Sunday, 25 April 2010

In the spotlight

I'm currently practising for my exam and have been working pretty hard at learning the syllabus inside out, getting my feet and arms right as well as sorting out the terms in my head ready for the enchainement (which is totally new to me coming from an RAD 'learn it perfectly and don't ask questions' approach to an IDTA 'thinking dancer' approach!). This all sounds fairly straightforward, usual dancery stuff, but I feel like I've had a lot of catching up to do since only starting back to ballet properly in November.

I'm proud of myself for rising to the challenge, and as I mentioned before, my teacher has been complimentary recently. Why then, is it that, in front of other people I go to pieces? All I had to do was perform a pas-de-bourre over and under and then in reverse and I totally fluffed it up! It wasn't even like I was standing at the back of the room not paying attention whilst the other girls performed, I was practising all the while! But as soon as I had to perform it to the room, I got it all wrong. My teacher even noted that she'd seen me do it so why couldn't I perform it. The same for the variation. I do it perfectly every time at home, I usually stand in a place where I can't see anyone else so I'm sure I know the dance without watching anyone else, but as soon as I have to perform it by myself it just doesn't come together how it looks in my head. What frustration: I am working so hard and being so, so positive about the whole experience, I don't remember being like this as a teenager, so why now when I'm supposedly a more confident adult?

Any advice? Any tips for helping me to still my beating heart when I have to perform? They'd be gratefully received!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Through the eyes of a child

I went to see Peter Pan by NBT on Saturday and whilst I can't remember a great deal about the production (I wasn't feeling all that great!), I do remember it was excellent, and thoroughly enjoyable. The production was brilliant and as my husband said, it definitely captured the magic of the story: the flying; the mermaids; the ship and the superb sets throughout.

However, I have to say that what made the performance for me wasn't the dancers (although captivating) or all the other outstanding production elements, but the three children sitting 3 rows back from us in the theatre: the smallest, a very vocal 2 year old in a tutu, the eldest a little boy of no more than 6 in a pirate outfit and the middle, a little boy dressed as Peter. They had dressed for the occasion and they didn't disappoint; "Wow, they're flying" gasped the smallest as Peter, Wendy et al launched into the air. Then, when Hook made his debut appearance, her elder brother, sounding somewhat shocked yelped, "It's a pirate!" There's no doubt that, due to the pitch and excitement of their voices and the fact they were in the back row of the gallery (and therefore their voices traveled forward and down through the theatre), that the whole audience heard them and chuckled as a result.

Shamelessly, I have to say it made the performance for me! It's a children's story, and NBT is a narrative ballet company that told the story so well (without words) that even three children under 7 were so utterly transfixed by the action they were unable to restrain their awe! I'll hazard a guess that they have 3 new fans and a whole audience who saw the magic of the story, and the theatre, come alive just a little bit more than usual because of them.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The perils of being ill

So, I woke up yesterday morning with a sore throat, and throughout the day I became achey and weak. Thinking it was just the result of first week back to work tiredness, I had an early night, took some cold and flu remedy and... woke up this morning at 5am unable to swallow and in complete agony.

Thanks to the wonderful NHS (no irony intended), I spoke to an advisor, nurse and doctor within about an hour, then was advised to go to the walk in centre, where they looked at my throat, told me it was definitely infected but it was too swollen to tell if it was tonsilitis and prescribed penicillin. Since then, I have slept, slept and slept some more. I hate being ill :-(

What's more I hate missing dance. Work's really stressful at the moment and it's almost quite meditative to go to ballet class and just concentrate on turnout, pulling up, placement and counting. I certainly have no time to
contemplate the daily stress of my day job. I get to be a ballerina for only a few hours a week, so I hate it when I have to miss it for any reason, but especially when it's because I'm achey and poorly. I feel like I'm really missing out.

On a positive note, and hopefully if I feel well enough - I'm going to see NBTs Peter Pan this evening. Plenty of ibuprofen and paracetamol should get me through as I've been waiting for so long to see it. I was on a training course at the NBT studios in December and saw a lot of the props and preparation for the show
- and it looks excellent. They are very much a narrative ballet company, and despite my love of all things classically balletic, I think, had I ever been fortunate enough to follow the professional dancer route, they are the company I'd most likely ally myself with; beautiful yet quite dramatic as opposed to traditionally classical.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


As I mentioned in an earlier post, I bought a new leotard recently; a lovely, royal blue, low back camisole leotard, almost the same as the one in the picture (except without the princess seams!). I finally got to wear it today in my adult class, but I think I may now know why it was quite so cheap...

How embarrassing: half way through my pointe class, my strap 'popped' off! It's one of those adjustable strap connections - the ones that slip into a loop of fabric and promise to hold. Well, whilst it might hold on a bra under a 'safe' top, it didn't as I was pique-ing my way through multiple pas-de-bourres. Fortunately I caught it just in time to save my modesty but decided, for safety, to wear it cross backed for my normal class as I was terrified any batterie might be more than it could take in standard-camisole mode.

I think I might need to get my sewing kit out and sew it in place, because apart from that, it really is a rather nice leotard!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Enchanted Barcelona

Although I'm pretty obsessed with new dancewear and dance shops, I wasn't on the look out for one when I stumbled across a tiny dance shop in a tiny backstreet of the Barri Gotic area of Barcelona. Like the Freed shop in London, or the shop where I buy my pointe shoes now, it was really old fashioned: a window display of a few leotards and a couple of pairs of shoes and that was about it. A world away from the amazingly high-tech and modern Bloch shop in London, but perfectly formed in its own way; oak panelled inside, with an unmistakeably musty smell, almost like stepping back in time. I recently read a comment that said the perfect pointe shoe is a little like the perfect wand in Harry Potter, and this shop certainly had the magic twinkle of Oleander's Wand Shop about it. I probably wouldn't have seen it had it not been for the large sign in the window saying "puntas Freed E6.50" - it took me a minute, with my [extremely] limited Spanish to work out that they were selling pointe shoes for 6.50 (that's about £6!) which is a crazy price in any country!

I wouldn't normally venture into such a tiny shop in a foreign country for fear of the obligation to buy (or the even greater obligation to converse - a problem since "hola, que tal?" is about the limit of my Spanish). But I couldn't resist. Sitting in a large plastic box were about 30 pairs of Freed pointe shoes looking very unloved and slightly dusty (yet still in their plastic bags). The assistant was, thankfully, serving another customer, so I was left alone to rummage through the box. There were many 7x pairs, a few 8s and some 2s and 3s. It's been a while since I wore freeds and I simply couldn't remember my size (I'm a 3 1/2 c in bloch serenades now but that didn't help...), the 2s and 3s were out of the question but the 7s looked about right (I think I was a 5 and a half or 6 in Freeds...) Sadly, I didn't have the guts to ask the shop assistant to help, and I'm not naive enough to think I can fit myself for pointe shoes without repercussions, so I left without them and continued with my discovery of Barcelona!

Like a window of opportunity only open for the tiniest amount of time, despite retracing my steps and looking for the shop on the second day, its presence and whereaouts eluded me. Why didn't I take a photo or mark it on the map? It now feels like a strange but poetic memory from which I could probably draw many conclusions about missed opportunities (in life as well as Barcelona), and morals about feeling the fear and doing it anyway...

Somewhere, deep in the pretty streets of the gothic quarter is the [enchanted] dance shop...

Saturday, 3 April 2010


Not a proper 'ballet' post today, but it's bank holiday weekend, and in the great English tradition of days out, I went with my husband and a friend to Chatsworth House in the Derbyshire Peak District. I've driven past many times, and we've even pic-nicked in the grounds, but I've never been in so it was a real treat to spend time inside the house yesterday. Although not much of the decor is to my taste, it struck me how elegant the architecture of the whole place is, and by association, the family to whom it belongs.

Deborah Devonshire/Mitford, is the dowager Duchess pictured (credit to Norman Parkinson for the photograph), and although an awful lot older now, she still looks so refined and beautiful, like she should float around the house as opposed to walk! I'm captivated by tales of debutantes and 'coming out' at the palace, so the highlight of the trip was the section of the house about Deborah Mitford and her amazing life. 

The photo captures for me an elagance of a bygone era, which, although will probably never be replicated during my lifetime, and certainly not within my life experience, is a fiction that I adore, and one that is shared by the stories and spectacles created within ballet. I avidly read the interviews on Ballet News, and it strikes me that many of the ballerinas interviewed would love to dine with Audrey Hepburn and I suspect it is for the same reason: she enscapsulates all that is feminine, delicate and elegant, which to me, is the ultimate aim of ballet.

In other news, no ballet for a week and a half now - Easter holidays! I did compensate by doing a two and a half hour class on Thursday evening (or rather 2 and a half classes!) and I'm still aching, mainly in a good way, as a result. I've got lots of practise to do, and I have a new, bargainous leotard (it was £1.70 from Porselli online!)in a beautiful royal blue colour, which I can't wait to wear to class.