Stretch yourself with a ballet for beginners class

A ballet class in progress
A ballet class in progress
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Scottish Ballet’s classes for beginners are an inspiring introduction to the art form, finds Gaby Soutar

The treatment

An Absolute Beginners ballet class with Scottish Ballet at Tramway, Glasgow. This is a 10 week course starting from Wednesday 20 February, 6:15pm until 7:15pm, £90, or from Thursday 21 January (same times and prices). There are also Beginners or Intermediate classes for those with a bit of experience.

Why go?

If you’ve always fancied yourself as a Margot Fonteyn or Billy Elliot, here’s your chance. No tutu required, just comfy (not too loose) clothing and socks (or soft ballet shoes).

Our spy says

I confess, I hated ballet classes aged five years old. Most of the time was spent wondering what the heck was going on as the other kids confidently pranced and pliéd. Still, tastes change, and it’s a thrill to re-visit this dance form in one of the studios at Scottish Ballet’s HQ.

Our teacher is Preston Clare, who danced with the company for 18 years before retiring in 2003. He’s the perfect combination of funny, kind, encouraging and a little bit strict.

We start with the real basics – facing the barre, where we’re shown how to do a demi-pointe (on the balls of the feet) and how to point our toes properly and push away from the floor, then we do a little routine that warms up our feet. Next, one hand on the barre, we’re taught a few positions – first, second and third – and go up on a demi-pointe to balance for a few seconds.

Away from the barre, and we practise our arm positions. I find second (arms extended to the sides) tricky, and Preston tells me to lift my elbows, which seem to point downwards whatever I do. I think my arms are on the wrong way round.

We then include head movements. It’s now that I realise this is not an exercise class, but a proper dance session. It requires a bit of theatricality. “Look longingly at your hand,” says Preston. “Now smile as if it’s your wedding day.”

In sets of two we gallop and thunder across the room, while the piano plays and Preston counts, first doing a simple routine with feet, then adding the arm movements we’d learnt earlier. My body has warmed up, but so has my grey matter. It’s fun to use a part of my brain that had atrophied over the years.

We end with a few easy jumps, and Preston ticks me off as I’m leaping more like a cowboy/frog than a proper ballerina. Soon, my legs are straight and I’m jumping like Nureyev. Well, kind of.

The results

This is not a class for those who want to get really sweaty, it’s more a wish fulfilment for ballet lovers. Afterwards, I felt as high as if I’d performed a grand jeté.

• 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow, 0141-331 2931, www.scottishballet.co.uk