(First published on The Contented Calf website on Wednesday 14th August 2013. I'd just spent a week attending the London Amateur Ballet Summer Intensive, and I was buzzing...)
In the words of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady:
I could have danced all night!
I could have danced all night!
And still have begged for more….
I could have spread my (swan) wings
And done a thousand things
I’ve never done before.
I’ll never know what made it so exciting.
Why all at once my heart took flight.
I only know when he
(actually, they - the rest of the London Amateur Ballet Summer Intensive Company, that is)
Began to dance with me
I could have danced, danced, danced
Two and a half weeks ago I embarked on the most wonderful week, making the hopes and dreams of my three year old self, wondering what it would be like to be a ballerina, come true – even if it was only for a week.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a dancer. I just love it. It’s the one thing that truly takes me away and clears my mind of anything except on trying to make my body do what I want it to do. Music and dance makes my heart sing. If I could earn my income by dancing on stage, that would be great.
I never quite managed it though. I’ve always just been a bit too…..
too academic (it would have been a waste not to do A Levels or go to university)
too tall (at 5’8″ I’m not exactly ballerina build)
too old (mid-way through my 30s, I’m not sure a change of career in that direction is quite on the cards)
too busy (it’s only been since January that I’ve managed to squeeze in one adult ballet class a week on Wednesday lunch-times).
I did apply to the Northern School of Contemporary Dance after university, but didn’t get in.
Fast forward many (many many!) years and two and a half weeks ago, I found myself having dropped the girls off at nursery, on a train heading into London for Day One of the London Amateur Ballet’s Summer Intensive – lessons on the morning, working on Swan Lake in the afternoon.
The first day was pretty intimidating, as EVERYONE (you know what it’s like when your mind wildly exaggerates) seemed virtually professional to me, and I could barely keep up with understanding and remembering the choreography, let alone make my legs, feet, arms, back, head, eyes etc do what they were meant to do! I felt like a giraffe trying to dance, not a beautiful, graceful swan.
And when I woke in the night to pop to the loo, my feet! Oh how they ached – they had definitely been put through their paces!!
Days Two and Three were tough as they were full on days of dancing and exercise. Days started at 10am with four 45 minute classes of centre work, barre, pilates and pointe (or demi-pointe for those of us who’s feet were last in pointe shoes almost 20 years ago) with a couple of small breaks, taking us up to 1:30pm. Then 45 minutes for lunch, and two hours to work on our Repetoire (two dances from Swan Lake).
By the end of Wednesday, my energy levels were dragging along the floor and I could barely talk. But oh, how exhilarating those days were!!
(Starting positions for the Swan Waltz. I’m third from the front, in the right hand line, in the purple top – photo courtesy of London Amateur Ballet.)
I always wondered what it would have been like to spend all day, every day doing dance classes. I suspected that I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. And when my dream became a reality for the week, I was not disappointed.
Despite feeling physically exhausted at the end of the days, my body strangely stood up to the test of six hours dancing/exercise a day VERY well. It turns out that mummying is the perfect preparation for such a course!
While some of the company complained of aching upper backs and arms from all our ‘Swan arms’ (and Up and Down, and Up and Down……..), after years of jiggling, carrying, rocking, lifting and shoulder-carrying my girls, my upper back has already gone through the pain barrier and now become super strong and pure muscle.
And while others were suffering from tired lower backs, from standing up all day, being on one’s feet all day is something we mummies are very much used to – no real problem there either!
My body might have been on the floor, but my soul was dancing! My mood was sky high and stress levels were zero – I just lost any kind of stress I had in my body.
When I picked my little girls up from nursery on the Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, even though I was lugging my big bag full of dance stuff, they had their bags, drawings, snacks, the pram, crowded commuter bus…. nothing riled me. I was calm, happy, an amazing mum. I didn’t snap at anything.
(If I could just dance all day every day, I would be an amazing parent.)
Now all I needed to work on was the steps.
But more classes, more repetition, more work on the repetoire pieces fixed that. Slowly, but surely I picked up more and more steps, they became more and more embedded in my memory and subconscious. Alongside that, I endeavoured to improve my technique too and transition from bandy giraffe into graceful swan (well perhaps slightly gawky swan, but swan nevertheless).
Friday evening (our show night), came all too quickly. And before we knew it, we were pulling on our tutus and leotards, perfecting our buns, pulling on tights and trying to apply make-up to our very sweaty faces. (Not sure I’ve ever sweated so much, and drunk so much all day, all week.)
As we stood in line, waiting to make our entrance on to the stage, I was bursting with excitement! Although I was nervous, I just couldn’t wait to get on stage and start dancing!!
Roll on next year’s Summer Intensive!
(2021 edit: As it was, by Summer 2014 we were off fulfilling another dream and living in California.)
“I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night, and still have begged for more……”
As always, with love from our family to yours,
London Amateur Ballet – www.londonamateurballet.com
London Amateur Ballet was created in response to increasingly persistent requests from a group of enthusiastic amateur ballet dancers to have an opportunity to learn some repertoire and perhaps even venture onto a stage and have a go at performing to a live audience.