Theatre

Prima ballerina: An introduction to the power and the beauty of ballet

Why you should experience a ballet this Christmas

It’s always been a tradition in my family to go to a ballet over Christmas as there is something truly magical about watching a ballet, especially over the festive period, from the almost childish wonder of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker to the sweeping, modern movements in Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands.

I am hoping to encourage anyone who’s poo-pooed the idea of seeing a ballet to give it a chance and to get rid of any assumptions they might have that it’s boring or girly; because seeing these highly trained and incredibly strong athletes perform with more beauty and grace than you thought humanly possible right before your eyes is truly an art form that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

How I fell in love with ballet

I started going to ballet classes when I was three (thanks to a rather pushy mum!) and continued to dance until I was 20, when unfortunately my university studies had to take priority. I don’t think my mum anticipated that I would end up dancing for 17 years when she first enrolled me to my ballet classes, but I’m grateful that she pushed me to go at a young age as it helped me develop my confidence. Of course I had moments when I wanted to give up, but looking back I am so glad that I pursued it for such a long time as it’s not only a great way to keep fit, but it is also an extremely rewarding form of exercise.

I mean, how many people can say that they are this flexible?

As soon as I put on my ballet shoes I felt like I was in another world and my only thought was the next move in my sequence. I would easily get carried away with the music and I particularly enjoyed it when my dance teacher encouraged us to free style, as it was a way to connect with the music and use your imagination – that’s probably what I loved and still love most about ballet.

I also got a thrill from performing in front of an audience, as my ballet school would put on annual productions. It made all the classes, hard work and dedication worthwhile as I would see the proud faces of my friends and family as they watched me perform, from a nervous three-year-old trembling on stage dressed as a jelly in Beauty and the Beast, to a solo debut as Glinda the Good Witch in the Wizard of Oz when I was 15.

Epic ballerinas

I have always admired the classical dancer Wayne Sleep and, of course, Royal Ballet’s former prima ballerina, Darcey Bussell. I was lucky enough to attend a dance workshop with Wayne Sleep once and met Darcey Bussell when I was at the Royal Ballet Summer School in London. She was at the peak of her career then and I was an eager young dancer hoping to follow in her footsteps. I still have the piece of paper that I asked her to sign and it’s interesting to watch her use her career as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing as it shows that there are other options in the world of dance once you’ve retired from the stage.

Diana_dancing

I love this photo of Wayne sleep performing with the late Princess Diana at the Royal Opera House in 1985 – it’s such an iconic moment.

Perfect seasonal ballets for everyone

If you’re thinking about giving a ballet a go this festive season or even if you’re a seasoned dance pro, there are lots to choose from.

Here are a few to help you decide

The Nutcracker
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The English National Ballet will be performing The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum from the 11 December for a limited period. The Birmingham Royal Ballet is also performing this traditional tale at the Birmingham Hippodrome, which begins this week. It’s the perfect festive tale for all the family!
Get tickets to The Nutcracker

Edward Scissorhands

Matthew Bourne’s magical dance production is at Sadler’s Wells throughout December. Don’t miss this fresh new take on a modern fairy tale. Get tickets to Edward Scissorhands

 

The Russian State Ballet
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The Russian State Ballet of Siberia will be returning to Cardiff with three fully staged ballets, including The Nutcracker, Coppélia and Swan Lake. Get tickets to Swan Lake

 

Ballet glossary

Don’t be put off by all those French terms, ballet is easy to understand when you have a handy guide.

Changement – A jump which involves changing feet positions in mid air

Chassé – A slide forward/backward with both legs bent and then springing into air

Demi pointe – Supporting body weight on ball of foot or feet

Échappé – A movement from a closed position to an open

Grand jeté – A long horizontal jump

Pas de basque – Halfway between a step and a leap

Pas de chat – A sideways jump in mid-air

Pirouette – A turn on one leg

Plié – Bending of the knees

Port de bras – Movement of the arms to different positions

Rond de jambe – Means ‘leg circle’ – Half circles made by the pointed foot

Tendu – Gradually extending the leg to the front

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