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30th May 2018

A Day in the Life of a CAT Dancer:Rebekah

Saturdays begin, as most days do, with me crawling out of bed. Still half asleep I wash and get dressed (usually I go with a leotard and ballet tights underneath a pair of jeans and a top, alongside either my denim or camo jacket, depending on my mood that day). Next I pack my dance bag to the brim with my dance essentials:

o   Ballet flats

o   Black tights

o   Pointe shoes

o   A spare top

o   Spikey balls

o   Fluffy socks  

o   Notepad and pen

o   Phone charger

o   Lunch box

o   Water bottle

o    Fluorescent pink Pilate’s ball

o    Makeup (I will not leave the house without my trusty foundation and eyebrows)

Looking at the clock I’ll panic as there is only five minutes until my train departs so I grab my bag and beg my mum to take me to the station (which is very lazy of me as it is only down the road). With some luck (and my mum’s racer boy driving) I make the Wigan to Manchester train.

After the thirty minute journey which is spent watching my favourite Netflix series’. take a stroll down Oxford Road and arrive at The Dancehouse. Five flights of stairs later I reach my studio for the day. I place my bag down at the side of the room, remove some of my layers, tie my hair in a low bun and begin warming up (although I probably warm my mouth up more than my body as most of the time is spent catching up on all the gossip with my friends).

As the clock strikes 10am class begins and everyone scurries to the barre, following the ‘CAT Unspoken Rule’ (everyone has set places at the barre which naturally develops during the first few weeks of CAT. Since arriving at the Dancehouse two years ago I have not danced anywhere else on the barre except the bottom corner of the left hand side of the room, better not nick my place). Rob, who used to be a demi-soloist for the Danish Ballet takes our ballet class.

Personally, what I enjoy about CAT is that every class is different! There is no syllabus work which means whether we do an adage or pirouettes depends on how we perform during class and what the tutor wants to focus on that lesson. During class we all work hard but laugh just as much, mainly because of the relationship between Rob and Jill (our piano player), their humour bounces off each other. Throughout exercises we hear Rob’s Pearls of Wisdom such as ‘ballet is the foundation of life’, ‘two way stretch’ and ‘elbows to the back of the room, little fingers to the floor’ (remember these because not only do they make your dancing better but they please Rob immensely). Around two hours later class finishes with the bow and a round of applause. 

A short break allows me to release my hair from my bun, change my tights from pink ballet ones to black contemporary ones and (of course) eat!

At CAT we study Cunningham technique. On a Saturday Lyndsey, an ex-dancer for National Dance Company Wales teaches class. Her exercises challenge me greatly as a dancer. She will demonstrate a position from the exercise (which is usually something crazy like standing on one leg in a tilt with the other leg in attitude, arms going to opposite way, but of course she makes it look simple and graceful), whilst we all look at each other in ore and fear thinking to ourselves ‘and she expects me to do that!?’. But after a few attempts something clicks and your body ends up in that position.  After two hours of travelling, jumping and turning class is over (which only means one thing…LUNCH!).

Once lunch is finished (which consists of everyone sitting around a table (tired and sweaty) laughing, chatting and eating, I try to be healthy but I am weak when it comes to a chocolate muffin, we all have good and bad days, don’t judge me too much please) I return to the studio and inflate my Pilates ball ready for Progressive Ballet Technique (PBT). It is a new class that has been added to the scheme this year and honestly it is the HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE! PBT uses floor work alongside a Pilate’s ball to help dancers find key muscles needed when dancing. The idea is to keep contact with the ball throughout the exercise however I end up rolling off, finishing laughing in a ball on the floor, everyone around me looking and laughing too.

I think through PBT I have developed core muscles I didn’t know existed - not through the exercises but through laughing and the spectacular falls and fails that occur during this class – don’t worry I am continuously progressing, stabilising and applying this to my dance training.

Occasionally afternoons at CAT will be switched up (they like to keep things interesting) instead of PBT work the tutors may devise a creative task for us such as an improvisational circle or developing a solo that could be used during auditions. Also, sometimes we may have visiting specialists such as Dance Scientist Karen might come in to discuss the best ways to fuel our body for the amount of intensive training we receive (although for some annoying reason Karen always visits on the day where I decide to bring cookies and crisps to dance instead of a salad). As the end of year show draws near these sessions are often occupied by rehearsals of group pieces. We can spend hours discussing the positioning of an arm or whether the middle or second finger is touching the thumb, every detail makes a difference.  

The day ends with the sound of air escaping our deflating Pilate’s balls and frenzy of noise as myself and others once again begin to chat whilst getting changed. Once my ball has deflated (which takes a good ten minutes for some reason) I grab my bag, say goodbye to everyone and head back down Oxford Road to the station, shattered and ready for bed!

So that’s a little snippet of what life as a CAT dancer is like. If you like the sound of this or want to learn more why don’t you pop down to one of the drop in classes or come along to an open day which are coming up in the next few weeks? Or book a place at the upcoming audition?



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