Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published February 15th 2014
Relaxed and Friendly Learning
A new year means new beginnings, and at the beginning of 2014, South Mitcham Community Centre introduced a new activity to its weekly schedule. On Friday afternoons, children can now attend ballet classes in the main hall.
The classes are run by Jeneane, from The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, and taught by her assistant, Melissa. Although this all sounds very grand and hard core, it is not one of these classes where you get shouted at, and have hours of rigorous training ahead. Jeneane and Melissa are very friendly and soft spoken.
Lessons are £5 a week, pay as you go. There are two half hour sessions. The first is 4pm-4.30pm for children 3 - 5 years old, then a session for children 6 and over that lasts until 5pm. It is the perfect opportunity for them to start learning while they are young to find out if they want to pursue ballet further in the years to come. Even if they decide not to pursue it later on, ballet is a brilliant way of improving balance, posture, fitness, and confidence. It is also an added opportunity to make friends with other children who live nearby.
You can order your outfit from Jeneane, who is supplied by Dancia International. New outfits start from £7, but you can also get them second hand, starting from £3. She also lets you borrow ballet slippers for a session (although they might not be a perfect fit).
Since classes have only just started, numbers are small. For the 6 plus session, they have eight signed up, but on the day, only three turned up, most likely due to bad weather. When word gets out and more children join, however, Jeneane would like to set up exams and have the children perform shows.
Class begins with a warm up, running round the hall. Afterwards, Melissa brings them into first position, which is where your heels touch and your feet point outwards. She then leads them through a series of movements to music. The music is a mix of traditional ballet, such as The Nutcracker Suite, and Disney songs.
At the moment Melissa is teaching them basic steps and poses with names that are easy to remember, such as 'bend and stretch', 'open and close', 'up and down', and 'attitude'.
She is also very good at explaining and helping to correct what the children are doing. For example, one child had a tendency to keep travelling backwards, when she was meant to stay on the spot. Melissa said this was because she was point her foot to the side rather than to the front. Next time round, she stayed perfectly in place.
After the standing poses, they took to the floor for some final stretching, which includes touching your toes with your nose, and holding your feet with your hands. The children had lots of fun learning new things, listening to Aladdin, and bounding around. By the end of half an hour, they were thoroughly stretched and tired out.