IT consultants and civil servants take to the dance stage

Caitlin McAthir leads some of the ballet performers
Caitlin McAthir leads some of the ballet performers
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PIROUETTING on pointed toe or expressing the beauty of the butterfly through dance are not pastimes usually associated with IT consultants and civil servants.

However, a new Edinburgh dance company is planning to bring ballet to the masses and is encouraging people from all walks of life to get involved.

The Edinburgh Ballet Circle, which formed in the Capital a year ago, put on its debut show on Saturday.

The triple bill at St Bride’s Community Centre included Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region and dances to Carmen, the opera by George Bizet.

Sausan Cameron, 32, an Edinburgh-based archive researcher during the day, said the idea of performing a repertoire piece should not put off people who might be thinking about joining.

She said: “In the end, the Circle is a place to let your hair down. Yes, ballet is not always meant to be easy and it’s a challenge to get through all the training positions and the routines.

“We stand by the barre and do plié and tendu. There’s also the challenge of expression – saying to someone who’s not at all used to it, ‘imagine you’re a butterfly’.”

She added: “There’s definitely a humour element as well – and a huge amount of support – and through that we’re able to relax and not take ourselves so seriously.”

The troupe came together in February 2011 under the directorship of Jonathan Burnett, a graduate of the Royal Ballet School and choreographer to the Irish National Ballet and Folk Theatres.

The aim was to gather together adult dancers, in various stages of training, to form a Sunday ballet club and the troupe currently counts nurses, lawyers and financial advisers among its members.

Chrys Schlapak, 51, an IT project manager from Roslin, said the rigours of training for classical ballet can be therapeutic.

She said: “There are set routines we do to improve posture and turnout and expression. Yes, they’re tough but, as a project manager, I deal with lots of stress during the day.

“When I come to ballet, I can just step back from that. I can sit back and let someone else tell me what to do, and I find it very relaxing.”

The pieces which the troupe perform were voted on by members – whose ages range from the early 20s to early 50s – and will provide a challenge to the 25 female and six male dancers at St Bride’s.

Les Sylphides is a ballet written in 1909 to a piano score by Frederic Chopin. Toward the Unknown Region will combine the poetry of Walt Whitman, a musical composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams and a dance-theatre work by Jonathan Burnett. Carmen, meanwhile, is one of the most popular operas ever written.

Ms Schlapak said: “The pieces are tough but we’ve been practising for a year. We’re ready.

“It’s all repetition. We learn a bit one week, then the next we move on to something else and learn a bit more.

“Sometimes there are two weeks or four weeks between rehearsals and that makes things tough.

“But after a while, once you have the basic steps, you learn to relax and feel the piece. It all becomes movement and feeling.”