Elancé Adult Ballet School’s much-anticipated Class on Stage took place at the National Theatre last month. We know our students loved it, but how does it impact our staff? Read on for Belle’s perspective…
Class on Stage is one of my favourite Elancé events. There is a huge amount of preparation involved, well beyond my own class writing, but the rewards far outweigh the work required. My night before is spent revising classes and checking music, reflecting on the students I’ll be working with in each class and hoping to goodness that my choreographies work and don’t completely bamboozle anyone!
The day starts and the team assembles well before the first students arrive. This year the ‘team’ is Dianne, Kate, Karen and myself, with Emily arriving in the late morning. It’s such a thrill to be back in the theatre again, sharing the experience with our students and each other. We’re looking forward to getting going, but we’re mindful of our own ‘trick moments’ that we need to ensure run smoothly. Our technical hand from the National Theatre, Brendan, lets us in and t
he best surprise of the morning is that we don’t need to lay the Tarkett – it’s already down! That deserves a mini-celebration in itself, as Tarkett is monstrously heavy, cumbersome and can have a mind of its own! This gives us more opportunity to mark out our choreographies on the stage and Karen and I, along with Kate, take turns in using the space. Those moments on stage are equally exciting and familiar. Being on stage again, in any capacity, is like greeting an old friend. The pressure is different, though definitely still there!
Very quickly we hit starting time and we’re all-go! The buzz of excitement filters through from back stage – the students have arrived! This is where the day truly takes off. Sharing this stage experience with our students is just fantastic! The first group comes on to the stage, a little tentatively at first. For many of these students, it’s their first time on stage. I tell them to enjoy looking around now as once we start, there’s no time for checking out the scenery!
With the safety debrief over, our class can begin. I am delighted with how well everyone settles, understanding and applying the presence that’s required for the stage. It can be quite daunting, looking out to a black void with bright lights shining in your eyes, but everyone has taken it in their stride. I ask the students to think about the shapes and lines that they are creating, to lift their chins and hold those moments, and they produce some beautiful work
. We move onto the choreography and I know that I’m challenging the group with the formations that I have chosen, but there’s no time for second guessing now! I tell them that being on stage is like being on a power trip –they have made my choreography a success! I am so proud of their work and the gift they have given me by performing it with beauty and courage. A flamboyant révérence sends them on their way and again the space is filled with the buzz that only performing on stage can give.
The next group enters, and I take a breather as Karen takes over. Another favourite part of the day for me is watching another teacher and class in action. It’s as rewarding as teaching, though a little more luxurious a
s I can sit back and truly appreciate the small moments – individual expressions, beautiful lines and the care that everyone gives their performance. Karen is wonderful and leads her students with flair and humour – everyone is having a fabulous time! The choreography is a huge success, and the tutus! Wow! There were some serious efforts made here – which speaks volumes about how much this means to our students.
The final group of the day arrives and I’m on again. Most of this group has had previous stage experience, but that doesn’t lessen this journey. I coax out their stage presence and suddenly they are ‘on’, shining through their work. In the adage I ask this group to give me a piece of themselves, to dance from their hearts, and they do. I was completely blown away. Their pirouettes were fabulous too, and it was great to hear the disembodied voice of Dianne from the audience saying that she had captured it on film! It’s always better when there’s proof!
Their choreography was my version of the Lilac Fairy variation from Sleeping Beauty, and again I was so proud of their efforts. They danced beautifully and gave me everything they could, which is such a gift. I do admit to standing two rows back from where Dianne, Karen and Emily were watching, gesticulating wildly to help everyone remember the corrections. Anyone who has been in my class knows what an effort it is for me to be quiet! But I managed and I’m glad I did. Another flamboyant reverence, the students are on their way and we are too.
The team fast tracks out the door, checking we have everything and pulling down signs as we go. It’s hugs all round in the car park and happy (but tired) smiles. We know that it has been a successful (and rewarding) day, and one that will carry on into the studio for teachers as well as students for many weeks to come.