Happy Hour at the Barre

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This is our local. Our drink of choice is water, we get high off endorphins and at the end of class I am walking like a drunkard as my legs turn to jelly.

Each ballet class starts with “barre” work as a warm up for the rest of class. The term ‘warm up’ is misleading. Don’t let the smile on my face fool you, I am not enjoying myself! (I probably just made a mistake and had a chuckle). There is nothing easy about the barre! It is hard work and sometimes you wish the class ended then and there. But you have to psych yourself up and will your legs to get through the next sections of leaps, turns and pointe.

This is our Wednesday night ballet class. Between us there’s a lawyer, a uni student, a personal trainer, school teachers, and one school student. Although we lead very different lives, the thing that brings us together is ballet. Us “old girls” purely do ballet because we love it! (and because its great exercise).

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All in the family

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I am fortunate enough to belong to a family who owns a dance school. This is defintely a bonus when you are wanting to practice ballet and need help with your training. My grandmother and her sister started the school in Balmain around 70 odd years ago. My cousin now runs ‘Honeybrooks School of Dance’ and I am a teacher there. Thanks to dancing, we are a very close knit family.

The ranga in this picture is my cousin Jess. We have spent many hours at the studio over the years dancing together and as a result are very close. She doesnt hesitate when I ask her to help me with my ballet, either joining in with me or pushing my leg up to places a leg is not designed to reach (i think she also secretly enjoys inflicting pain on me as payback hahah).

Jess is a beautiful dancer, has great technique and a lovely dance quality. But, like me, was never the cookie cutter mold of a ballerina. My ample bottom and her ample top does not a ballerina make. Despite this, we find ourselves at dance class every week, slogging it out, not just because we are forced to (okay maybe a little, when it is your family business it’s hard to chuck a sickie) but simply because we are doing what we love!

Happy Feet

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“Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world” – Marilyn Monroe

These are my pointe shoes. They have been part of my life for 16 years. Although they are showing their age, there is still a beauty about them, kind of like Michelle Phieffer minus the botox!

These shoes are made by the Russian brand ‘Grishko’. Which I’m certain translates to “expensive”, at $200 a pair when I (my nan) bought them. They are slightly cheaper now but still pricey. BUT….when you want the best ballet shoes, you go to the people who are the best at ballet, at that’s the Russians.  When it comes to Ballet and Vodka, never settle for anything less than Russian.

Although they are the cause of much pain and blisters, they also hold many fond memories. Time spent at the ballet store with my Nan, deciding whether to get these or one of the other 500 pairs I tried on. Nan spending hours darning the tops of my shoes so they wouldn’t fray too quickly. And the time before I went off to ballet summer camp. Nan was seeing where on my ankle to cut the ribbons of my new shoes. She had my foot in a vice like grip and as she’s measuring the ribbon, she says to me, without a change in her voice,  “and no skinny dipping while you’re at camp” and pulled the ribbon a little tighter. I almost fainted. A few months before, I had gone skinny dipping at my friends 13th birthday party. Still to this day, I have never discovered how she found out! I was stunned, but at the same time amazed that she managed to know all the things she shouldn’t have. Needless to say the only dipping I did at camp was of the clothed variety.

Alas, I can not wear these divine shoes anymore, they still fit, but are, what we ballerina’s call “broken”. The wood is so weak it no longer supports me when I’m on my toes. So it is time to get a new pair. It will be bittersweet because this will be the first pair of ballet shoes I’ve gotten without my Nan. But I’m sure she will lead me to the perfect pair that I can make new memories with…and that are hopefully cheaper ’cause I’m on a budget!

Damn these thunder thighs!

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“You fed them, you lift them”. This is a great quote by a wonderful dance teacher called Janice Breen. Never was a truer word spoken and unfotunately my thighs are quite well fed.

Lifting the legs in Ballet is kind of an integeral part, it requires a lot of technique and strength. This is one of the reason ballerina’s have such slender legs as it makes the job of lifting them past your ears that much easier.

If however, you are like me and bottom heavy, it takes superman strength to keep your nutella-fed thighs in the air. I have no one to blame for this but myself. It feels like I need a crane to get my drumsticks even a centimetre off the ground. But I gotta work with what I got!

This minor hurdle makes me more determined to keep practicing and eventually no matter how chunky they are, I will be able to lift my legs higher than Bob Dylan at Woodstock.

Note to self: Only Aladdin can work Harem pants.

And so it begins

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Tonight was my first class on the long road to my ballet exam. Technique was not on the agenda. But the old noggin was put to the test trying to decipher ballet terminology and timing having never seen this syllabus before. It is way harder than any suduko (not that I have ever done suduko but I’ve seen people struggling with theirs on the train)

Being able to speak French doesn’t help in the slightest and by the time you figure out the feet, you realise you forgot to add the arms. And then comes the timing….PUTAIN!

Needless to say in an hour long class we only got through 3 exercises. It may not seem like much but considering each exercise is at minimum 1.5 min long, this was quite an achievement. I instantly felt alive and the passion for dancing stirring inside me.  Learning is such an underestimated thrill!

Suddenly 30

this is me at 29 years and 7 months. I am now a personal trainer and my derrière has increased substantially. Not that there’s anything wrong with that..I love my body, but I cant lift my leg in arabesque with an ass the size of Jupiter in the way. However, if you do want a little more junk in the trunk, I suggest you make squats and lunges your new best friend!

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When I was 17

…and I thought I was fat. I had only 3 exams left in my whole ballet career. The next avenue after that would’ve been joining a ballet company, which I would never have gotten into because I love me some ice cream. (part of the reason I am now pre-diabetic)