My inner ballerina?
Croise devant, port de bras, demi-plie…
These expressions came creeping out of dark corners of my brain this week as I went to my first ballet class since I was a child.
Ballet class – me – at the age of 65!
Why for heavens’ sake? I’m a writer, not some frustrated prima ballerina. Not even almost retired Galena at the back of the corps de ballet!
Well, yes, I am a writer. And writing is one of the most sedentary occupations, one can have. Sit, sit, sit. Yikes! Add to that the fact that I’ve lost 70% of my rightside balance and that my neck is arthritic and maybe you can see why I wanted to do something that would give me ‘core stability, flexibility and coordination’, rather than the normal ‘yoga, pilates, zumba’ run-of-the-mill classes that my peers attend.
And so I enrolled with Adult Ed in Ballet for Beginners (meaning adults) taught by a graceful, light-as-air 88 year old Englishwoman who has danced across the globe with the major ballet companies.
I drove to the church hall in trepidation, reaching the porch to discover five other women waiting. ‘My God,’ I said. ‘You’re all so young…’ And they were! In their late twenties, all of them!
They said, ‘Age is immaterial. We’ve never done ballet. Have you?’
‘Um, yes. But ages ago… as a child…’
I studied under the Royal Academy of Dancing method in my home town with a termagant of a teacher whom I refer to as She Who Must Not Be Named. She was immensely elegant, looked like Margot Fonteyn and froze the air with her commands. If she’d had a stick, I’m sure knees, arms and bottoms would have been poked. Whilst I loved the music and the movement, she frightened me and I wasn’t built like a dancer anyway, fronting up with my puppy fat, in my little white tunic, with pink ballet shoes and a pink grosgrain ribbon round the waist.
And then suddenly I became a swimmer and found my niche – competing and winning – which I had never done with ballet exams. So I left ballet, but the curious thing is the love of ballet never left me. In fact some of my favourite reading as a youngster were the Jean Estoril ‘Drina’ ballet books. I’d also attend concerts of international ballet companies when they came to town, delighting in the ethereal beauty of it all.
This week, I stood watching the class before ours – a group of 50+ year olds, dancing with flexibility and confidence. Unafraid and so very graceful as they performed a small choreographed dance at the end of class.
Goodness, I thought, would I ever be like them?
But by the end of Lesson One, I felt 6 feet tall. My neck was longer, I stood straighter. My bones and ligaments said to me, ‘Thank heaven you’ve finally unlocked us from encroaching old age.’
We did stretches at the barre, then moved to the floor and worked through feet and arm positions, extensions, head positions and then, bless Ms. Ker, she taught us the first few moves of the dance the others had performed.
She was encouraging, and unconcerned with our lack of experience and flexibility and she is so evidently in love with her art-form that I look forward to next week. When I got home I googled ballet for the mature age and lo, it’s not something unique.
So I feel a part of something exceptional happening across the globe. And it’s taken me to my 60’s to return to third position en face without feeling like the fairy elephant!
Taichi class tomorrow – the difference being that whilst I haven’t done ballet for over 50 years, I’ve been doing Taichi almost daily for 32!