Welcome to the first of a three part series on my experiences in ballet! Ballet has been a pretty big part of my life from the time that I was yay high until, well, now. This series is going to move from ballet class to rehearsal to the performance, complete with behind the scenes tidbits you didn’t know existed! I hope that you enjoy this, as ballet is incredibly important to me and I wanted to be able to share it with you.
Ballet class has been a constant for most of my life. I took a break after university, but I’m back taking classes at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Most studios don’t offer advanced adult classes, so I jumped at the chance when I decided to go back! Before I get stuck into this, a little background information will help. There are different schools of ballet training and technique: English, French, Russian, Italian, etc. I trained in the English style, aka the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus (RAD from now on)! RAD training is slower but builds progressively to create a solid and sound dancer. We are often sticklers for technique and terminology, and we will never sacrifice form for extra extension, height or turns. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet offers classes in the Italian style, aka the Cechetti method. It’s all about specific positions, fast footwork, and odd timing (to me). While sometimes I miss my RAD classes, I do love being challenged mentally and physically. Each methodology uses your muscles in slightly different ways that to someone outside is virtually unnoticeable but to a trained dancer stands out like a broken toe.
So, what happens at ballet class? Well, I usually try to be there at least an hour beforehand. I can stretch from head to toe, and ensure that I am properly warmed up before starting anything. My go-to music is typically Michael Jackson- it gives you energy, is classic, and has a steady beat. I’m usually wearing Lulu Groove pants that are from almost a decade ago, my Bloch warm up booties, and a Vinyasa scarf from Lulu, as well. It seems excessive but I prefer to start on the warmer side and give my muscles a chance to really loosen up before dancing. I’m pretty traditional in what I wear in class- black bodysuit, pink ballet tights, and a black chiffon wrap skirt.
Class starts with barre- not a Barre type barre, but an actual barre. You start with pliés (bending your legs), then tendus (stretching through your feet), and so on. Depending on the class, your barre can be anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes. I prefer a longer barre, it gives you more of a chance to get your legs under you and check your balance. I also like to push my extensions higher at the barre- it’s really the time to do it.
Once you move into the centre, we typically start with port de bras which translates to “carriage of the arms”- it’s exactly what you think of if someone were to say “ballet arms”! I love working through port de bras, it really allows for expression and developing your musicality. After that, petite allergro and grande allegro- small jumps and large jumps! Petite allegro is my strong suit- fast and quick footwork that stays underneath you and scurries along the floor? That’s my jam. I find it challenging and like a tongue twister for your feet. Turns are usually mixed in- you will always have one leg that is stronger than the other, and you will always have an off-turning day in a month. You just have to accept it and learn from it!
I get home quite late from class but I do go out of my way to spend a few minutes stretching when I get home. If you don’t stretch, you are usually in for a rough day of tense and tight muscles ahead of you, and that’s best avoided if possible. Stretching your way to sleep isn’t the worst to get ready for bed!
Next Wednesday will be Part II: Rehearsal!
In the meantime, let me know if you have any ballet questions for me!