Friday, October 28, 2011

My Failure in Ballet

We went to the ballet quite often when I was little. I saw lots of the big traditional ballets: everything from Swan Lake to La Fille mal Gardee, where the Fille in question's suitor comes on stage in the middle of a dance involving lots of bales of hay, and then suddenly bursts out from the hay. I never did work out how they got him onstage, but I loved it.

I was learning ballet myself, oh yes, at Miss Carr's ballet school above the Clock Cinema at Oakwood.

So, there we were, me aged only four, at the Grand Theatre in Leeds, watching a big spectacular ballet - - something like Giselle. I'm sure I didn't understand the plot, which is slightly over-dramatic to say the least, but I did like the look of it, and I enjoyed the music. And then I heard the grown-ups talking about tutus, a word I had never heard before.

"The tutus are wonderful," said my mother.

"Yes, beautiful," said my grandmother.

"They're lovely," said my father.

They all looked at me expectantly, waiting for my comment.

Well I hadn't a clue what they were on about. I didn't like to say "I'm only four, I have not yet mastered all of the English language, I have no idea what this strange word means."

So I adopted the strategy which has served me well on most occasions ever since. It is to pretend I understand and hope that all will become clear in the future.

I leaned back in my seat with what I hoped was an all-knowing air.

"Oh yes, the tutus are simply delightful. Marvellous." I said.

Everyone sighed with pleasure. I had clearly said the right thing.

Sadly, though, they never referred to them again. I went home muttering "tutus, tutus, tutus" to myself in the hope that the meaning would reveal itself.

Having pretended that I knew, there was no way I was ever going to ask what the word meant. Oh no. Far too much pride for that.

It seemed like decades later, but was probably only a few months - time passes slowly when you're little - and I had bought a copy of one of those girls' annuals in a Bring and Buy sale.

And there it was! A photograph, captioned "Margot Fonteyn, ballerina, wearing a white tutu."

So that was what it was! A sort of sticky-out frock of the kind I had coveted since - - well, forever.

Finally, I knew what it meant! I longed to grow up, become a ballet dancer and wear one myself.

Sadly, although I did match the ballerina height requirements, that was as far as it went. Broad back and short legs and even shorter arms do not a ballerina make.

Other girls, I could see, could jump higher than I could, and with a lot more grace. "All together now - - spring points! One - - two - - one - - two - -" Some girls landed like feathers, and I landed like lead. And then we had to sit on the floor with our feet together and knees out and try to get our knees flat on the floor. Some girls could do it easily. I couldn't do it at all. My balance wasn't great either. I would stand on one leg and fall over. Arabesques were going to prove tricky, I could tell.

I had one thing in my favour: I had a lot of stamina, and still do. But even at the age of five I could tell it wasn't going to be enough. I put all these lack of skills together in my head and decided it was a no-no. Nureyev was going to have to dance with Fonteyn, and never with me.

I hung up my cute pink pair of ballet slippers. I never did get to wear a tutu.

It's a source of lasting regret.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Ruth said...

I never particularly wanted to be a ballet dancer. Ballets didn't appeal to me - music, twirly dancing. Just tell me the story!

I did have ballet lessons. I once received this comment for an exam: Ruth would be very good if she looked like she was enjoying herself.

I wasn't enjoying myself. I gave up not long afterwards.

6:42 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Thank heavens for Desmond Tutu - the inventor of the tutu!

12:22 am  
Blogger JeannetteLS said...

I say go out and buy yourself a tutu and pretend!

I do like Yorkshire Pudding's comment, I have to say...

6:03 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

You may not have worn a tutu, but you are tutu, I mean too too, in toto! (That is a good thing.)

12:17 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

JeannetteLS, do not encourage Yorkshire Pudding....

Verification word is ovessili, as in Yorkshire Pudding tends to be ovessili.

12:18 pm  
Blogger Jennyta said...

I was more for tap dancing, myself. At five, I was dying to get a lovely pair of red tap shoes like a couple of girls in my class had, but for some reason, I never did. Maybe, as Jeannette says, it's not too late!

6:48 pm  

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