I recently went to a Ballet class at my gym. I don’t normally dance but last week I read that if we want bodies like dancers – long, lean muscles, and the ability to do the splits – we should exercise like them. Out with spinning/cycling (big thighs), body pump (new-look Jodie Marsh) and horse riding (big bottoms) and in with Pilates and Ballet.
Soon after hearing this I was at the gym wondering what was safe to do, and I wandered past a sign for Ballet Fit, which was due to start five minutes later. Clearly, this was a sign from the gods, so I cancelled my plans to be on time for work, and stepped inside.
I should point out that I have not done ballet for well over 20 years. Most of the dancing I have done since I was about six has involved the consumption of an awful lot of alcohol beforehand.
Even when I did dance I wasn’t very good at it. As well as having poor coordination, I was a bit of a wetter when I was very young and was basically scared of everyone who wasn’t my mother, including Jill the dance teacher, who always put me at the front. I spent much of the class hiding in the changing rooms, wondering how it was possible for anyone to simultaneously tuck their tummy and their bottom in (a regular instruction in ballet). Fortunately, I now have years of experience squeezing into low-rise jeans: I am very good at tucking my tummy in.
The instructor Misha was wearing wrist bands and edgy three-quarter length tracksuit bottoms, and so looked like Julia Stiles in Save the Last Dance. In my head I did too. In reality, I looked like the red-faced newbie who didn’t know their right from left, and was about three seconds behind everybody else. This was especially obvious as Misha very kindly put me in the middle at the front as I was new (mortifying).
Other than being at the front, parallels with childhood ballet were happily minimal. It was interesting to do exercise that actually looks nice: As a runner, most of the exercise I do is designed to make you look a bit minging: red-faced and blotchy, with a sports bra the size of Brazil to keep everything in place. Ballet was great – all long arms and straight backs. (Actually, I had done a run immediately beforehand so I was still very blotchy/Brazil, but everyone else looked lovely.) We got to do that arm movement that means you are a swan and the pointed toe barre exercises that make you look like you’re about to try out for the New York Ballet.
All in all it was a success. My levels of coordination may not have improved since I was six and I cannot do the splits, but at least I didn’t have to hide in the changing rooms.