From the desk to the barre

Permanent members of Royal Academy of Dance UK staff can enjoy a range of benefits, including a stream of well being initiatives like Pilates, staff choir and ballet classes. RAD Enterprises Publishing Officer, Clarissa Aykroyd tells us about trying ballet for the first time.

“I came to work at the RAD in 2016, as the Publishing Officer for Enterprises – with quite a lot of publishing experience and past musical training, but with no direct experience with dance whatsoever. Growing up, I was far more interested in horses than in ballet, although I saw The Nutcracker, loved Tchaikovsky’s music, and read Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes, which taught me the names of the movements. (My mum also tells me that I saw the film of Frederick Ashton’s The Tales of Beatrix Potter ballet as a baby and adored it).

I wanted to work for the RAD not only because there was an opening for a publishing job that suited my experience, but also because I was intrigued by the world of dance. It was still hard to imagine that it was something I could ever take part in myself. However, when I learned that lunchtime adult beginners’ ballet classes were being offered to staff (very affordably), it was hard to resist. It occurred to me that even a little bit of actual dance experience would give more depth and context to my work, and the music would add additional enjoyment. As well, I knew that ballet had health benefits. I have had shoulder pain issues for half my life due to musculoskeletal problems, and these improved hugely after I started doing Pilates about ten years ago. I knew that even a small amount of ballet training could help similarly, and the physiotherapist I saw recently said the same thing.

I was a little nervous before my first class, but quickly realised that there was nothing to worry about. The teacher eased us in carefully with the warm up at the barre, and as we learned simple steps and movements, the class moved at a pace which was appropriate even for a total beginner, but still had an element of challenge. At the end of the class, it was a relief for me to know that it was possible to actually take part in ballet and enjoy it, along with everyone studying for RAD exams or even performing on the world’s stages.

If you want to try ballet as an adult beginner, remember that there isn’t just one single reason to do so. You might wish you had tried ballet in childhood, and this is another chance. You might be most interested in the valuable health benefits. You might want to learn more about and participate in a wonderful art form which has existed for hundreds of years. Or you might just want to have fun, and that’s a great reason too.”