Time for a progress update! I’ve been home a grand total of, like, three days. In that time I’ve managed to raid the local library, drink far too many cups of tea, and have sleep patterns that vaguely approach normal, which is weird. While Monday was productive and relatively free of anxiety, Tuesday went downhill again, but I’m trying to reassure myself that the whole point of being at home is not having to be productive.
But enough of that. I want to talk about BALLET. Specifically, the dance I’m doing while at home and trying to be less crazy and less broken and more functional.
Today, I took my first class with the London Russian Ballet School. As somebody with hypermobility syndrome, I rely on ballet to hold me together: basically, my ligaments suck at being ligaments, so I have to have strong muscles to compensate for it. But, because I don’t like sports and because I need to make sure my whole body is strong, ballet is pretty much the only physical activity that will do that.
(If I didn’t have ear problems I could go swimming and that might even be more effective, but I do have ear problems. My body enjoys sabotaging itself.)
Anyway, I’ve been dancing for years and I mostly enjoy it, except when I injure myself, so it was a no-brainer that I’d need to carry on even when away from Cambridge and the university ballet club where I’ve been taking classes recently. I thought about going back to my old ballet school, but the class I would be in are taking exams this term and I didn’t want to get in the way. It’s also a very performance-based place, which is great fun, but not quite as effective as a way of strengthening one’s body.
So, I decided to seek out something more focused on technique, and I found the London Russian Ballet School. It’s in Clapham, which means the journey takes well over an hour and involves a bus and two trains, but I thought I’d give it a go.
I haven’t learned Russian (Vaganova) ballet before — I’ve always attended RAD schools, which is a very English style. Mostly it’s the same, but some of the terminology is different, and the finer details vary. Because of this, I went to the Beginners class, even though I have enough years of ballet experience to be able to put my hair in a bun between two stations on a moving train without a mirror. #lifeskill
Most of the steps we did were things I’ve been doing for years, but we did them in a way that was still exhausting. I might be familiar with what to do, but it’s the how that I need to focus on, and I can definitely see this class helping me build up my general strength and technique, as well as encouraging me to work on my flexibility. Although it’s maybe not as fun as some of the classes I’ve taken in my life, from a physiotherapy perspective it’s probably what I need.
That said, the journey is a bit of a drag, and I got caught up in a rainstorm just as I emerged from Clapham High Street overground station, thunder and lightning and everything, which didn’t make it less stressful. It’s also not a cheap class. So I’m going to go to a couple more classes and see how I get on with it once I know the route and have adjusted to the class itself, and then make a decision when I get back from going to Canada to visit my brother at Easter.
One possibility is to go to the LRBS classes once a week, or once a fortnight, and supplement them with a more performance-based class — maybe at my old school — in between. That way I could have the physio and technique benefits of the Russian classes, but the fun of something else.
I’m not saying that the LRBS class wasn’t fun: I did find myself enjoying it. But it was definitely more about technique than entertainment, so it takes a bit of getting used to after being in student-run classes for the last however long.
In terms of my anxiety, I’m still a total wreck. I was freaking out about the travel this morning: I packed all my stuff last night and then couldn’t sleep because I was running through the route in my head and then spent the whole journey totally on edge… but that kind of suggests it’s important to do more travelling around London to get used to taking trains and settle down in order to find it less stressful. Plus, I’m only four days into reducing the dosage of my medication, which I hope to have come off entirely by the end of the month. So I can’t expect any real changes yet.
It isn’t easy to adjust to being at home. Even though I consciously know I’m here for a while, it hasn’t sunk in to the subconscious sense of panic that I should be doing work or whatever, so I can’t quite relax. Ah well. One day!
I might have some writing-related news for you soon, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. I don’t plan to blog only about my mental health for the next six months, and I’m sure I’ll be back with posts about writing soon, but I thought I’d keep you updated on my balletic activities and their purpose in my general rehabilitation as a functioning human being.
I’ll leave you with a selfie I took on my way back to Clapham High St station after class (this time I didn’t get lost). I guess that smile suggests the classes are a good thing?