Glamorously attired in the bottom half of a Virgin Atlantic sleep suit and a loose-fitting Nike t-shirt, I looked entirely unlike any ballerino the world had ever seen. Me, one other bloke and about 15 women, waiting in a dance studio in a Kings Cross college for a one-hour ballet taster class to begin …
Fear not; I have no ballet dancing ambitions. I simply thought that I might pick up a few technique tips to help my tango.
I made no attempt to memorise the names of all the things we did. I can now demonstrate (some incompetent version of) First, Second and Third positions for the feet, and First, Second, Third and Fifth positions (we skipped Fourth, I think) for the arms, but that was as far as my terminology memorisation went. And if you want to know those, you’d better ask me in the next few days, as I’m sure I’ll have forgotten them within a week.
For a one-hour taster lesson, it seemed pretty comprehensive. We did about a dozen exercises, culminating in some 180-degree pivots and a couple of different jumps. And if I thought tango technique required work, ballet technique is clearly on a whole other level. The difference between what the teacher demonstrated and what my body could do was … significant. I ached in places I never knew could ache.
I’m not sure how much of what we did would be directly transferrable to tango, but I did find it really interesting. And when I asked the teacher afterwards if she had any tips on exercises to work on my dissociation, with particular emphasis on being able to twist my chest without moving my hips, she had a simple but excellent one: sit on the floor! If you’re sitting, and keep your posterior firmly on the floor, then that takes care of keeping the hips still.
Of course, she demonstrated this by sitting on the floor with her legs almost 180 degrees apart, a feat I shall not be attempting to replicate, but the principle is sound.
She also said that there’s a tendency to think of upper body pivots as all happening in the small of the back, while ballet dancers work on flexibility in their upper backs also. My upper back is particularly stiff – a common problem with people who spend all day sat in an office chair – so she gave me a couple of exercises for that too, one a pilates technique I’ve done before, but the other one was new to me.
All-in-all, then, I felt it was a tenner well-spent. I’m just hoping my knees still work in the morning.