Ballet is something we associate with pink tutus. It’s Swan Lake and the Nutcracker performed by abused and very underweight women in an ostentatiously decorated theatre. As someone who is scruffy, not at all girly, and very uncoordinated it doesn’t make sense that I’ve decided to take it up as an adult. Yet giving it a go has been an incredibly cathartic experience that hopefully will help my coordination and general orderliness.
Let me very briefly explain how I got to this point:
I’ve always been really bad at sports. In primary school I wanted to play football at lunchtimes but the only goal I ever scored was a lucky accidental back heel when I wasn’t looking. I was good at swimming but when the swimming instructor wanted to teach diving she gave up on me and taught everyone else separately.
In secondary school I got made to join the netball club because I wasn’t doing extra- curricular sports activities. Obligingly I went along and it was a complete disaster. I didn’t understand the concept of standing still with the ball. Not to mention that you then have to twirl with a ball in your hand?! I simply could not grasp it. Within minutes, the entire team was exasperated and yelling at me. I did not return.
Since then, the only exercise I have done is running (on and off- I haven’t achieved more than a 5k), sometimes yoga, and in my final year at university I went swimming, which was great in exam time.
When I graduated back in July, I started thinking about the world of work, I wanted to carry myself better and look more elegant and controlled, that’s why I decided to take up adult ballet. I bought a pair of black ballet shoes and a black leotard to match and dedicated myself to the cause. Even though it is an adult beginner’s class I am quite obviously the worst but I don’t mind. The teacher often will give instructions to everyone and then say to me directly, ‘you just do the arms’ or ‘you just do the legs’ because for the life of me I can’t put them together. She still always tells me to come back next week.
Now we’re in lockdown and so obviously I have no class to go to. Plus for a few weeks before Corona shut everything down I was prepping job interviews and doing theatre reviews so missed a few classes. The teacher probably thinks I’ve given up. Now it’s just me, the back of a chair, pliés, relevés and tendus. I still don’t properly attempt the arms but for a while I escape into an alternate world where I am beautiful and composed. The reality is far from it, but every time I do feel a little more centred. Regardless, my short legs clearly benefit from anything even remotely elongating.
At home I have been mostly using videos to give me something to try and follow. My other secret is that occasionally I just put on my punk playlist and dance to that. I’ll just randomly combine steps I know. The main rule is that everything has to hurt the right amount. This is so you know it’s doing something useful. If it doesn’t hurt at all you’re doing it wrong and if it hurts too much you should stop before you get injured.
I watch videos of icons like Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn and am in awe of their achievements. Of course, I won’t ever be dancing Giselle. I probably won’t improve much at all in ballet, but maybe, just maybe, I can become more elegant.
Scarlett Sherriff, Editor-in-Chief