I’m one of those people in the ballet community who studied ballet intensively as a child and teenager before life got in the way. I completed nearly all the old RAD vocational examinations and performed in many shows in my native Belfast but on moving to the other side of the country I never found a teacher that fitted; unfortunately I let that weaken my passion for ballet and one day I stopped going altogether. I took up yoga which I still practice, but nothing beats a gruelling session at the barre followed by a demanding centre practice. I love when you see your ribs heaving in the mirror because you’re out of breath after repertoire work and you can glimpse tomorrow’s sore legs.
More than 10 years later my friend told me about an amazing Teacher who had begun teaching in Galway (west of Ireland) and that I should give her a try. So I went to the attic and re-discovered my box of old ballet gear that I had not worn since my mid twenties. Some items I was glad to discard like the 80s inspired shiny pink spandex leggings with the stirrup foot (you know you owned them too so no judgement please) but others I knew I could still wear like my old royal blue RAD examination leotards. I’d look semi-respectable in that.
It was a strange feeling before class that day; a mixture of the familiar combined with apprehension. Pulling on the black leggings and blue leotard to then realise I’d look far from semi-respectable as I had left the house with only one ballet shoe and the shoe I had with me was a old Gamba Delco with a hole in the toe. I tried to remember what warm up rituals I used to go through before class started and realised with dismay that my turn out and flexibility had disappeared.
60 minutes later and I was hooked again. I told my Teacher that I was so frustrated because I couldn’t do what I used to be able to achieve in terms of strength and flexibility. She said to me (and I’ll change the geography so everyone can understand): If you want to travel to New York you’re going to have to start in California because that’s where you are now. It doesn’t matter that you used to be in Illinois. A hard pill to swallow, but over the weeks I was surprised how much I improved and my muscle memory kicked in. I wouldn’t say I have reached New York yet, but I do believe I have surpassed llinois - so I’ll keep dancing.
Ciara Greenwood completed nearly all the old vocational RAD examinations in Belfast at the Laura Walker School of ballet. Laura celebrated the 25th anniversary of her ballet school in June 2014 with a ballet gala in the Grand Opera House in Belfast and Ciara returned to her old school to dance Aurora’s wedding solo from Sleeping Beauty. She now dances on a part time basis and is principal dancer with Ballet Áthas in Galway under the Artistic Director Sharon Vandermerwe.