THE BASICS: An actual proper ballet class at an actual proper ballet school, where you can indulge your inner 5 year old girl. Adult beginner classes are available at the Central School of Ballet several nights of the week (here’s the timetable)- this particular class is for people who have never held a barre before in their lives. All sorts of shapes, sizes and abilities turned up.
We went on a Thursday night, 7-8.30pm. All classes £9 and you don’t need membership. HANDY TIP: Turn up early (like, 6.15pm) to get in; it’s first come, first served and it gets PACKED. 10 minute walk from Farringdon Station.
THE BITCHES: Carly & Freya
THE CLASS: Freya had been desperate to try this out for a while and even bought some cute little ballet shoes in preparation. We were a bit nervous when we walked in, as we were imagining high buns, poised ballet dancers and us generally feeling out of place.
I felt intimidated walking in- the reception reminded me of a school. The man who signed us in and took our money wasn’t exactly bounding about, welcoming us- but that’s entirely to be expected seeing as this is an actual ballet school and not a chic City gym!
We got there super early to ensure we got a space. We crept upstairs to changing area reminiscent of school PE changing rooms, and we spent a while perfecting our high buns and getting into suitable I’m-at-ballet-class-but-not-in-a-tutu attire (recommended- leggings, sports bra, t-shirt, socks if you don’t have ballet shoes).
On our way back down to the studio, several school girls uniforms and with ballet-buns walked past. I felt frumpy and a bit silly, like they were cool girls and I was a lowly geek. Then I remembered I was in my 30s and needed to get a grip on life. I entered the studio with confidence and a positive attitude.
Many others followed- we counted over 50, and it was worryingly full by the time we took out place at the barre. Two men were in the class too, which was awesome (one of them had come with his girlfriend- MELT!)
About 15 of us raised our hand to say it was our first class, when David, our loud, confident, sassy teacher asked who was a brand new. He put a regular in between every newbie. This ended up being quite important- the class was so full that often we couldn’t see his footsteps, so needed to follow the person next to us during routines.
He was a teacher who- for some who feel nervous or shy- might be a little full on. He was from the tongue-in-cheek, flamboyant school of teaching. By the end, I actually really liked his style. It was better than just heaping praise on us, and gave a real flavour for what it must be like at “real” ballet school. He wanted us to work hard, but was cheeky and funny too.
We learned demi plies, tendues and, um, a whole host of other footwork that I could replicate but not remember the names of. And we jumped straight in. No real explanation of each position, instead just “extend your left foot into a tendue, point, flex, back” and then we got on with putting it all into mini-routines to a mixture of classical and pop-song music, all played on the piano. I like classes by this- learning by doing.
As our last routine and the end of class came about, we took a graceful bow and for a brief second, I was on stage, with flowers landing at my feet. It was pretty cool!
THE VERDICT: A very different experience to your usual class. Go with confidence and the willing to do your absolute best. Going with a pal might be nice. If you are in David’s class, then my advice is to take his instruction seriously, but with good humour, and you’ll enjoy it and his teaching style. Turn up early, it does get full- and as it’s a very full class, try not to get frustrated at the number of people. You still get a good class despite the numbers. I would definitely go again, and might even invest in some cheap practice shoes!
THE EXTRAS: Instructor David Paul Kierce was the Principal at The Queensland Ballet in Australia and The Joffrey in New York. This man knows his shit.