Today is World Ballet Day; in fact if you type World Ballet Day into Google it will take you to a link that shows Ballerina’s in training all over the world. I am currently watching someone practising in Russia, it is amazing and beautiful. The sheer physical strength and the elegance of their movement is incredible even when they’re just walking about. In a world where everything is touched up, filtered or CGI’d it is always a surprise when something is as beautiful in real life as you imagine it to be.
I am only watching this as I have recently ventured out to an adult ballet class. Our teacher suggested we watch and see professionals in training. She said it would be “inspiring” as we do the same warm up exercises and steps as they do so we would see what we were “working towards”.
I did a bit of ballet when I was very young but not for long. I always enjoyed dancing of any sort growing up. I remember really wanting to do ballet and modern classes. Coveting the leg warmers and moves of some of the girls in my class. I also loitered around dance shops in town when hanging out with friends, turning over dance shoes and Pineapple tracksuits as if just being around them was some kind of substitute. As it was we didn’t have the money needed to attend those kinds of classes, instead I mainlined the “Kids From FAME”. I learnt every key change in every song and every move from every dance, especially the one at the end outside the fountain. I was convinced that all performing arts schools ended every school day like this. So when I saw an adult ballet class being offered I thought I’d give it a go, why not?
Having watched a bit of the National Ballet stuff I do not feel there is anything the Russian Ballet Company can inspire me to work towards in class. Mostly in class, there are around 12-16 of us (all grown ups ranging from 20 to 50 somethings) wondering about in a bit of confused daze, attempting everything we’re shown but achieving very little of it. We spend the first half an hour at the bar doing a lot of feet pointing. In a way that looks easy but is actually impossible as my hips have fused solid over the last few decades and I don’t appear to have the calf muscles for standing properly. Then we go into the centre and have to jump about in a variety of impossible ways for a bit. I spend all of that time trying not to wee myself as my body appears to think that the way you jump in ballet is exactly the same as jumping on a trampoline (which has not been attempted since the summer of 2009). Then we have to glide and jump across the room for a bit. This often involves holding hands with another, embarrassed stranger. Being British it means having to apologising continually for holding hands and for being rubbish.
Last week we had to form a circle and waltz in an and out of it, touching the opposite hand of the person we were passing and making direct eye contact before moving on. It was excruciating, not just because of the awkward eye contact moment. But also because I’m still not always able to tell my left from my right, especially under pressure. So, I ended up on the wrong side and going in the wrong direction, essentially just wafting my hand around hopefully at pretty much every turn. At the time I was just grateful there was no jumping involved; between the wafting and making direct eye contact with someone trying to hold my bladder would have been too much for me to manage.
Despite all that I still went back this week. I have no secret dreams of being a ballerina or of performing any of it outside of the classroom. I have no illusions about how I look doing it or about how awful I am at it. It doesn’t tick any of the usual being a good adult boxes (the; is it practical, when will I actually use it and how often, can I sell it on when I’ve finished with it, will I be any good at it, how much does it cost etc etc etc checklist) and yet I am loving it.
There is something about just doing it, irrespective of the adulting checklist, that I love which is hard to justify. We don’t often give ourselves permission to do something just because we want to. We all have too many chores, responsibilities and commitments to spend an hour a week doing something utterly pointless for the sheer fun of trying. Because in reality it is essentially just for my inner 8 year old. But there is something about making your inner child happy that is good for the soul. So I’ll keep going back, for a while at least, who knows, I might even get a pair of those leg warmers as well.