Rehearsals over, ballet shoes put into storage, pre-performance stress and post-performance high are now all far behind me. Unfortunately my Royal Ballet contract has not landed on the mat, so I have to go back to the mundane world of office work and leave the camaraderie of a shared, stressful but ultimately satisfactory experience, behind. Adult ballet has taken off in the last number of years with more and more researchers putting together the link between dance and wellbeing and also with the world becoming somewhat more individualistic, people are craving a community of shared interests and this is what I have found through Second Chance Ballet at the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. Sometimes in Northern Ireland, we might have been accused of being a tad provincial or colloquial but I have met so many interesting and friendly people from across the globe and of all ages, although unfortunately we are still somewhat lacking in the male of the species but then, that is something that will hopefully change.
I still have some ballet dreams to be fulfilled, one has passed and that is to where pointe shoes (too old, in ballet years), to wear a tutu (still possible) and to do a soaring pas-de-deux with the feeling of being lighter than air (possible but not likely) but sure, a girl can dream and Friday night has still given me that hope. And when you have people who are beautiful dancing creatures with what seems like a lot of confidence giving you so much encouragement and displaying some of the vulnerabilities that you know you have yourself, this is what makes the experience so special. My friend said to me, “what would Marianela (@MNunezOfficial) do?” and this became our little joke to ease the tension, so I pretended I inhabited that level of perfection and was dancing towards my Solor or @RobertoBolle who was just out of sight, the other side of the stage lights!
Of course, there was a profound and poignant reason for doing this, not just giving a bunch of amateur dancers of varying abilities the thrill of being on the stage but to honour a lady who started Adult Ballet in Northern Ireland and therefore us, along this road. Ruth Adams let us dance, the other side of those red curtains, staring out to a full auditorium of family and friends. Many people who started dancing or were brought back to dancing with Ruth Adams commented how much she would have loved the performance and that is where I took my inspiration from. Ballet has added a new dimension to my life and although there are constant reminders out there that life is very real, for a few moments, we were transported to a world of Nikiyas and Solors and we even cheered for Gamzatti!
Ruth Adams passed her love of adult ballet and her classes onto Chee-Shong Soon who has certainly developed this troupe of amateur dancers with just the most appropriate mix of drive, inspiration and passion. I did not envisage a performance on such a scale as having to negotiate three costume changes for myself, however, we did draw the line at having a live orchestra, as one dancer was asked! I was truly in awe of how Chee-Shong put this together, not even working full-time in ballet or dance, although we all dream of our parallel lives of what we would do to transform ballet in Northern Ireland and make it as visible as it should be, if we had lots of time and money. After all, Northern Ireland has one of the world’s up and coming ballet stars in Melissa Hamilton and she would always be welcome down at the Crescent Arts Centre for a Guest appearance, if she ever wanted one! Lots and lots of people of all ages are filling up dance studios and standing at barres and more studios and classes being added, around the country. I’ve seen the cinemas begin to fill with audiences and the same audience still flocks to live theatre (unfortunately not as often as we would wish and would also like to see some of the smaller companies being given access to the big theatres and their technology for live screening, although, can see how funding might be an issue), we are a strong community and it would be nice to get that recognition. Maybe some year!
Right now, it is nice to have a couple of months off but with the prospect of a few summer classes to keep my feet moving. Also, there are big plans for next year as well as we get those swan arms out. The ballet of ballets, where there is so much dancing and character as well as classical roles with ballet’s most famous corps de ballet scenes, the oft imitated pas-de-quatre and the Black Swan, although I don’t think I will be volunteering to execute 32 fouettes, maybe the next year!
Alzheimer’s Society: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Second-Chance-Adult-Ballet.
And here’s our beautiful New York dancer who has given us a lot of grace and great fun and a beautiful tutu as well. There were a lot of covetous ballet dancers.