How doing ballet as a child affects you for life…

I spent many many years of my childhood doing ballet, it was a love, bordering on obsession that was born with my dance teacher, the frankly incredible Barbara Donnelly. I knew I was never going to be a professional dancer, I am not actually that bendy, or, really, very bendy at all. However, I was always encouraged to push myself to my limits and to be the best dancer that I could be. It was in a recent conversation with my sister in law about her experience of joining the army and achieving the perfect bun that I got to thinking about how all those years of ballet have given me a slightly different perspective on things. Not in a bad way, just in a way that gives you a sense of achievement with the small things in life and sometimes some funny looks ….

  • You are mentally strong – resulting in a warped sense of pain. It was during labour on my first child that I first noticed that funny look – why did I not want the epidural? Why, the pain was getting my somewhere, it was achieving something. It was effective. Therefore, I could manage it. And I did, and I smiled.
  • Everything has to be just right – One of the main objectives in ballet is to learn the movements so that they are exactly, and I mean exactly right. The more exact the better. Stuffing envelopes, aligning stamps, address written in the right place… and that was just the wedding invitations. The minute details are as relevant as the major ones. Maybe people didn’t realise that every single one of the wrapped sets of cutlery for the family event were exactly the same, but it mattered to me. Those were many many tondus and fondus that I have done over and over so many times until they were just right. It stuck.
  • Continuous mental choreography – Good piece of music on the radio? Toe tapping along? Que mental choreography! No need for books here, I am jete-ing myself across the stage of the Opera House in Vienna, before the ‘bit of a fiddle’ fancy footwork into a series of pirouettes…
  • The mortification of being caught mid move – Soutenu to get the milk out of the fridge? It happens, it slips out… and you don’t even realise it until it’s too late. It’s hard to take a step without working in a flourish… Sure what’s life without a little embellishment? As I prance past my shocked husband into the sitting room, its too late to go back now, I might as well finish the sequence
  • You can only enter a room like royalty – Ingrained in every ballet dancer is how to walk like everyone is watching you. And maybe they are, but in my case, not every time. Here we see that funny look again… I still can’t stop though, sweeping in grandly to a series of surprised faces… I care not. I am beautiful. And most importantly, I can walk like I mean it

Details for Barbara Donnelly’s School of Dance can be found here and she runs classes in ballet and modern dance for everyone from tiny tots to adults!


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