I’m not built like a dancer. I’m broad across the shoulders, I don’t really know how to deal with my limbs. I’m not graceful, I’m not elegant, and I have the balance of a person who has had a few too many glasses of fizzy juice. But around this time last year, I took up ballet. You may think for a person without any balance, this was a massive mistake. And you could be right.
Looking at me, and knowing me, you can probably guess what sort of a ballet dancer I am. I’m terrible. My arms and legs are usually out of control. I’m rarely in sync with the rest of the class, always a second or so behind. I wobble more than a weeble but I never fall over.
But I love it. I love the moments when I catch myself with my toes pointed and my arms outstretched in an arabesque and I look (a bit) like the other people in the class. I love it when I land my feet in a pirouette at the same time as everyone else. I feel like I’m as elegant Sugar Plum Fairy on pointe in The Nutcracker. When I manage a ron de jambe I feel like I’m floating. A simple glisse makes me feel like I’m Darcey Bussell.
Call me a fantasist for all of this, but ballet has become my new love. I read an article in Marie Claire about the rise in people taking ballet classes in the aftermath of Black Swan (though I’m sure the main character in that movie had mental health issues?) and suggested that ballet isn’t such a good addition to an exercise regime.
In the article, professional ballet dancer Brynn Jinnett says that taking the occasional ballet class will have no effect on fitness or weight loss for the average person. The article adds: “Speaking to Page Six magazine, Jinnett criticised gentle barre workouts, saying, ‘We have women who come and say they’d rather do barre classes because they can walk out and their hair hasn’t been messed up’.”
Now I don’t know what kind of ballet classes these women are going to, or what they expect, but whenever I come out of ballet class, I’m hot, sweaty, and about 30 minutes after class, I’m reminded of the muscles I forgot I had in the previous week. I work hard, I use every muscle, I concentrate. And my hair is always messy.
The ballet class I go to is an hour and a half long. In that hour and a half, I digest everything that’s happened in my day, and my week. I relax, despite the amount my body is working. In that 90 minutes, I am calm, I am serene, and I am focused. Afterwards, I feel as though I’ve spent the last 90 minutes in gentle meditation, not working every single muscle in my body.
I will never be part of the English National Ballet. I’ll never be able to dance elegantly across a stage in front of hundreds. But I will keep taking small pleasures in my achievements, and I will keep enjoying learning something new, and applying myself. I’ll keep enjoying putting on my ballet shoes on a Friday night, and I’ll still enjoy being caught practising doing pirouettes in the kitchen while I’m cooking tea.
This post was partly inspired by the post The Power of Running – which appears here