Every ballet class that I have ever done, whether in Huddersfield, Leeds, London. Manchester, Sheffield or (half a century ago) St. Andrews, has followed a pattern. Usually there is a warm followed by 20 to 30 minutes barre consisting of pliés, tendus, glissés, ronds de jambe, fondus, cloches and either grands battements or développés, then a port de bras which is my favourite part of the class, followed sometimes by pirouettes (which still defeat me), sautés, grands jetés or temps levés and cool down. We did most of that yesterday as well as several steps that were quite new to me - but in a different way - and it was a lot of fun.
The class took place at Hype in Sheffield which I mentioned in More than just Hype - Beginners and Improvers Classes in Sheffield 14 May 2014. Our teacher was Emily Talks who has been on maternity leave over the last year. Mel had spoken very highly of Emily and I can quite see why. Emily and I had met briefly in August when Mel did her grands battements and we have been friends on Facebook for a while but this was the first time I had taken one of Emily's classes.
It was not a big class. Less than 10 of us. All women except for Ian (the gent I introduced in my review of Hype's Frightnight contribution (seewas Out of this World 3 Nov 2014)). Emily's warm up consisted of getting us to walk in random directions, then backwards trying not to turn round which resulted in my barging into Mel with great velocity, then walking forwards curtseying or bowing to each other as we passed.
Instead of pliés and tendus at the barre Emily called us into the centre and taught us a delightful enchainement consisting of pliés. rises, arms in open 5th, glissé, piqué, point, several steps forward and finally a port de bras all carried off with a smile. She drilled us several times at this exercise until we got it more or less right.
She sent us back to the barre briefly to practise glissés (3 in front followed by a plié, 3 to the side followed by another plié, 3 to the back followed by yet another plié, 3 more to the side followed by a snappy relevé). We did that in both directions a couple of times.
Next we tried fondus in the centre bending our left leg and raising our tight, then our tight raising our left, bending our left and stretching our right, bending once more and balancing on left in relevé running a few steps and balancing on our right legs in third arabesque. We marked it once without music and then with music. We divided into groups and had a go at the exercise several times. We then tried the exercise on the opposite feet. I have had trouble with my right foot for over a year and just can't hold demi-pointe for more than a millisecond which can't have impressed Emily. On the other hand I could make a much better stab at third arabesque balancing on my left leg. Emily drilled us in that exercise several times and I do think I improved slightly. Seeing my struggles Mel slapped me on my back by way of encouragement.
Our last enchainement was a weight shifting exercise for which we were given props. There was a big bag of toys and other goodies on one of the racks from which Emily selected some coloured wands with streamers for each of the women and a Union flag for Ian. My wand had green and white stripes with a green ribbon. The exercise consisted of waving our wands (or flag) in the air from left to right and back again as we shifted our weight from one side to the other pointing our unengaged toe a couple of rapid soutenus waving our wands (or flag) below our tummies, pliés, rising in the air, running (and then for me the new bit) jumping a rassemblé changing step and direction and ending with our rights arms and wands in the air and our left arms forming a continuous line. Or at least that was the idea. I don't think I ever got there but I did my best. Again, we tried that exercise in groups several times.
Finally. we did some conventional jumping - sautés and changements ending with some temps levés. Again we tried each of those exercises several times.
Then it was all over.
Emily's cool down consisted of some stretches on the floor followed by some stretches on out feet. We curtseyed to Emily, then to each other and we were on our way.
I don't think a class has ever gone so quickly. I have to think back to my first class with Annemarie to recall one that has been as much fun. The hour was more like a rehearsal than a class. By combining the exercises into enchainements we were able to understand the exercises in the context of a performance. By repeating them more than once each of us we improved a little - or at least (in my case) I thought I did. We were all bouncing and chatting as we exited the studio.
I shall certainly try to return to Sheffield for another of Emily's classes. Unfortunately, I don't know when. Emily's class clashes with meetings of the London Ballet Circle. Ernst Meisner was the guest last week, Marcelo Gomes the week before that and Li Cunxin is coming next week. There is no way I would miss the opportunity to listen to and afterwards shake hands with them. Moreover Sheffield is not a city I visit often. Traffic is terrible. Public transport is no better. Trains from Brockholes take forever and the tram does not go anywhere near Hype's studio. Off-street parking is outrageous and the council has the cheek to charge £1 for parking outside the Lord Nelson after 18:30. The only reason I was able to take yesterday's class was that I had a business meeting in the city followed by an invitation to the Wong Ting. Nevertheless, I have an incentive to return and return I will just as soon as I can.