Saturday, 19 February 2011

Mirror, Mirror...

In my last post I explained how, earlier this week, I was 'ousted' from my usual place at the barre, and how this had temporarily upskittled me. However, it would seem that every cloud has a silver lining, and this one is particularly reflective!  I was forced to take a place at the barre along the back wall of the studio, which happens to be well placed for a mirror on the back of the studio door, something that I have, until now, shied away from.

As a teenager, the mirrors at my dance school were legendary for making you seem shorter and squatter than you could ever possibly have been, and when I went on the Norfolk dance summer school in August last year, their phenomenal studios were lined with mirrors along the facing wall, but my current studios has limited and often curtained-over mirrors, so I enjoy a relatively mirror free existence, and until now, this has suited me just fine (I don't like having my delicate self-image toyed with by distorted or warped mirrors!)

It's no secret that mirrors help dancers to perfect their technique, but it can still be unnerving staring at your reflection for hours a week! But, watching my arms and legs in the mirror through Tuesday's barre made such a lot of difference; I could suddenly see when my supporting leg needed pulling up, or when I was sickling in retire, and as if to hit home the point, the grade 1 children this morning pulled back the curtains on the studio mirrors, and I watched my teacher really disect the technique of a compound step with them: The difference it made to their performance was vast.

It wasn't quite a revelation; more a reminder of just how powerful the mirror can be. Narcissus I am not, but I am going to make a conscious effort to utilise rather than fear the mirror from now on!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

What a difference a year makes

In my class this evening were 4 new girls (ok, women, but we're all girls to the teacher); girls I had never seen before and girls new to the adult ballet scene. Evidently, from their placing in the advanced class, they've danced before, but they were also clearly nervous. After I'd got over my initial indignation of having my barre space 'stolen' (I really hadn't realised how possessive I could get about a space) I began to think about my initial return to ballet about a year and a half ago.

My blog is not quite as old as my attendance at adult class, so I missed reporting on the first tentative months of my return, but in a friendly chat at the end of class this evening, my dance teacher pointed out just how terrified I looked in most of my classes back then.  The new adults were explaining how they felt they couldn't remember anything and that perhaps they should go back into beginners and my dance teacher piped up, "you should have seen Hannah when she first joined; I could practically see tears welling up every time I asked her to do something new." And she was right - I remember coming away thinking "I'll never be able to do this," I couldn't put together combinations easily, my brain and feet felt completely stressed out, and I felt more clumsy than I could imagine.

But, a year later, and how different do I feel? I'm still not perfect. It still takes me longer than the teenagers to pick things up. I still have to switch my brain and feet on before I enter the studio. But I feel like a different dancer: My muscle memory has returned; my strength has grown and I'm tackling more complicated combinations (especially in the centre) than I would even have done as a teenager.

Don't look too closely at the hands - look at the smile!
(Image - Bex Singleton via Ballet News)

What a difference a year makes. It's gradual, and at times imperceptible, but I'm becoming a better and more confident dancer, and that makes me happy!