City Dance 2011, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

On Saturday night, I got a very small taste of what it is like to be a dancer.  My main observation being that it is very hard work and the number of training and perfecting hours put in, is very disproportionate to the time on stage but then, that is why dancers train for long hours over many years and we do one hour at the end of the week when your mind and body just doesn’t work the way you want it to.  However, I was so pleased a few years ago when a friend of mine, when she heard of my interest in ballet and dance, to look at the classes in the Crescent Arts Centre.  I was overwhelmed to see the amount of choice on offer and excitingly, that they had what was entitled a ‘Second Chance Ballet’ class, for those that had started ballet as children and given up or had never had the chance to take it up but were intrigued by it as adults and prompted by some of the publicity about how good ballet was for you as a form of exercise or just found it inspiring. 

Each year, as either a fundraiser for the ongoing work of the Crescent Arts Centre and to promote the classes and dance, as a whole, the Crescent puts on a series of events under the title, City Dance.  Most of the classes take part in Workshops and Performance, this year, over a weekend with a dance film thrown in as well to further inspire.  It started for the Second Chance Ballet class a few weeks before the performance and a corps was hastily put together from dancers that had the talent to perform and those, not mentioning any names who were stupid enough!  Teacher morphed into Choreographer and a dance started to turn into a formation and steps were drilled over and over again.

There aren’t many times that this bunch of amateurs dances on into the night but putting together this mini performance, steps had to be learned and drilled and inhibitions put aside that naturally make you want to stand at the back and not push yourself forward.  After a lot of sweat and possibly some tears and sleepless nights, the dance eventually came together and was taken to the stage for a final rehearsal.  The final rehearsal started to great amusement when it was realised that the dance had been choreographed to the side of the stage that would prove more difficult to get all the dancers behind the curtain for a staggered entrance but the technicians were able to dim the lights to let the dancers cross the stage and our press team were on hand to record for posterity! 

Rehearsal done, it was time to go home for a few hours with feet up to prepare for the evening performance.  We arrived in the evening to put costumes on and tie our shoes and do a small run-through and final tweaks or steps that were still not fully formed in our heads.  Nerves were obvious and we all asked each other why we were doing this and the answer is for fun and so that others catch a flavour of why we do this and put ourselves through it.  We are hooked on ballet and for a small time and without the aid of mirrors, feel like real ballet dancers.

From standing in the wings to coming off stage again, it passed in the blink of an eye, so much so that it felt as if we were just warming up and ready to do it again.  The performance was not without its flaws but on the whole, I think we showed something of the art of ballet.  It is such an unforgiving dance, formations must be perfect, feet pointed, legs straight, movement in sync and legs that hold you up (which I’m afraid didn’t always happen and I know of one dancer’s jelly legs created wobbles).  Thankfully, though, there were no critics sharpening their pens, of course and it was definitely worth it to experience the highs and lows of performance and to do the thing we trully love.

We love our classes and most nights, could just dance on.  There is no pressure in class and everyone is very supportive and two classes are scheduled, one for those who are just starting out or starting back and one for those that have done a bit more.  We also take our love of ballet outside of the training room and go for coffee afterwards and also to see ballet performances on stage and in the cinema and have also travelled to London and hope to go to Paris in the near future.  My love and appreciation of ballet would not have been possible or as fun without this class at the Crescent Arts Centre and the founder of Second Chance Ballet Ruth Adams who recently retired and has now handed over to Chee Shong Soon.  Both teachers show such enthusiasm for the art-form but made class a welcoming place with time to learn but also push us to improve.  I would recommend anyone to look at the programming of the Crescent Arts Centre and take part in classes that are non-threatening and fun but also challening.  One of our suggestions when we completed our performance on Saturday evening was that we wanted to go straight back into the training room to begin rehearsals for next year!