“How long have you been doing ballet for?”
I always find myself stumped when faced with this question. The short answer would be 14 years – which sounds like a relatively long time and suggests that I should be fairly good at ballet.
The simple answer, however, doesn’t reveal that 7 of those years were a lifetime ago, when I was 5 to 11 years old, taking ballet classes once a week at the local community centre. Nor does it indicate that in the first year after going back to ballet as a working adult – after more than a decade away from the studio! – I skipped as many classes as I attended as I struggled with a new life and a new job in Japan.
A longer answer would mean pointing out that I’ve had months go by without attending any classes when I moved back home from Japan, and yet again when I moved to Northern Ireland where I now live. It’d also require sharing that the arts centre where my classes are have mid-term breaks, summer breaks and winter breaks when no classes are held. I’ve been incredibly accident-prone in recent years too, which means a staggering amount of time away from the barre.
I’ve actually worked out that I’ve spent this amount of time not dancing in the past 3 years:
- 3 x 3 weeks of term breaks
- 3 x 10 weeks of summer breaks
- 3 x 4 weeks of winter break
- 4 weeks due to an ankle injury
- 4 weeks when I broke my foot (which thankfully happened over summer)
These actually add up to a total of 59 weeks – more than a year! – out of the supposed 14 years of ballet training that didn’t actually occur. Moreover, frequent breaks in an already infrequent ballet practise have only serves to impede development, as most of the improvement made during term time is lost.
I occasionally feel frustrated and disheartened by the lack of progress in my ballet practise, but I don’t feel so bad now looking at this breakdown. Perhaps I should also change my short answer to the question above to 13 years instead to make it more accurate!