|Yoshie Kimura and Jane Lambert|
It is nearly 03:12 in the morning but I am not going to sleep until I have written this experience out of my system. Last night I took part in Move It, The Dancehouse's seasonal dance revue performed by students from its many and varied evening classes. I was in KNT's Beginners' Ballet piece which was choreographed by our teacher, Karen Sant. It was not the first time I had danced in public but it was by far the most enjoyable.
Karen had asked us to assemble at The Dancehouse at 15:30. She had told us to wear black leotards with a mesh dress, black tights, pink shoes and our hair in a bun. The last instruction caused me no end of grief because I have never learned how to style my hair. I spent a whole hour in front of three different transatlantic YouTube tutorials entitled "How to make a classic ballet bun" (or words to similar effect) getting precisely nowhere. Happily Gita knew how and she arranged my hair in a very tight bun within minutes.
Just as she had finished I caught my crowd proceeding with a purpose so I followed them. They led me to the auditorium of The Dancehouse Theatre where we all sat down. There were already dancers on stage performing to an infectious drum beat. After they had finished the compère whom I had mentioned in Better than Eurovision took to the stage. Her introduction was very much as it had been last year but she said something very true about adult dance. Nobody forces us to come to class week after week as may have happened to some of us when we were children. We come because we want to not just to keep fit but because dance is enormously satisfying both emotionally and spiritually. She added that for the teachers seeing that satisfaction on the faces of their pupils is enormously rewarding. I will give an example of what she must have meant below.
The compère then called on the first piece which was Josh Moss's repertoire class (see A Pint for Josh 28 Aug 2015). They were performing the swans' entry from Swan Lake which was a bit of choreography that I happened to know from the Swan Lake intensive that I attended over last summer (see KNT's Beginners' Adult Ballet Intensive - Swan Lake: Day 1 18 Aug 2015, Day 2 19 Aug 2015 and Day 3 20 Aug 2015). It was executed beautifully as was a Rothbart excerpt danced by my classmate from the intensive, Simon Garner, and another gent whose name I do not know. We saw the whole of the first part of the review and a bit of the second before our cast was called back stage to do our stuff. Gita saw the whole performance so she will review the show. All I will say is that I enjoyed each and every piece and some (including the last ballet piece performed by a cast that included another Swan Lake intensive student, Yoshie Kimura, photographed with me above) enormously.
Not long into the second part of the show we were called back stage. The Dancehouse is only the second commercial theatre in which I have performed and is quite a bit bigger that the Stanley and Audrey Burton in Leeds. There is a whole labyrinth of passages and anterooms before you get to stage left or stage right. Somehow I arrived at the right place for entry stage right. Our music struck up. The first step was a tendu with the right leg followed by a fondu and lunge. Out of my peripheral vision I caught Tyson, yet another Swan Lake intensive student doing those steps so I knew I was OK. We repeated those en croix. then some lunges left and right working through a plié in second, a soutenu, some balancés right and left, followed by three glissades to the right, a changement, more glisssades and another changement, a run, a temps levé, another run, a turn with the right hand followed by a turn with the left, some sautés, an advance forward, two awkward retirés, a port de bras and then lights followed by a curtsy and a rapid exit to the right. Or something like that! We (or rather I) made a few errors but somehow we got through that rehearsal without mishap.
Karen shepherded all the KNT evening class students to one of studios after the rehearsal where she and the other teachers put each of the casts through our paces. Being very old and rickety I had intended to do a barre with Sophie before the rehearsal but I never made it because of my struggles with my hair. I did a few pliés in each position with side and back bends, tendus, glisses, ronds de jambe, grands battements and stretches on the upper rail of the barre of my own. I applied some make up and then it was time for our second rehearsal. We were better second time round. Several of us practised some of the steps once or twice again until we got it more or less right.
With all the KNT casts in the studio dancing, snacking, chatting, stretching it was just like a party. Some of us checked our phones. I found tweets and chukkas messages from far and near: Andrea from Basel (via Golcar), Andrew in Sheffield, Marion and Annette in Chelmsford, Mel in Budapest, Nik in New Zealand and Mark Hindle from somewhere on the high seas. I thank them all. After our studio rehearsal I spotted Jane Tucker who had taught our intensive. Everyone who had taken that intensive was transformed by it so her presence back stage lifted our morale to new heights. Mine particularly for I had taken her class at Northern Ballet the previous Wednesday and by some fluke I had actually managed to pull off a pirouette more or less correctly. Jane had witnessed it and the expression on her face was a joy to behold. I think she was even more delighted than I had been.
Gradually the studio emptied until there were only two casts left. Our friends from the advanced class toi-toied and chukkased us and we made our way back stage. We could hear the peels of applause for each of the other turns and then it was us. The saying "it'll be alright on the night" has some truth because a performance almost always lifts performers. I am sure we made mistakes - Gita has already mentioned one that I made - but it didn't matter. We danced like we had never danced before and left the stage elated. "We did it!" one us said punching the air once out of the audience's earshot.
Then there were photos and flowers and hugs and kisses. That was when Yoshie arranged for someone to photograph us which she posted to my Facebook page. I'm a bit taller than Yoshie so I tried to plier in first position hence my rather curious expression and pose. Honestly, I had not been drinking. In a Facebook post before the show Karen had referred to us all as "the KNT family" and that was just how we felt. We got to know each other a little better yesterday. I certainly got to like my classmates and our wonderful teachers, Karen, Josh and Ailsa, even more. We all made our way to the bar and I am sure the celebrations must have carried on for ages.
Performances like yesterday's are very important to students at every level for ballet belongs in the theatre. Without the chance to dance it is just another way of keeping fit. Nothing wrong with that, perhaps, but it is a bit like reading Shakespeare for an exam. The poetry and music can still emerge but it is strained. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to everyone who got me to this point - Karen, the Dancehouse, all the teachers at KNT and all the others elsewhere who got me started and have helped me on my way.