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Rebirth of ballet


Actor Natalie Portman performs as a ballet dancer in Black Swan.

Brisbane Times May 10, 2011

by Katherine Feeney.

 

Hollywood star Natalie Portman is the inspiration behind the latest fitness trend to sweep into Brisbane.

And even the venerable Queensland Ballet has been caught up in the craze.

On the back of the success of Portman's Oscar-winning turn in Black Swan, the cultural institution has announced adult ballet classes as part of their 2011 program.

From May 30, anyone over 16 with basic ballet ability will be able to participate in classes held at the company's West End headquarters.

Those in attendance will receive instruction from former principal dancers from the Queensland Ballet.

The organisation's development director Dilshani Weerasinghe said the decision to launch adult ballet and fitness classes stemmed from a desire to make the “magic” of ballet more accessible.

“We also have found that the popularity of films such as Black Swan or television programs like So You Think You Can Dance has contributed to a growing interest among adults to learn dance,” she said. “We want to play a part in that process of discovery, or rediscovery in some cases.”

Michelle Giammichele, one of two former Queensland Ballet dancers taking the classes, said many adults interested in mature-age ballet had been students in their childhood.

Having quit the professional stage in 2000 at the age of 37, Ms Giammichele soon realised she wasn't the only “grown-up” who missed having ballet as an active part of their life.

In 2007 she and fellow retiree Rosetta Cook founded Brisbane's first adult ballet school.

2ballerinas in Bardon proved to be a hit, and not just with women looking to recapture their girlhood dreams of tutus and leotards.

Several men and women have joined looking for a new approach to fitness, Ms Giammichele said.

“Ballet is about mental strength and discipline as much as it is about physical ability,” she said. “It's very feminine; graceful and poised, but also masculine; strong and athletic, making it an attractive form of exercise for both males and females.”

Ms Giammichele said ballet's “fashionable” aesthetic also contributed to a level of community interest that prompted Queensland Ballet CEO Anna Marsden to approach the school with a partnership offer.

Forget daggy gym clothes or awkward aerobics gear, Ms Giammichele said ballet offers exercise that is as “vogue” as it is physically stimulating.

“We do find that some people are attracted to the way ballet looks,” she said. “But that's part of the beauty of ballet; the same beauty that exists with the music that accompanies and the depth of expression in the dances themselves.”

Adult ballerinas were unlikely to master the dexterity or ability of a Margot Fonteyn or Rudolf Nureyev with a few one-hour classes, but that's “not the point”, Ms Weerasinghe said.

“We're about engagement of body and mind at a level that's inclusive to everyone,” she added of the joint dance program. “But we also want to bring ballet directly into people's lives.”

Former Expressions Dance Company and Sydney Dance Company dancer Tracey Carrodus and Queensland Ballet dancer Melissa Tattam will also be taking classes.

To celebrate the launch of the new adult dance school, conducted in partnership with 2ballerinas, the company aims to host the world's largest dance class as part of a record-breaking attempt at the Brisbane Ideas Festival.

Registrations for the free, 30-minute beginner's class planned for May 22 at the Kurilpa Bridge suggest the German record of 1,055 participants will likely be broken with a full turn out.

Interested dancers can still register their involvement in the record attempt, or find out more about the dance class program, via the Queensland Ballet website.

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