows for better support.

As a bit of a break from the complicated stuff, we practiced a simple walk/run across the stage. Simple, right? As with all of partnering, it was a little more subtle than at first sight. The guy holds the girls right hand in his, and has his left on her back. This lets him once again control when the movement starts, by a little push on her back (not too hard!).

What followed was what Ed and Marc both said is one of the hardest things to master in partnering – an attitude promenade. This was done by a clasping of palms/wrists and virtually all the turning torque was from the first two fingers of both partners. What resulted was an “S” shape forming from the partners arms, and keeping shoulders strong and locked the guy walks around in a perfect circle. As the guy, it is inevitably our responsibility to match the girl’s pace, and if the girl starts to get ahead of you there is nothing for you to do but quicken your step! For something that looks so simple, it’s really hard to get right, and just because you start the promenade well doesn’t mean you’ll be able to finish it!

We finished with lifts again, heading straight into successive sous-sous’s and entrechat sixes. Once again, these seemed to have improved from last week and so we went on to our final move – the shoulder sit. After Ed had given the girls instructions in how to sit down (bums out!) we gave it a go (with Ed and Marc spotting the girl to ensure no mishaps).

To start I didn’t lift the girl high enough and she simply slid back down my chest. No good.

Next try I really made sure to lift the girl and, on Ed and Marc’s suggestion, thought more of putting my shoulder under her, than putting her over on onto my shoulder. Suddenly, bingo! It worked! There she was, resting on my shoulder and I could have kept her up there for as long as I wanted (okay, that’s not quite true, but it was surprising how easy it was to keep her up there!). All of a sudden though, shemoved slightly and the spell was broken, resulting in her sliding down my chest again as I placed her down. It still felt pretty awesome for those few moments when it worked. One note for the girls that Ed stressed – please, please, please bring your ‘standing’ leg up to attitude. Don’t, whatever you do, swing it back at all – us guys would like to have kids one day!

And just like that, class was done, and so was the two-part masterclass. Arguably I enjoyed this week more, as I felt I got the knack more, and we got to do some pretty advanced (at least to me) stuff. Overall, I couldn’t believe that in only 3 hours total we had manged to do some very impressive looking stuff – this truly felt like we were not just ‘doing’ Ballet, but ‘performing’ Ballet too. Talking to Ed and Marc afterwards it seems they thought I had improved a lot too, which was nice to hear.

I then headed to grab a Starbucks and fill in my dance journal (a good 3 pages worth of notes!). As I was just starting to write, the owner of the studio walked in, and immediately came over to say thanks again for me coming to the workshop. I assured her that the pleasure had been all mine, and told her just how much I had enjoyed it. She then asked if I was getting a chance to perform much. After telling her about Coppelia coming up she said how she was wondering if I would be interested in doing a Pas de Deux with one of the girls in their Spring gala.

Me. Doing a Pas de Deux. Seriously?! She was thinking of asking Ed to work with me and one of the girls to choreograph a Pas for us to perform if I was interested. I assured her I was most certainly interested but it would depend on when/where/how and other logistics. So as of yet there is nothing definite (I don’t think she has talked to Ed yet either) but if I can fit it in before I have to leave the US I definitely want to do this! I think the performance is scheduled after I have to leave, but I’m going to try my best to fit it in. And you can be sure that if it does come to fruition, I will most certainly be blogging all about it!

So that is the end of partnering for me – or at least for now. It’s been an intense and awesome experience, and has made me all the more determined to try and keep up the partnering in the future if possible. Surely, someone out there needs a partner?

To finish I want to share this awesome rehearsal video from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake – it shows up close some excellent partnering, including an over-the-head fish which is pretty cool. Needless to say, I can’t do most of the things this pair can do, but I thought it was cool so thought I’d show you all!

Birmingham Royal Ballet – Swan Lake rehearsals from Rob Lindsay on Vimeo.

Until next time, keep dancing!

I Need Some Advice

Hello Loyal Readers!

Well it’s coming up to three months since I started taking classes and I wanted to do something to mark the occasion (any excuse to do something fun!).

So I thought I’d do something a bit different – a video project. For this, I’m going to need your help. In particular, I need your answer to the following question:

“What was the best advice you received as a beginner?”

I’ll let you guys decide on your own definition of ‘beginner’ but what I really want is your advice. For example the best advice I’ve received so far came from my teacher Douglas Martin:

“Just go for it!”

Which I’ve kept in mind in all my lessons – if there is a move I’ve never tried before I may as well give it a shot. At worst, it won’t work and I’ll learn something in the process.

So what was the best advice you received? It could be from a teacher, fellow student, a professional, a book, a film – whatever really!

So what do I want you to do once you’ve thought of your answer? You’ve got three choices:

  1. Film yourself giving the advice - just a quick clip of you telling the camera what your advice is. Then upload it to YouTube or TwitVid and send me the link, or send me the video at info@davetriesballet.com.
  2. Record yourself giving the advice - you can send me an audio clip of you reading out your advice. Once again, send it to me at info@davetriesballet.com or upload to a site and send me a link.
  3. Type up your advice – if you are a little camera/mic shy, then you can email me your advice or leave a comment on this post.

Whichever way you choose, make sure you tell me what your name is, and what caption you want under your name: i.e. “Soloist with XYZ Company”, “Dance Teacher”, “Retired Dancer”, “Fellow Beginner” etc. Also, if you are sending audio and text let me know if there is a specific picture you want put with your advice in the background of the video.

I hope you can help me out, whether you are a professional dancer (and feel free to do a group video of dancers in your company!), or just take one class a week, I want to hear your advice! I hope to end up with an awesome video to help other beginners out there, and maybe even give you seasoned pro’s something to think on also.

Until next time, keep dancing!

First day of class…

Disclaimer 1: This post is pretty long (around 2500 words) so if you don’t want to trawl through it all just scroll down to the last three words. I think they sum up my entire experience perfectly.

Disclaimer 2: This is my first class so don’t expect perfect terminology or for me even to spell them right (my French is pretty poor)

I can’t really remember my first day of school clearly. I’m pretty sure my mum probably fussed over me making sure I was ready in time and my uniform was correct. My brother probably moaned about having to take his little brother with him to school. My dad probably made me a bowl of porridge to make sure I had enough energy for the day. What I am definitely sure about though, is that I was probably a bundle of nerves and excitement – What would it be like? What would we do? Who would be there? Would they be nice? All these questions would have been running through my head, even at age four.

Now fast forward about twenty years and those same questions were running through my head along with some new ones. This was because I was headed to my first ever Ballet lesson – and was more than just a little nervous! Some of the new questions were things like – Would I fall over? Would I kick someone? Would I somehow pull the Barre off the wall and injure everyone in the class? All slightly pointless questions it turns out (and all are answered ‘No’), but that didn’t stop me worrying.

Then yesterday afternoon, around 6 hours before my lesson was going to start I had a minor panic – when should I turn up? My class was scheduled for 6:45-8:00 and I knew that the class would start promptly. Before the class I had to make sure all my paperwork was in order and get changed – and who knows how long it would take for me to get into my tights! I guessed 30 minutes would be about right but didn’t want to make a huge faux pas on my first day so I headed to Twitter to ask for some help. My followers were quick to assure me that 30 minutes was about right, and indeed it was!

As a side note here, I had a lot of people wishing me “Merde” for my first lesson. I gathered that this was probably a good thing, but having lived with a French housemate I also knew that merde translated into something you might find in a toilet so was slightly confused. Luckily one of my followers pointed out that although that is the literal translation, it is simply a way of wishing someone good luck in the Ballet world – after all, saying “Break a leg” is a little inappropriate!

After this minor panic I headed down to Princeton and arrived at the ARB Ballet School around half an hour before class. I checked in at reception, my paperwork was in order and was directed to the men’s changing room – which was tiny! I guess most of the school’s male students must be boys who don’t take up much room… I then started getting changed, putting on the dance belt, then my tights (with elastic belt) and my T-shirt. I had noticed that people didn’t wear their ballet shoes outside of the studios so simply carried them (with my bag, which I was told I could leave in the studio) and walked around in my tights to wait outside the studio. Needless to say I was little self-conscious, but then again I have competed in Crew and Cycling which involves a lot more flesh!

Unsurprisingly, most of the people waiting outside the studios were parents and it turned out that the studio I was going to be in had a boy’s class in before mine. I didn’t know whether it was okay to have a look at the class through the windows so I just sat down and waited for the time to tick by. I did some light stretching and I think I probably looked a bit nervous as soon enough a few other Ballet 101-ers came over to introduce themselves. They all commented how good the teacher was and we quickly headed into the studio.

Douglas Martin teaching class at ARB

My instructor for this term is Douglas Martin, who also happens to be the ARB company director. Having a male teacher was one of the factors of choosing this particular session and I’m certainly glad I did. Although I am sure I would get just as much out of the course if I had a female instructor, having a male teacher immediately made me feel a little more at ease and less out of place in a predominantly female room. As it turned out, out of around 20 students there was four guys – myself, a teenager and two men in their 50s. On the whole the class was a bit older than I expected. There was a young girl (around 10), a couple of teenagers, maybe two other people in their twenties (including a dancer for the company who was coming back from injury) and the rest were all 40+.

After Douglas had introduced himself he checked who were complete beginners – and there were only two of us! This was a little scary but he simply moved us both between more experienced dancers so we could follow someone if we got lost. He then explained that his method of teaching beginners was to throw us right into it, and just have fun. Then, suddenly, the class started.

Barre Work

We started with Barre work – that is working along the long wooden bars to help support our balance. He quickly showed us the five feet positions and showed us our “natural turnout”, by flicking both feet out at once and avoiding over rotation. He also pointed out that when in these positions we should think of drawing the front of our legs up, so as to avoid using our knees to achieve rotation. We then did some work on Plies along to music provided by a live accompanist. After following along without the music it was amazing how different trying to do it with music was. All of a sudden, I felt pretty lost and like I was chasing to keep up with the beat.

A few beats into the music though, I realised that if I half-followed the person in front of me and half-anticipated what was coming next things were much easier. The advantage was that these combinations were very logical and it was reasonably easy to guess what would follow. After plies in first, second and fifth we Releved (if that is the word!) onto the balls of our feet and held it for 8 counts. If you had asked me beforehand I would have told you that balancing like that would be easy, but I quickly realised it wasn’t that simple! Douglas pointed out the fact we need to keep our weight almost a little forward (for if we start to fall back it is very hard to recover) and it certainly helped and soon enough I could hold without quivering and feeling like I was about to fall flat on my face.

Next up were Tendus, Ronde de Jambes and Degages which I didn’t have too much difficulty with, but we moved onto Frappes which were an entirely different kettle of fish! Frappes involve striking the floor to the front, side and back to make a sound, which is certainly harder than it sounds. Douglas demonstrated making a nice resonating sound, which obviously came from years of practice and being a Principal Dancer at the Joffrey Ballet. When I tried however I could barely tell my foot even hit the floor, or I would hit it at too sharp an angle and just bounce my foot off (hurting the ball of my foot in the process). Needless to say, Frappe’s will take some practice!

Douglas had told us to pretty much ignore our arms for the first section, but he then explained to us the different Port de Bras positioins and the need to turn out our elbows in all positions. I had thought that the arms would be the easiest part of the lesson, but every time I glanced in the mirror, my arms were either completely in the wrong position or horrifically limp and unsupported – or both. I suppose that’s another thing to work on!

We then stretched our legs (both static and active stretches) before taking a quick water break before leaving the Barre for some Centre work. The water was certainly needed and it gave me a chance to chat with the other students for a few minutes. They were all intrigued to see how I had found it and I assured that I was enjoying it so far, although feeling a little out of my depth. One of the ladies turned to me and said “Well you certainly look like a dancer” – I don’t know if she was referring to my apparel or my movements in the first half of the lesson, but it was nice to get a compliment and it gave me a little boost heading into the Centre work.

Centre Work

Centre work is certainly a lot different to Barre work – and I immediately got completely lost in the first combination. It was a series of Tendus walking back and forward followed by a Glissande (?) to the front with a couple of jump-skip steps ending in fifth before being repeated 3 more times. I could manage the Tendus (although I occasionally had the wrong foot in front) but each time we had to do the Glissande-thing I messed up, ending in something that didn’t even resemble fifth position. Other people were having difficulty too, so Douglas took us through the Glissande bit slowly which helped, but it was still frustrating not to have it nailed by the end of the combinations.

Next up were something I was dreading, but hoped I would have a few weeks before having to tackle them – pirouettes! Douglas explained he likes to start pirouettes early, but this week we would only be doing quarter turns. Pirouettes are the stereotypical Ballet move and all I knew about them was that dancers whipped their heads round with seemingly whiplash-inducing speeds whilst performing them. But then again, doing a quarter turn shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Wrong.

First off were the feet and legs. With my right foot forward in fifth I felt like I should be turning to my left, not my right, and while turning I also needed to lift my foot up my left shin before lowering it behind my left leg after the turn to fifth. Next up, I had to concentrate on keeping my right arm forward and left to the side, before bringing the left to the front during the turn, and then separating again afterward. Finally, there was the head whip. And I needed to do all those things simultaneously, while trying not to lose my centre of balance. Not the easiest thing in the world!

We separated into two groups (named, for some reason, ‘lemon & lime’ and ‘strawberry’), and my group was the first to attempt the quarter pirouettes. My first couple were pretty disastrous, but I started to get to grips with it after a few more. It didn’t help that I would get confused on the Tendus before the actual spin. What did help though, was watching the other group attempt the pirouettes. First off I realised that I was certainly not alone in finding the pirouettes difficult, and secondly I could see how people were combating some of the mistakes I was making myself.

I headed back out to the Centre ready to tackle some more quarter turns, when the teacher decided to challenge us with half turns instead. There was nothing for it but to simply go ahead and attempt the turns, and I had a varying degree of success. It seemed when I concentrated on one of the three key points (feet, arms, head), the other two would go to pot.

Not feeling too proud about them I headed off to the side again to watch the other group have a go. However, just as they started, the teacher came over beside me to have a word. I expected some critique or tips about my pirouettes but he surprised me by telling me that I looked like a natural and that I had great musicality, physicality, flexibility and feet awareness! He then asked me how old I was, and when I told him I was 23 he said how many male dancers start in their 20’s and he hoped I was enjoying it and would keep it up. I assured him I was and he went to talk to the other group leaving me slightly taken aback. I don’t know if he was saying those things just to encourage me to come back but they certainly made me smile and I did the next few exercises standing a little bit taller and prouder.

It was probably a little fitting then that the next thing on the agenda were jumps. As one of the older men described it, this was where the guys can shine. We started with Sautes (I think) jumping from first position to “kicking our arches out” before landing in a demi-plie and leaving our heels up until the last moment (as to not ‘clunk’ down). It was certainly fun to put my cycling legs to good use, really springing up, and although I lost the beat in the first set, I felt I understood the rhythm better second time round.

Next were Jetes (again, I think that’s what they were at least!) across the diagonal with the other foot in coupe behind the landing leg. We were paired up, with the guys leading, and made our way across both diagonals. Again, this was an awful lot of fun, and I can certainly say the jumping was a highlight of the lesson.

Finally we all grouped in the Centre for a Reverent (?) which was Douglas leading a very slow, controlled combination which was a lovely change of pace to the jumps beforehand.

Afterthoughts

And all of a sudden the class was over. I couldn’t believe 75 minutes had flown by so fast, and as cheesy as it sounds, I didn’t want it to end! Not to say I wasn’t sweaty and a bit tired, but I had so much fun during the lesson. A few of my fellow students asked me how I had found it and after assuring them of how much I had enjoyed it I had time to ask Douglas a quick question. I had found during the pirouettes that the front pad on my slippers had been sticking slightly, resulting in the front of the shoe slightly twisting around my foot. I asked him if this was normal and he assured me that most people had been slightly sticking due to a slightly sticky floor. He then gave me a tip that next time I buy shoes I may want to buy a canvas slipper rather than leather because of the humidity in New Jersey most of the year round. He said that the humidity affected the leather shoes a little more than the canvas ones, resulting in them being a little more sticky. Definitely something to consider and next time I’m in New York I might have a look at some canvas shoes so I have the option of either.

A couple of pages from my first Dance Journal entry

And after thanking Douglas once again for a great lesson (and assuring him I would be back next week) I headed out of the studio and back to the changing room. I was slightly surprised how sweaty my T-shirt was after the lesson and I then finally got the chance to take off the dance belt! That being said, during the lesson I was so concentrated on making the steps that I barely noticed I had the dance belt on so I wasn’t desperate to take it off (though I certainly didn’t complain). Then it was back into regular clothes and time for dinner. I was certainly hungry and so headed to get a very tasty chicken Caesar salad from the restaurant next door to the studio.

While eating I started to fill out my dance journal. After reading about it on Ballet For Men and Tights and Tiaras I had realised how useful a tool this would be while learning Ballet and so got to work documenting the class. That being said, I couldn’t remember all the combinations or names so wrote down the things that had stuck in my head (like making sure in moves my heel is trying to go forward) and soon enough I had filled three pages!

I think I’m going to finish this post with the three words that I finished my dance journal entry with, and I think they sum up my entire experience of the lesson:

So. Much. Fun.

Until next time, keep dancing!