I used to be a ballet dancer. Feels like a long time ago now (nearly 10 years since I stopped!) and you know what? The more that career becomes a distant memory well, the better I was anecdotally… So much so that occasionally, just occasionally, I like to turn up at a dance studio and join in a class, fully kitted out as if I am just warming up ready to leap across the Coliseum stage. No lycra clad, bearded, middle-aged cyclist can compete with my supremely snug outfits let me tell you! However, rather than a lean, mean, strong, youthful dancer in tights I look like a balding man doing an impression of jelly wrapped in cling film. Nothing can prepare you for the crushing disappointment of having the expectation in your mind being so woefully and flaccidly unachieved. And don’t get me started on the pain. Oh dear God it hurts the next day. And that’s just the ego.
I haven’t been anywhere near these thoughts since Moo was born. In fact I have hardly been to the gym and so recently I thought I better start shifting back into that mindset to try and look less Who-d’ya-nick-a-cake-off and more Baryshnikov
So far, with the exception of one slightly crazy movement and music class in a cafe led by a lady who is Sue Pollard’s doppelgänger, I haven’t done many classes with Moo. I’ve just not really seen the need as of yet as I have just kind of felt that she wouldn’t get that much from them and they would, perhaps, be more for me and socialising than her. When you consider that my area of London is very Mum-centric and those classes are filled with lovely ladies conversing on topics such as: expressing milk, comfortable clothing, vaginas (I assume), then I guess it’s obvious to see why I may not feel comfortable joining in.
But, I must now caveat all that with the fact that I have recently noticed Moo shift up a gear in her ability to copy me and others and also her interest in other small people. Small as in child. Not garden gnome. So it filled my heart with joy when, upon visiting Parsons Green this week I stopped to have a look at the world’s poshest, most expensive cafe (they had a child’s push along pram toy for £50, I shit you not) and I noticed that they held classes. And one of them was for a Mum and Me Ballet class! ‘Wait a minute’, I thought. ‘Just picture all those women looking at me and my graceful athleticism in awe! I’ll be a hit!’. It’s all about me of course…
Now I’m not going to go down the road of moaning about the exclusivity of the phrase, ‘Mum and Me’. I understand that the demographic they are targeting will be Mums. It makes sense. I also understand that men doing what I do around there is very much an anomaly so I can see why the place in general is also very female dominated.
In any case, upon entering the cafe I took great pleasure from asking the lovely French waitress,
“Is the class exclusively for women and their children or can an ex-pro ballet dancer join in too, ya ya ya”
She, disappointingly, just looked at me non plussed and said,
“Oui. You can bring your daughter”
This is what happens EVERY time I bring up my dancing history with the expectation that it will be met with interest and, dare I hope, gasps of wonder and flirty glances. Nope. Just plain old non-plussed bewilderment. Always.
However, not one to be put off by this lack of interest in my tight wearing history (again, it’s all about me you know) I committed to doing the class.
Along came Thursday with it’s heavy, pouring, torrential rain and I trotted along to Parsons Green with Moo who, quite brilliantly was dressed in a tutu, a Metallica t-shirt and wellies. With a hopeful heart that I may soon be the recipient of applause for my poise and my port de bras I was as chipper as Chris Jarvis from ‘Show Me Show Me’. And just as camp. We arrived, early, and were told to go downstairs. Giddy as a sugar plum I descended the stairs expecting there to be a plethora of mums and their children who I just couldn’t wait to try and impress. But, no. It was empty. Just me. Moo. And the (quite lovely and brilliant) teacher. Damn.
Not being a pessimist I quickly remembered that we were in fact early and so gleefully seized upon the chance to bore the teacher to tutu tears about me and my dancing past. She listened. Attentively and, if I’m being honest, with something that could well have passed as sympathy… The class was due to start and there were still no more participants and so the teacher bravely asked if me and Moo (who is only 16 months old by the way) wanted to start anyway.
I looked at Moo and her disheveled locks of curly, scrambled egg encrusted hair and agreed that it would be good to start. Moo did the whole class just about. 30 minutes of arm floating, scarf shaking, wand waving, running and marching. I was dead proud actually that she was so game for giving so much a go. Especially when considering that it was her Dad and a stranger in a strange place asking her to do new things with her body movements. She was very trusting and courageous. I began to feel a new disappointment in the lack of class mates. This time it was because I really wanted people to see how well she was doing. I really wanted her to see other kids and to learn from them and be inspired by them and, hopefully, maybe, inspire them as well. All of a sudden, and this is a shocker, I realised that the class really isn’t all about me at all actually… She got so much out of doing that work and I swear it was the best introduction to some quite advanced concepts of body and space awareness that I hadn’t even considered for her as of yet.
We left the class and decided to offset all the lovely poised ballet with hooning through muddy puddles bare footed in the rain for 20 minutes. Divine. She was even doing some of the arm movements and singing to herself.
So. The class is at 9:30am in Parsons Green on a Thursday. We’ll be going again and perhaps you might join us? I know it would be great for Moo to see other children doing it and I promise I won’t bore you with tales of my former ballet glory. I might wear a costume though…