Dance of the Big Ducks

This time last week I was half way through a major ballet adventure with a lot of fellow ballet nerds that I had never met before. Despite vowing never to join Twitter and only doing so to spread the word of losing local arts some good things have happened.

After only two months of tweeting random ballet related musings, the lovely Rebecca invited me along to my first UK Ballet Tweep Meet. The words ballet/Swan Lake masterclass/ex-Royal Ballet dancers/afternoon tea/champagne/tutus go together very well in my eyes and I was booking those train tickets faster than Tamara Rojo chainéd past me at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year.

So armed with tutus I cheated on my original ballerinas and headed to London. I had no idea what to expect, apart from the fact I didn’t know anybody (unless you count tweeting). It kind of felt like a first day at school. Dancing with people you have never met/without my original ballerinas felt quite daunting. I certainly didn’t want to be at the end of the barre getting lost. I was quite concerned at my lack of experience compared to some and most of all being completely rubbish at ballet altogether and offending the wonderful ladies, Isabel McMeekan and Karis Scarlette from Everybody Ballet with my lack of Penché.

The barre work was good, simple compared to what we have be used to in our own class recently. I was pretty relieved about this and about the fact that we missed Frappés out. The less chance for messing up and a load of corrections in front of a load of ballerinas I had just met the better! I was very aware of making sure I was doing things properly and the fact my arms were in the correct positions. Insert *serious ballerina face* here.

Barre work over, nicely warmed up we moved on the a few simple jumps. I enjoyed the fact they were ‘simple’. I had no idea what was about to come next. And it was about here that I was starting to kick myself for forgetting to bring water. Who the hell forgets to bring water to a three hour ballet class? Me. Me, because I was so cold when I got of the train in London that all I could think about was buying a hot drink, therefore completely masking my ability to remember to buy some water.

Well, as this was a Swan Lake Masterclass I should probably discuss the Swan Lake-ness of the experience. I love Swan Lake. A lot. I could watch it over and over and over again. I danced parts of it earlier in the year in front of friends and family. I think that it’s the most played album on my walks to and from work everyday. Listening to the Waltz from Act I makes me want to give up work and dance EVERY SINGLE DAY. So Swan Lake Masterclass is perfect for me.
I expected to be Bourrée-ing around with swan-arms for a few hours. I am good at that, even if I do say so myself. I love a good Bourrée en pointe.

And then my dreams were shot down when Isabel and Karis showed a video of Royal Ballet’s Dance of the Big Swans.

Two hours to learn this. And then perform it with our partners in front of everybody. HA! And I had forgotten my water. And I only have one 85 minute lesson a week, and then only regularly for 18 months. Guess I would just have to get stuck in.

I will admit that at the beginning of learning this routine the thought that I wanted to stop did cross my mind for a split second. I seemed to have real issues with the opening steps, and I don’t ask questions in my own class if I am unsure, never mind in a class full of people I have never met! It seemed as though people around me caught on pretty quickly and my brain was having its normal issue of not being able to send the right messages to my feet.
After the evil opening steps thinks looked on the up. The Arabesques and Attitude steps were easy to remember, and I enjoyed the Developpé?? Tombé Entrechat repeats in the middle and the Grand Jeté en Tournants later on. I much prefer bigger jumps rather than fancy bits of footwork like the evil beginning.
Looking back, I can remember the routine very well, and even later that day on the way home going over it in my head, those evil steps from the beginning suddenly clicked and I could probably do them right now if you asked me to. At the time I think my brain felt a little overwhelmed with the amount of remembering it had to pull out at the time. And of course by this point I was dying of thirst..

I was partnered with the lovely Claudia to perform our duet. By the time it came for our turn I had completely forgotten all knowledge of those beginning steps and had to be shown again by Isabel. Inside I was thinking that she must think ‘wow, she’s a bit rubbish at ballet’ but both Isabel and Karis were so encouraging throughout the whole afternoon. They were wonderful teachers, so enthusiastic and supportive and did amazingly well to get me to pick up as much as I managed to in such a short space of time.

Dancing with Claudia was a fun yet slightly daunting experience. I think we were both nervous about letting each other down when it came to our performance. We were both so busy concentrating on our own steps that we forgot to look at each other and work together, although saying that I remember Isabel clapping and throwing a few compliments our way when our Grand Jeté en Tournants were in time. I, myself was very relieved when we had finished and by this point I needed water badly. I am sure that if we had gone back the next day to try again we would have danced it even better together.

All of the duets were fantastic considering the little time we had to pick up the steps, very inspiring. I have gone back to my own class much more confident. If I can dance in front people I have never met before then I can volunteer to go first to Piqué from the corner in my own class in front of everybody I know.

The experience has improved my confidence more than I ever expected, and left me wanting to better myself as a dancer. I have met some wonderful fellow ballet nerds and I think that together we are slowly going to take over the amateur ballet world via Summer Intensives and ENB workshops…and of course the next UK Ballet Tweep Meet…



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