A (Rubbish) Dancer’s Diary, Part 2


Ballet is a very long story of progression where virtually every week is an education, if you want it to be.  I suppose that is why dance is one of the best things for keeping you young and proven to help with mental wellbeing.  Although, my mental wellbeing can sometimes be very challenged by ballet or is it the mirror? or the fact that I am trying to do what should have been in my body since a small child but as it isn’t?, I just have to do the best I can do.  Those I watch as they confidently move around the dance studio, perfecting their solos, some very different dancers, the more compact, fleet of foot technician or the long-limbed dancer who draws you into the spectacle or the calm assurance of the dancer who has trained for a long time and that training has given her an awareness of the ballet form, they are just gorgeous to watch.  I feel privileged to watch and to learn from much better dancers who never judge and are always encouraging and can give great tips.  Also, when worrying about feeling sore and then hear younger dancers, just out of their 20s discussing aches and pains, makes me feel a lot better, I have a few years on them and anyway, we’ll have the summer to recover, this is the last push of the year.

What particularly stood out for me, sitting at the back of the room, is the calmness of the assured dancer.  They are at home on stage or at least they make it look as if they are.  They are in tune with the music and the music brings its’ calmness too. Some will be in the middle of the music, some will dance to the edge of it, creating accents or an extra breath, but all will be confident.  There is also the confidence that muscle memory, built up over years, brings, from long hours spent at the barre, in dance studios.  I have learnt much from this calmness and it should, eventually, help with nerves as I train myself to listen to the music, forget about the mirrors and just try and make my dancing a pleasurable experience.  After all, I am pretty sure that my dream of dancing for the Royal Ballet has pretty much passed me by or of waking up some morning and so inspired by my heroine, Marianela Nunez, that I can suddenly dance like her, so I intend to enjoy the thrill of every moment that I have to dance.  This is no excuse for running and hiding or not pushing yourself, just don’t give in to defeat or not push yourself but when it doesn’t always go right, at least there will be another class next week and there will always be fellow dancers to share with.

This week, there will also be the opportunity for ballet to bring us together socially as the Royal Ballet live cinema relay will be shown on Wednesday 18th May.  The ballet is the much talked about, ‘Frankenstein’, the new Liam Scarlett ballet and now, there is a role that I could aspire to!






A (Rubbish) Dancer’s Diary, Part 1



One day, a not-so-little girl watched Darcey Bussell on the telly and decided that she wanted to have a part of that, even in a small way.  Fortunately she found out that it wasn’t too late to strap on pink ribboned ballet slippers and an inspirational teacher at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast’s University Quarter who believed that it was never too late to discover or re-discover ballet.  Ruth Adams, pioneer of Adult Ballet in Northern Ireland, realised that ballet was not just for little girls who still had dreams of dancing on the Covent Garden stage but women and men who had long ago given up that dream but were still thrilled to be able to let go, inside the full-bodied ballet music and pirouette and arabesque whilst thinking that possibly (as there were no mirrors in those early days) that they in some way looked like Darcey.  Ruth Adams passed her mantle and classes onto Chee-Shong Soon when she retired who has had the responsibility for the last number of years, trying to realise even a fraction of the dreams of dancer’s, ranging in age from students right up to late 60s.  Encouraging when we feel like giving up, knocking off some of the rough edges and introducing some harmony into the Helen Lewis dance studio of a Friday evening.  In 2015, sadly, Ruth Adams passed away but she has left a massive ballet legacy in Northern Ireland with dancers of all ages and abilities, take their love of ballet out of the studio and patronise the theatres and cinemas around Belfast and have even been known to go on tour to Covent Garden and have big ambitions for Paris and Milan.


To celebrate the contribution of Ruth Adams to the cultural life of Belfast and especially to ballet, Chee-Shong Soon has been rehearsing a group amateur dancers (great dancers and a self-confessed rubbish dancer, pretty much because ballet is a tough mistress/ master), for a version of La Bayadere.  It is in equal measures thrilling and terrifying.  Any tips on how to conquer stage-fright nerves and keeping a 40+ body going for extra rehearsals.  This week I have been struggling with my first injury with a hip that is painful, which is why, I suppose, most dancers retire at around 40, not get going.  I expressed my wonder that a few years ago, I would not have believed that in my 40s, I would be planning to dance, on stage, albeit, in my highly amateurish way but you never know what life holds in store and we are fortunate to have facilities and encouraging teachers to accommodate us.


Ballet, as we know, is like a drug and you want to keep dancing and dancing and do not want the body to be telling us different, it is like the brain is going in one direction and the body is lying in some slovenly corner, eating crisps with a snide smile, saying, make me.  Although I joke that I am able to know what it feels like to be a professional dancer, oh, about less than a percentage point, in that you are rehearsing the same thing over and over or watching others perfect their solos, then you are going to bed and waking up and going to the next rehearsal.  Well, on a Friday night, Saturday morning, anyway.


The evening performance of La Bayadere will be held in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on the 8th July and tickets are on sale to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society and as a celebration of the life of Ruth Adams to whom so much of us owe to giving us a love of ballet.