I do classes with the Australian Ballet…

It all started when I was a little girl.

I was born with foot issues and it was suggested to Mum that I do ballet.

I used to trot off to RAD classes with a woman who scared the very devil out of me. Tall, dark hair in a tight bun and archtypically, the frosty ballet mistress – think Cruella Deville with a bun!

The hall was big and cold for we little children in short white ballet tunics with grosgrain pink sashes, and pink  ballet shoes that tied with long satin ribbons. For someone like me, a pudgy little six year old who even then sensed she was an introvert, it was intimidating…

I survived those classes and passed my exams although looking back, they didn’t help my feet at all and besides, I had become horse- and swimming- mad, asking my parents if I could train for swimming and have a horse. Clever parents with an eye to the future and the drain on the family budget, they said yes to the former and no to the latter.

But back to ballet…

The experience of the dance in my formative years gave me an everlasting love of ballet and at university in the 1960’s, I decided ballet was my choice of exercise and I went back to classes, this time with a wonderfully adept woman who had vast performance experience across the globe. I used to rock up in black leotard, tights and black ballet shoes, hair slicked back into a tight pony tail and it was fun. There wasn’t the pressure of those junior years.

But then followed a complete cessation for about fifty years. (Ye Gods!)

Fast forward to 2016.

I had a major health issue which pitched me into hospital. The upshot was that I lost nearly all right-side balance. I had hours of physio to train my brain to take up the slack and I asked my physio what she thought of me taking up ballet classes again and she replied ‘Why not?’

So  I enrolled in Adult Education Beginners Ballet with that same adept woman of my university years.

Yes, there was a little bit of Lucy going on but by and large I managed,

(see this previous blogpost)

All was going swimmingly till March of this year when Covid-19 hit the world and suddenly, everything that we took for granted in the past was gone.

Including my ballet-classes.

What to do?

And here’s where serendipity arrived in tights and ballet slippers…

I subscribe to the Australian Ballet on social media, and attend their performances when possible.

 I was informed that David Macallister, Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet would be running free online keep fit classes from the company’s studios in Melbourne during Lockdown.

How inspired and inspiring!

From the depths of my bathroom vanity and kitchen benches, I immediately logged on.

As the Lockdown continued, the Australian Ballet came up with the brilliant idea of running online studio classes from Beginners through Intermediate to Advanced, with the occasional Masterclass thrown in. So for a moderate fee, I became a subscribed student.

And I love it.

The tutor, Justine Miles, is so clear, the videoing so well-positioned, and the music … oh, the music is superb, piano played in the studio by various musicians who work for the company.

I missed some classes through Lockdown because I had a walking accident, tore my calf and Achilles and was in a moonboot for some time, but I was able to do some of the routines if I stood well-supported at the kitchen bench and didn’t strain the booted leg.

There are really only two obvious negatives. One is the lack of face to face tutoring and correction for mistakes. The other is the lack of social interaction. But to me they are outweighed completely by the fact that no matter where I am now that our state Lockdown is over – whether I’m on the coast or in the city – I can participate regularly in a lyrical and melodic exercise format which lengthens me from neck to toe, keeps my balance in reasonably good order and satisfies the love of the dance that has been with me since I was six.

Also, in a small way whilst Covid-19 ravages the Arts, my small contribution along with others just might be helping the company breathe.

And honestly, how cool it is, to say ‘I do classes with the Australian Ballet…’

So thank you, David, Justine and all the pianists who give me such joy each week. It’s an ongoing pleasure and to be honest, a privilege!

(David Macallister is publishing a book  this week.  I’ve pre-ordered it and anticipate its arrival for my birthday!)