35 Years Since My First Ballet Class
This September it has been 35 years since my very first ballet class.
Little did I know what journey lay ahead and looking back to the beginning I remember
(in no particular order) a few odd things.... that I :
almost quit after my first class, I think because the teacher scared me
always preferred technical exercises and barre work to improvising (e.g. being a leave in the autumn wind)
was too serious and never smiled enough in class and rehearsals
could not remember the six Vaganova- port de bras (aged 7)
my first ever performance (aged 6) was at the German State Opera in East-Berlin to celebrate the Day of the National People's Army.
I loved the stage atmosphere but I was disappointed that we did not get to wear a tutu but we had to use our own regular dresses.
How did I get into Ballet?
We lived right across the State Ballet School Berlin. When I was five years old, I wanted to do pretty much everything I saw: after we went to the circus, I wanted to become a trapeze artist, to the terror of my mother. However, I was too young to be accepted at the circus school (or was this just what my mother told me, I wonder?).
I also loved the idea of becoming a soprano opera singer and I remember me screaming the aria of the Queen of the Night of Mozart's Magic Flute at the top of my voice at home (to a different kind of terror to my mother).
trying to stand well-aligned at the beginning of each class
Finally, we went to watch the annual ballet school performance at the school's beautiful yard, called the Rose Garden.
What made me decide that I wanted to do ballet (too) were the shiny satin tutu-bodices. In particular, the ones of the pas de trois from the Nutcracker. (The very year I was to dance this piece at the school performance, 9 years later, the teachers decided to change the costume to a simple leotard and skirt. I was gutted!).
pas de trois at ballet school performance, Berlin, 1988
After I danced my way home, I made my mother sign my up for ballet classes, much to her relieve I suppose. Naturally, I was disappointed that my first ballet classes looked nothing like the performance I saw. No tutus but a boring black leotard and stiff black ballet shoes (read more about my first ballet shoes), no turning on relevés with arms in 5th position as I envisioned when I heard the music playing behind closed doors, but strict posture, foot, strength and stretch exercises. And another year of this before we were allowed to begin to train at the barre! Which I loved for its technicality and structure, even if I could not put it into words back then.
feet exercises with arms in alongé- sort of
Ballet classes have been my companion ever since, as a student, a dancer and now a teacher. It would be very difficult for me to imagine my life without it. Although there were periods when it was very challenging to keep going, there were also times when the daily class was the thing that kept me going.
To see so many people enjoying adult ballet classes today and making it an important part of their lives too, is wonderful to witness and I am looking forward to another 35 years (at least!) of ballet life.