Sarah Pulls it Off

April 7, 2013



I am the younger of two sisters and spent childhood taking a stand against everything my sister liked. She loved horse riding so I hated it. She loved broad beans so I refused to eat them. She hated performing so I did ‘turns’ all the time. You get the drift. Presumably in an effort to be different from her, not just a younger, less capable version. But whatever the reason, and I have to say entirely subconsciously at the time, I never liked anything she enjoyed. Except ballet. She’d started before me and initially I refused to go, but somehow my mother got me there, at Miss Lawson’s School of Dance.
And I rather enjoyed it. I wasn’t in the same class as my sister so I never saw her whilst I did it, but I think what attracted me was the shoes. Black ballet shoes that my Mum had to sew a piece of elastic across to make sure they stayed on. I loved them. Soft soft leather like fairy shoes.
I was a sturdy child so there was nothing fairy-like about me, but I could learn the positions and fantasise. Our mother bought us the most glorious tutus. They were hand made especially for us. Shiny satin bodices, sticky-outy netting skirts and straps that were chains of flowers. I remember having a fitting in the beautiful drawing room we had which had been painted by Dad but designed by one of their artist friends to highlight the Robert Adam coving so it was pale blue, pale grey and white. I think of it as a huge room, where they held parties and entertained, so it was glamorous just being in there let alone in a tutu.
I was probably about 5 or 6 and went for my first ballet exam in Glenrothes. I remember a stage and three people sitting at a table in the hall, watching us. About 6 of us performed together, having all learnt “The Butterfly Dance.” We stood in a row and the music started. By which I mean someone started playing the piano. We all set off, sliding our right foot forward then hopping whilst pointing the left leg out behind us. Then the same using the left foot to slide and hop whilst lifting the right leg out behind us. There was a story to the dance; I was a child in a garden playing and then I spot a butterfly. I point to the butterfly with my right hand, looking at it with curiosity. The butterfly swoops to another resting place and my finger follows, as do my sliding and hopping feet. Then the butterfly starts flitting all over the place. My finger and eyes still follow but now I am running on the balls of my feet (“Tippitoes Sarah, Tippitoes!” I hear in my head). Eventually the butterfly lands on a leaf near me and I am able to gently gently cup my hands around it (whilst standing in fourth position), do a plie (bend my knees and rise back up), hold the cupped hands in to the chest and then lean forward and let the butterfly free whilst stretching my arms upwards, my left foot back and looking longingly as the butterfly escapes to freedom. And from that outstretched pose via position one to the bow to the audience.
Well, that was the theory and it is what every other little girl doing the Preliminary Ballet Exam with me did. But not me. Oh no. I got carried away with the excitement of being on stage for the first time and lived that dance. I could see that butterfly in my mind’s eye and it went all over that stage. I followed it with pointed finger outstretched and I twirled around to keep up with it. Yes! It was here! It was there! It went every-bloody-where. I saw it land and cupped it safely, holding it to my heart. I let the butterfly go and dropped in a triumphant bow. Slowly I lifted my head and looked out ahead of me.
Where was everyone? This was the end of the dance exam and I was meant to be taking a bow for my performance but I couldn’t see the examiners. I couldn’t see anyone. I was still bent over, arse in the air, when I looked between my legs. I could see the Examiners behind me. I suddenly realised all the other little girls were facing the opposite direction to me. I had finsihed my dance by displaying my arse to the audience.
There was no applause, but we were asked to come forward one at a time and told whether we had passed or failed. There were four gradings, Unsatisfactory (fail), Satisfactory (pass), Merit and Distinction. I got a Merit, for, as the citation said, “My artistic interpretation.”
Darcy Bussell eat your heart out.


2 Responses to “Sarah Pulls it Off”

  1. Tssr14 Says:

    Have things changed? Lovely smile now on a Sunday morn

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