Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Back to the Barre #4

The latest update in my adult ballet learning adventure... 

July 2016

It's my final classes with Transform before the summer, and things are starting to improve. In particular, my pirouettes en dehors are getting better. 

I find that if I think 'strong' (and actually say the word to myself in my head) as I plié to prepare, I’m able to relevé into a better position, with my core muscles engaged, my spine lengthened and my arms at the correct height. I'm still not getting round every time, but it's a marked improvement.

On the last class of term, I speak to the teacher about when she thinks I might be ready to take the exam, and she says that I should enter as soon as possible (replying to my pirouette protestations with the words "pirouettes schmirouettes!"). I'm thrilled, but as she's not the teacher who actually enters students for RAD exams, I'll have to wait for an official assessment with the other teacher in September. All being well though, I'll be able to complete the exam before Christmas.

I take the rest of the month off from ballet and instead enjoy summer picnics, a day trip to the seaside and other fun activities. I feel guilty and worry that I’ll lose my technique during my time off, but I keep reminding myself that I’m doing ballet for enjoyment and not to be perfect.

August 2016

It’s time to start thinking seriously about the ballet exam. I realise – on reading the RAD Intermediate specification – that I need to wear demi-pointe shoes and so I order a pair online. I sew on the ribbons and immediately test out a few barre exercises (using my lovely kitchen worktop). My feet have to work extra-hard to extend and balancing on demi-pointe is much more difficult (which is ironic really, considering the name of the shoes). I’ll have to start wearing them every time I practise from now on.

I also order a fake bun (pictured) that I can clip in over my bob-length hair to look more professional ballerina-y. And I indulge myself by buying a practice tutu skirt too, which I can wear in the exam for the variation. I then focus my practice on being as 'big' as possible, a correction that has come up for me repeatedly during the Transform classes. I try to fill as much space as possible as I dance - using confidence, projection and strong arm lines.

I’m still enjoying learning the RAD syllabus but I really want to be back onstage again. I audition to be in an amateur musical and am unsuccessful, which I take as a sign that I’m best sticking to ballet. I research adult ballet companies and find that there are very few. When affordability, location, rehearsal time and level are factored in, there’s only one option that’s suitable – the London Performance Company. I sign up for its Sunday afternoon pas de deux classes starting in September, meaning that my weekends will now be filled with ballet (with the continuation of RAD Intermediate classes on Saturday mornings).

We’ll be learning Hans van Manen's Five Tangos ready for a performance in December. It’s a quirky contemporary ballet piece set to tango music, but I have no idea how much of it will be taught or whether it will be adapted/simplified. In any case, I’m excited about getting ready to perform again.

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