Have you ever wanted to learn ballet? I have to admit that it never particularly appealed to me. A strict rules and “we’re not here to have fun” approach to getting fit isn’t really my thing. Even as a child, when I wasn’t allowed to opt out of this whole exercise malarkey, I preferred the slightly less structured choice of modern rhythmic gymnastics. We learnt one new thing at a time, and then strung the moves we wanted to use into our own routine. There was no show, no rules about what you had to do with your hair, and I did it at my school so we didn’t even have enforced leotard wearing (as far as I can remember).
It turns out that I was not alone in despising ballet’s formal approach. Earlier this year, my best friend and metamour Amanda taught a beginner’s ballet workshop at BurlyCamp, to a bunch of misfits and reprobates wearing their street clothes. This prompted much discussion on Twitter and Facebook about how great it would be to learn ballet without all the pomp and ceremony. Without having to join a gym, or get patronised by a dance teacher. Some folk really wanted to learn ballet but didn’t feel comfortable with any adult beginners options they had found. Some folk had never even looked into it because they’re not flexible or graceful people and thought that was essential from the start. So, Amanda created Irreverent Ballet – an adult beginners class for all ages, genders and fitness levels. A class which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Amanda sums it up on the on the website:
“I maintain that dance is for everyone and a good teacher leaves her students feeling better about themselves leaving the studio, than when they arrived; week on week. I enjoy the task of remapping a syllabus designed for 6 year olds to challenge 26 year olds whilst keeping completely faithful to the progression needed to build the correct muscle strength, flexibility and movement memory. I enjoy teaching a relaxed class which rolls on in to a nearby pub for a quick post-ballet pint and gossip before we all head home. Amateur adult dance classes should be fun, physical, sociable and have absolutely no business undermining your body or your self-esteem.”
It turns out, when you remove all barriers to entry, ballet is really rather popular. The classes have all been busy so far, and there are more people waiting to start when it runs again in August. But is it any good? Well, as you can see from the photo above which was taken as we practised our barre exercises in last night’s class, we have come a long way in eight weeks! Amanda has taken a bunch of people who giggled and asked if they could “do horsey hands” with the gallop, and has helped them to learn actual serious ballet. Just when we thought we weren’t good enough to be watched by friends and family at the open class, she then reminded us that we’d learnt in eight weeks what would usually take a year. Pretty impressive for a fun Monday night, eh?
Photo taken by our proud teacher Amanda!
UPDATE: Irreverent Ballet has expanded to include other dance genres and so is now Irreverent Dance! You can find them on Twitter, Facebook and at their new shiny website – www.irreverentdance.co.uk – for all your body-positive LGBTQ-friendly adult beginners dance needs. Check out the mashup video of some of the ballet, tap and hip hop students’ first performance and tell me you’re not tempted to join in the fun ;-)