The trick to excellent ballet is giving one’s audience the impression of effortless beauty and grace in every movement.
The reality of the situation is that that seemingly effortless movement is hard-work, and often, totally unnatural. In ballet we’re often forcing our arms and our legs and our backs and our feet into positions that they are not designed to be.
The classic example is first position – it is the basic ballet shape, and the first thing you learn, and the key to it is ‘turnout’ (essentially, having the legs rotated outwards at the hip, so that the knees and feet are both pointed away from the direction that the body is facing).Turnout is the watchword of everything in classical ballet, and it’s totally abnormal. We don’t stand or walk ‘turned out’ in normal life – it looks really, really weird – and yet in ballet it is beautiful and desirable.
As I get back into the ballet routine I am once again forcing my body to do these things again. Some of them have come back easily, some less so. Sometimes I find myself frustrated by my arms and legs that are unwilling to cooperate when I know that they are capable.
‘You used to be able to do this!’ I want to shout at my shoulders as they refuse to behave in the desired manner.
But I also recall the things that troubled me last time: drooping elbows and temperamental thumbs are repeat offenders; but when I start concentrating on them I forget to stand up straight, or my hips move, or my turnout disappears.
It didn’t used to be this hard.
And yet, it also did. In fact, it used to be even more difficult.
Back when I was seven and taking my first, tentative balletic steps I could just about cope with a demi-plié in first, and now that’s as easy as breathing. That’s what I have to remind myself of, and that’s why I’m posting this cute and funny video of a little girl who has not quite mastered first position.
In summary: reminded how far I’ve come.