Thursday, 29 December 2011
I think it's safe to say that 2012 hasn't been my finest year. In fact, I did remark to a friend in November that it has, possibly, been the worst year of my life, but that I had high hopes for 2012. At the time, it was a passing comment, but ironically, minutes after saying this, I found myself in the audience of a play called 'void story' by a company called Forced Entertainment. I say ironically because the play basically took two characters and put them through the worst possible chain of events: it was *so* dreadful it was hilarious (that was kind of the point...) At the end of the play, my friend turned to me wryly and remarked:,'so, you were saying, this year was the worst of your life...?' I honestly can't say I've ever been shot in the stomach by intruders, bitten by giant poisonous insects, or been forced to dance in a never ending dance competition until I can no longer stand before being exterminated by a bomb dropped by a passing drone place, so, by comparison, it's really not been that bad. But, that doesn't mean I don't look forward to the promise of a new year, especially after the difficulties of 2012.
A new year is the perfect time to consider the past and make resolutions for the future. I once made a resolution to learn to ski, but within days of me uttering these words, Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident and my sister's colleague paralysed himself on the slopes; suddenly it didn't seem like such a good idea. So since then, I've tried not to make too many 'solid' resolutions. People are always talking about having smart targets, but I think I prefer something altogether more wooly; the possibility of what *could* be as opposed to the possibility of falling at the first hurdle.
Someone clever once said "Imagine what you would do if you could not fail. Now go and do it" - I think that's the best thing about new starts. No one expects anything of you. If you want to reinvent yourself and wear new clothes, or adopt a new way of speaking, it's all allowed. The more shocking and exciting the better.
So, my question to you, readers, is this; not "what are your new year's resolutions?" but "what are your hopes for 2012?" - hope is so much more forgiving.
Friday, 9 December 2011
I'm so aware of the value of sleep and I'm trying hard to look after myself, so I was in bed at 9 last night and managed to sleep until just before 9am this morning. When you consider that between February and June this year I didn't get more than 1 hour a night, this is a massive improvement. My body (and more importantly, my mind) has learned to switch off and I feel like I'm still catching up with all those lost hours, and sleep feels so restorative.
It also feels like a positive tiredness. I've taken the big step of returning to work and it's been a good week, even though I'm exhausted, it feels like I've really earned my weekend! Which is great as it's my mum (and my sister's - although she's in Cambodia until next Saturday) birthday today so I am going home to celebrate with my family and really looking forward to it!
On a slightly different, but sleep related note, I noticed this poster in my hunt for pictures of sleeping ballerinas. If you live in the UK - The Royal Ballet is doing a live broadcast of their Sleeping Beauty at 7.15pm on Thursday (in fact they're broadcasting around the world too, although obviously at different times), so it would be well worth scoping out your local cinema (or the ROH website: http://cinema.roh.org.uk/content/the-sleeping-beauty-live-15-december) to see if you can get seats! I saw this last year at new year and it was definitely a brilliant production (as you would expect from the Royal Ballet!)
Saturday, 26 November 2011
In February 2012, I turn 30. This is a momentous month, of course, and to make it even more significant, I've also decided to take part in a sponsored tandem sky dive for BEAT, a UK charity supporting a cause very close to my heart. It will be freezing cold here, and I will be launching myself into the freezing air from a massive 10,000 feet.
If you have followed my blog you will know that earlier this year I spent a (very long) month in hospital with Anorexia Nervosa. I am lucky. I have amazing friends and family and I have had brilliant care within the NHS. But there are hundreds of sufferers who don't get the support they need. BEAT is a charity that provides very real and practical support to sufferers and carers of those with all kinds of eating disorders, many of whom can't access the kind of support I've had. It also runs outreach and support programmes into schools to target vulnerable young people.
Trust me - they are an AMAZING charity, I wouldn't be considering such a crazy act if I didn't wholly believe in what they do!
So, this is my plea to you, dear blog readers. I have a target of £395 sponsorship and a little over 2 months to hopefully smash this target... I'd be ENORMOUSLY grateful if you could donate, even 50p will help me to meet this target - follow this link if you think you can help!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
|www.b-eat.co.uk the UK's national charity supporting sufferers and carers|
Thursday, 24 November 2011
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
|Mr B's first plane from London to Hong Kong|
I have never sponsored a 'giveaway' before, but since I have a spare pair of Sea-Bands (brand new and boxed), I'm going to offer a free pair to one reader, picked at random from entries (if I get more than one!) who leaves a message below telling me how they cope when they're missing someone close to them, (perhaps this is particularly poignant with the holiday season upon us). The deadline is next Wednesday (23rd November) when Mr. B will be back in the country!
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.
Saturday, 12 November 2011
Friday, 11 November 2011
|The University of Nottingham (I won't be working in this building though!)|
Sunday, 6 November 2011
I feel like I'm perched on edge of a new frontier. I am mindful of not sliding backwards in my recovery, but also desperate to reclaim my life, move onwards and forge a happier future for me, Mr B and [hopefully] our family yet to come. A while back I made the big decision that I didn't want to return to teaching, and although each time I said that I balanced it with 'but never say never', I am very much resolute in this decision for the forseeable future.
So, it is with enormous excitement and great trepidation that I go into this week, as on Thursday I have an interview for a part time job working in outreach management to primary schools at a local university. I couldn't be more on board with the ethos of the programme from a sociological or philosophical point of view. And... (I whisper the next sentence so as not to tempt fate...) I happen to think I'd be rather good in the role. All I have left to do is finalise my presentation and sort out my interview outfit.
Wish me luck. I am a great believer in fate, but a little luck never goes a miss! I am sure if it is meant to be it will be (and if it's not, let's hope there are bigger, as yet unforeseen, plans afoot).
|Wise words I intend to keep in mind this week!|
Monday, 10 October 2011
|N in her Tutu as a child. I am so retrospectively jealous!|
|There's nothing quite as balletic as a white tutu, right? |
(image courtesy of www.unexpectedmanitoba.com/)
What is it, I wonder, that makes tutus so alluring to the little girl in all of us? Ballerinas (professional ones, that is) say they are often uncomfortable and restricting, but I think, to me, they are the very essence of being a ballerina, and I don't think I'll ever stop dreaming of the day I get to wear one!
Sunday, 9 October 2011
|The beautiful Symphonic Variations (image courtesy of BRB)|
|Chess themed ballet - how odd! (image courtesy of BRB)|
|Ambra Vallo was brilliant as the plucky Pol! (image courtesy of BRB)|
Friday, 7 October 2011
|Monthly magazines - Not half as enjoyable as the range of blogs out there.|
Thursday, 6 October 2011
|Deborah Bull (image courtesy of the Times online) - Pursuing perfection even as a child?|
I came across this definition of perfectionism in a book I'm reading:
Anyone at the top of their game is, obviously, aiming to be the very best they can be, but the problem with perfectionism is that good can never be good enough. We've all done it, haven't we, when we've been praised for something good and dismissed it as fluke or thought that something else must have had a role in our success? Any classical art, especially one as potentially rigid and structured as ballet, has the potential to drive people onwards to better things, and this is good, this breaks barriers and forges new paths through the art(s). But, relentless pursuit of 'perfection' - that's not healthy, surely?
When I was little, my mum used to tell me a story about the women who weave Persian rugs: apparently, somewhere in every rug, they weave a deliberate imperfection. These women are highly skilled craftswomen, whose work is highly revered the world around; they are the very best at what they do, but they choose to make a mistake. Why? Because they believe that God (their Allah) is the only one who is perfect and it would be arrogant to suggest that anything man can do could be as perfect. They aren't shoddy craftswomen, they are apprenticed for years before they are considered skilled enough to make the highest quality rugs, but they are humble too.
I love this story: it captures my imagination and reminds me of magic carpets and stories from the 1001 nights. But I also think it holds a really important message: Pursuit of excellence is essential; it drives us onwards as humans; it makes our great artists (and ballet companies) what they are today - exciting and mesmerising to watch. But maybe, as dancers, instead of citing perfection as our aim, we need to change our choice of words, because, like the Persian rug weavers, maybe we need to acknowledge that mistakes are human, and that's what makes us man, not machine.
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Here's what the charm looks like:
But, today, whilst trawling the internet on a totally unrelated mission, I came across these:
Look how pretty they are: (all images courtesy of www.azendi.com)
Monday, 3 October 2011
The bath scene: I can only say 'oh my!' to this - never before in a ballet have I seen something so overtly erotic or sado-masochistic. I can't describe it, you just have to see it. There was water, (practical) nudity and murder in a see-through glass bath. That's all I have to say about that, I certainly did NOT see it coming!
The end of act one: hooded red costumes of the egyptian men and women - like a cross between a ballet blanc and something far more futuristic. Visually, totally stunning! Mr B said it was a 'ballet rouge' - the overall impression was of blood but the company were technically excellent!
Mark Anthony's Bacchic orgy: writhing bodies, very little ballet, but certainly very physical, and extremely powerfully choreographed. This may have been part of the reason for the parental advisory warning on the posters!
|A snapshot of the aforementioned Orgy... I'll leave the rest to your imagination (courtesy of grouptravelorganiser.com)|
Apart from that, there were some amazingly powerful moments in the ballet and it really showed off the technical prowess of the company whilst not being at the expense of storytelling (which is something northern ballet ALWAYS do well anyway.) It was certainly my favourite NB classic to date and I think that the company have marked a new era in their development. New name: new style, and extremely powerful indeed. Even if Mr B did term it 'ballet erotica' I think that doesn't give credit to the absolute technical and narrative brilliance of the piece. My only regret is that I didn't see the first cast, but the second, but it's a minor quibble since, I, for one, am just glad I was there to see it!
Friday, 30 September 2011
Northern Ballet are coming to Nottingham with their highly acclaimed Cleopatra and I just can't wait. It feels like it's been so long since I've been, or even dared to enjoy watching ballet (knowing that I'm not allowed to do it for now), that it feels like an enormous step to be going to see this. Add to this the excitement of the fact that it's an entirely new show with new choreography and a new score, as well as the fact that it's been labelled a 'grown up ballet' and I just can't wait!
I'll let you know if it lives up to the reviews (I hope it does)!
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
On the negative side, it's going to be another month or so, continuing apace, before I am 'safe' to return to ballet, but on the positive side, that fits in nicely with my dance school's current schedule, since they are currently preparing for a show which will happen in early November, so it makes sense for me to aim to return to classes after the show. This news has made me quite abstractly happy, especially as I was beginning to think that perhaps I was never going to be ok enough to return.
Now what I need to work on is strength. Anyone who's ever been ill or bed-ridden for any length of time will know that feeling of weakness that you get from having not used your muscles for a while. For me, this is a little more extreme: I've always had very strong legs, people often comment that I have 'dancer's legs', and whilst my calf muscles are still as strong as ever, I have really quite significant muscle wastage in my thighs and around my hips (I think these are called my hip flexor or lateral rotator muscles) so holding turnout has become something of an issue. Obviously, the solution to this is to rebuild muscle by putting on weight and working my turnout muscles regularly, but I feel like I've got a mammoth task ahead of me. My feedback from my last exam (remember I said I missed out on an honours but got a good highly commended?) alludes to this, and my dance teacher went through with me the reasons behind this deduction of marks for technique. This is partly the wake up call that I needed to make me realise the damage that my body has sustained over the last year, and it's a reminder that I have a lot of (positive) work to do to put it right.
As I won't be back at ballet class for a little while yet, and since I now need to retrain my body to build up these muscles again, my therapist has suggested pilates. Now, I know that pilates is considered excellent conditioning for dancers, but she thinks it will help two-fold: one; with the reconditioning that my body needs before returning to full class and, two; with body awareness, which, in her words "any one, but particularly a dancer, recovering from an eating disorder, would benefit from".
So, today's job is to investigate local pilates classes: If anyone out there in the dance or blogging world has any advice about what I should be looking for, or what to avoid, questions to ask, stories of how pilates has helped etc etc. it would be appreciated enormously.
Wish me luck!
Sunday, 7 August 2011
I had one such decision to make this week: to return to ballet sooner or later?
Obviously, my heart says "now, now, now!" - I long for the sound of the music as barre begins, the graceful freedom of my arms during port de bras and the developing warmth in my calf muscles as we progress to adage work, not to mention the amazing feeling as we jump and twirl our way through grande allegro (ok, so maybe I'm romanticising a little here, but you get the picture...) but for now I have had to over-rule my heart. My head says "not yet; get better first, then go back to ballet when you're ready" - oh how I hate my sensible head at times, because it is so right.
I stopped dance because I didn't have the energy or the strength to complete a class without feeling like I could collapse. I justified it because I was signed off: there was no way I could do something like ballet when I wasn't fit to go to work. I rationalised that it wouldn't be wise, given how many classes I take with senior teenagers, to show off my shrunken frame - that would be uncomfortable for both me and others (even though to me, I looked 'normal' - such is the nature of an eating disorder). But through it all, I never really lost my passion for dance. And I do miss it. So much.
Being out of hospital (because I persuaded the doctors I could continue recovery at home), the temptation to run, or perhaps dance, before I am ready, is so great. It is taking all my will power to fight the impulse to return just yet: like the dancers who return too soon from injury, I fear doing more longer-term damage if I am not careful, and whilst I am still very fragile, I need to take heed of the voice of reason. So for now, my head wins, but my heart still longs to return.
Thursday, 21 July 2011
The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, LondonI know now what I should probably always have known: that for me ballet is the Royal Opera House. Everything about the place is magical and everything that ballet is in my mind. It is beautiful, elegant and timeless. Ballet = The Royal Opera House and The Royal Opera House = Ballet.
When I moved to London to work in commerce after university, I worked only a 10 minute walk from Covent Garden. This, for me, was both bliss and torture: I would often wander through the lobby of the ROH wistfully dreaming of a life in the arts, whilst knowing I would have to return to my soul-destroying office job at the end of my hour out. Strangely enough, I never once visited the ballet whilst I worked and lived there: that discovery came much later (I suspect the actual presence of ballet would have been more torturous than I could have coped with at the time.)
|The stunning, vaulted glass, Floral hall|
Now I live an hour and a half from London, but attend as many performances at the ROH as possible. We have discovered the secret of the £6 upper-slip ticket - often with a restricted view, but still enabling us to enjoy world class ballet on a shoestring, and the atmosphere is no less electric the further up the auditorium you go. Indeed, it is worth the price of the ticket alone to hear the sublime orchestra as they accompany the Royal Ballet.
|The elegant interior - given any budget, this would be my dream wedding reception destination|
The inside of the building is, if possible, more enchanting than I thought possible as a child. From the lush red velvets of the entrance lobby, to the breathtaking floral hall and the unbelievably vast auditorium, magic seems to permeate every brick and seep from every seat in the house.
|The ornate and vast auditorium.|
I still hold Covent Garden and this 'grande-dame' of a theatre in the highest of regards, and although I have lost the childish notion of becoming 'discovered' as a ballet dancer wandering the streets below the theatre (ok, so maybe I hope, just a little, every now and then), I am still filled with awe and wonder at this amazing place and all that happens within. The ROH is the place where dreams are born, live and, eventually, die after a life lived to the full. It is a place I long to be a part of in any small way possible - and one where just such an opportunity may have just arisen...
Thursday, 7 July 2011
I am currently writing from a hospital room in Leicester where I have been for the last 2 and a half weeks. The hospital room is in an anorexia unit. I guess that's my way of explaining that I've really been struggling recently.
|The room I am 'living' in at the moment|
From in here, the world is all upside down, but for the first time in months, I am beginning to feel like "me" again. I am starting to take control in a positive way and I can see how bright the future could be, I have more energy and the more healthy side of me is gaining in strength every day, but for now, my posts may be somewhat lacking in 'real' dance experience so I hope you will share yours with me!
As an aside, I just wanted to let those of you who asked know - I got 82% in my exam. Not brilliant, but not awful either - that's a highly commended (not far off an honours) and given that I was really quite poorly when I took it, I am going to force myself to be pleased with that.
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Saturday, 19 February 2011
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Monday, 31 January 2011
Sunday, 23 January 2011
With a little help from an online friend identifying my foot type, I finally found a shoe that seems to suit my foot, and have been happily wearing said pair since the summer (I do only use them for class for about an hour each week). Sadly, and I'd felt that it was coming, I snapped the shank on Tuesday, and had to start again with a brand new pair.
My battered but comfortable (until they snapped) Grishko 2007 4 1/2 xxx's with medium shank. On the second photo you can see in the demi pointe where the shank has died!So began the process of breaking in my brand, shiny new shoes. And I'd forgotten just how painfully hard they are when they're unworn.
Look how stiff they are! It made me wonder if I'd ever releve again.
My initial exctement about new shoes waned quickly when I put them on and felt the restriction of the super hard box and unpliable shank. Despite the snapped shank on my previous pair, they were at least fairly comfortable for class.
So I set about the lengthy process of making the shoes fit to wear:
First I stripped the satin off the toe, 'sealed' the satin by burning with a lighter, and began to blanket stitch around the platform to gain a little traction and stop the satin fraying. I used to darn the whole of the platform, but discovered that the piece flat to the platform came off after a few weeks anyway, so it made more sense to remove it and make sure the edges are secure.
Ta-da: fully sewn platforms. By using thick thread, this only took about 15-20 minutes per shoe, as opposed to the hours it used to take to darn the entire platform.
Although I haven't photographed the rest of the process, I then sewed on covert elastics from heel to heel, and sewed the ribbons on, roughly to match the sewn line that marks the back quarter of the shoe. Then the bit that makes me nervous: squashing the box to make them more comfortable on my toes. I do this initially with great trepidation (as it's easy to crack the box) but within a couple of weeks I'll be standing on them to make sure they are comfortable. Whilst my shoe has a 3/4 shank, which cuts down on shank preparation, it also has a pretty high and stiff vamp, so I have to spend time softening it with my hand.
If I got through several pairs a month I don't know how I'd manage the final part of the process which is to simply wear them around the house with socks over (to warm and soften them) and gradually work through the demi pointe doing gentle rises & pliees. This is the longest part and as my shoe seems to have a particularly strong shank (apparently Russian shoes like Grishko tend to be much harder) it's always the most painful bit.
My fully prepared shoe: it'll be a few classes before they're genuinely comfortable and can do what I want them to do.
Do you wear pointe shoes? What brand or How do you prepare them? Do you have any advice on speeding my process or making it more efficient? I find the ritual of preparing pointe shoes fascinating and would love to hear/ see images of how you prepare yours.
Friday, 21 January 2011
Sunday, 9 January 2011
I've been dying to tell you all about what I did, but I didn't want to spoil anything for the wonderful Elise (Ballet News), but a while back, I won a competition to watch rehearsals at English National Ballet. As I'm restricted by school times, it's taken some time to arrange, but finally, and on New Year's Eve, my prize became a reality.
Thursday, 6 January 2011
This is a totally new pastime for me; some people create breathtaking dances with every step they take in a dance studio, but whether it's lack of confidence or simply lack of experience in doing so, it feels like an alien process to me. I listen to music all the time, and I generally make a judgement on whether I like it or not by whether I feel I could dance it, but to formally choreograph a dance: that terrifies me!
So, dear dancing readers, you may well be lucky enough for this to be second nature to you as a dancer, but If you have any friendly tips for a beginning (terrified) choreographer, please share them!
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
The six Emerging Dancer nominees for this year are James Streeter, Ksensia Osvanyick, Laurretta Summerscales, Max Westwell, Shiora Kase & Vadim Muntagirov and I know I shouldn't prejudice choice, but my vote's with Ksenia Osvanyick or Max Westwell: both AMAZINGLY talented performers with real stage presence - especially for their ages (ok, now I sound old).
I know I normally blog about my own dance experiences, but I think this is a worthy cause so go, vote if you can!