The Bad Old Days

Hello from the grave....

Well not the grave exactly but as you read this I am on holiday, probably drinking tea and eating cakes.

So let my last post for 2 weeks be an epic moan. Well not a moan, more of an offload....

On Monday our usual barre & stretch and pointe classes were cancelled, so rather than do nothing I decided to try an adult open class at my beloved Scottish Ballet. I haven't danced there for several years, since back when I took their Beginners Ballet classes.

It was SB that gave me my first taste of ballet and got me hooked immediately. Don't be fooled though, whilst I got hooked on ballet, those classes stressed me out no end. I struggled in each and every one of those classes and frequently ended up going home in tears. It was all at once a good and horrendous experience. They made me feel so bad about myself it made me utterly determined to get better so I would not feel like that ever again.

I have talked about doing things out of your comfort zone and my time at SB pushed that to the max. I remember at the end of our second term of Beginners Ballet and being told I could not move up to the next level and being utterly crushed. I went home to Prince B and bawled my eyes out. I felt inept, stupid, clumsy and pathetic. I didn't think I was that bad. So I repeated the Beginners Ballet course and it felt like being kept back at school. It was remedial ballet. Whilst I was entirely out of my comfort zone, it gave me the impetus to try harder and prove my teacher, who clearly thought I was utterly crap, wrong. I took extra classes, I worked at home and started pointe. I was not going to be defeated.

Sadly SB ended their adult programmes at that time, so I danced exclusively at a little studio called Dance HQ, where is where I still dance to this day. I take 4 classes a week there and have had the same ballet teacher for graded and open class for all the years I've been there.

But since it was off on Monday and SB have adult classes again, I decided to give it a shot.

Oh what I fool I was.

The SB website said you had to have 3 years experience to take the class, which I do, so I thought I'd manage it reasonably well. How wrong I was. The combinations were fast and seemed odd to me - I could discern no obvious patterns to them. The teacher was nice but fearless in telling you were doing things badly. 

9892e7edda1ea6222cf33a227ba9e448Anna Pavlova on the left, me on the right

At the barre I made errors, many of them, but the worst was yet to come....The centre work.

I knew it was going to be bad when he started with pirouettes. Double pirouettes. Oh shit. I clearly looked horrified when he went through the combination as he asked me if I was OK with it and I spluttered "I can't do pirouettes". He told me that was "Nonsense!". It really wasn't nonsense. Watching the professional dancer, who was in the class, do doubles en pointe really brought home how not nonsense it actually was.

I spent the whole entire time wanting the ground to just swallow me up. For a big sink hole to appear in the middle of the floor and for me to disappear right into it. And I have a sink hole phobia!

It just went from bad to worse, if that was even possible.

The subsequent centre combinations were much too fast for me, even if I could remember what they were. I didn't have a hope in hell of even remembering my own name by that point, never mind a combination.

As he talked through this final lengthy combination, I slowly edged my way to the door until finally I just shot out of it and ran away! I have only ever left a class early once in my life, when my pointe shoes died mid-class, but I really could not bear a single second more. I had to get out of there and right now. It was a flight or flight situation!

Overall, I did get some helpful corrections, such as when I'm doing a cambre (backbend) I bring my body up with my arm still in fifth and open it to second once I'm out of the backbend, and he said it was far nicer if I open my arm out to second whilst I'm coming up from the backbend. It did look so much better. He also reiterated something my pointe teacher told me a few weeks ago, that I roll in my back foot in when I'm in forth. I didn't realise I also did this in flat ballet shoes. Of course, when you are midst of feeling so horrendous you just want the teacher to leave you alone, to not draw any attention to you whatsoever. Inside I was screaming "get away from me!"

I am now left wondering if it was just a result of having taking classes with the same teacher for many years and being used to his way of working, or if our classes are overall much easier. But I honestly haven't felt that bad since those days of beginners ballet. I'm still traumatised! The sick part of me wants to go back and try again, but I know I'd be every bit as terrible and I would feel as bad again.

I now realise there is a difference between being out of your comfort zone and just being plain uncomfortable. Monday was definitely the latter,  and then some!

However, despite having a terrible experience, there really is nothing better than being inside those Scottish Ballet studios. There is just an air of magic about it. I'd forgotten just how different it is dancing in a space intended for ballet; proper floors, lots of floor space, fixed barres and mirrors which stretch across the whole wall. It really does make the experience, even a bad one, much more pleasant and 'real'.