We recently ran a six-week block of adult ballet classes in our studios, taught by former Soloist Jane Casson and with live piano accompaniment. Jade Whitworth stepped up to the barre.
Thursday afternoon and I was a jittery bundle of nerves preparing for my first of six adult ballet classes – I had to keep reassuring myself that this wasn’t an audition for placement in the corps de ballet! As I twisted my hair into a high bun and applied just a little extra make-up, I cast myself back to my pre-teen years, when I still believed that one day I might be a ballerina.
The thought of walking in to the Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre to attend a ballet class seemed all too unreal. This was where the best of the best worked tirelessly to bring me the two hours of balletic wonder in the State Theatre every season. And yet, tonight I was to live out a secret dream of attempting an arabesque in Studio 8.
Former Soloist Jane Casson was our teacher, and she set a steady but brisk pace in the first week. It was reassuring that such an experienced and enthusiastic artist could gauge the varied balletic knowledge within the class so perfectly. She set exercises just difficult enough to keep us on our toes, then moved on before we could become overwhelmed with the technicalities. “We are here to enjoy the dancing, ladies” she would say encouragingly; “just dance it, allow yourself to dance”.
We were a group of dancers with diverse experiences of classical ballet, so the range of interpretation and expressive quality was eclectic. Certainly for myself, past ballet training focused on technique and correct physical placement. I often viewed artistry and musicality as a delightful reward saved only for those professionals who had mastered their technique. Take it and make it my own was a mantra that developed within me throughout these classes. This opportunity to indulge in what I’d only thought possible for the elite gave me a real sense of connection to The Australian Ballet.
As the weeks progressed, so did our confidence. Our bodies began to remember! Jane’s encouragement and enthusiasm allowed us to feel safe in our own bodies’ capacity. Moments of balance, elevation and line were found; my body moving in space – what a joy! And how lovely it was to indulge in the tone and resonance of the live piano accompaniment to our dancing.
As Jane described a “Balanchine” choice of arms in our port de bras exercise, I remembered that we really were only degrees of separation from Balanchine himself. What an opportunity for those of us who have long since given up the leotards and pointe shoes, but still hold the love of ballet very close to our hearts. Adult Ballet classes at The Australian Ballet is an experience highly recommended to those who know Balanchine was speaking to them when he said, “I don’t want people who WANT to dance, I want people who HAVE to dance.”
Here’s some more feedback from Jade’s classmates:
“absolutely loved the experience”
“I exulted in the joy of this graceful movement with such an encouraging and inspiring teacher … and loved the amazing pianist”
“program was terrific particularly for someone returning to ballet at an older age”
“keep it going please”
“thank you so much for a brilliant fun six weeks. Jane has been such a great teacher and has made the lessons so fun. Glad I signed up.”
“I have just loved doing ballet again”
“really great class, really enjoyed the teaching style and challenge of the class”
“just loved it. thank you”
“Jane is fantastic, both as a dancer and as a teacher”
“has been a wonderful experience doing class at The Australian Ballet. Wanted something more challenging than my usual ballet class and this has been exactly that.”
Our next six-week block of adult ballet classes, taught by Jane Casson, begins in Melbourne on Thursday 12 September. Very limited places left: book now! Classes at the Sydney Opera House start 10 November: book here.