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Friday, 28 November 2014 12:43 am

Dancers Raising the Barre in classes for adults at Royal NZ Ballet

A WELLINGTON dance class is keeping ballet lovers on their toes at a high level beyond their youth.

Raising the Barre offers open advanced ballet classes to dancers of all ages.

The classes are held at the Royal New Zealand Ballet studios in Wellington with past and present company members as teachers, including visiting overseas tutors.

Regular attendee Bea Lee-Smith, 34, danced as a child but stopped for 10 years to train as an actor and singer.

“A colleague of mine had just started dancing again also after a long hiatus and brought me along and have been coming back ever since,” she says.

“It’s a nice way of staying in touch with the artistic world when I don’t have that much other work and stuff going on. It just kind of keeps the creative pulse going.”

Project manager Erin McCloskey says the classes for pre-professional, professional, retired-professional and ballet devotees are in their third year.

“It’s a totally open class for advanced dancers, that don’t have to feel like they’re in class with a bunch of 16-year-olds back in school,” says Erin.

“I think the best part of it is that there’s a comfortable forum for people to express themselves through dance with no expectation that they have to audition for something after,” she says.

Although classes are at the home of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Erin says they are relaxed and dancers can be inspired and improve without having to quit.

“Some people expect to find a really intimidating environment but are hoping that it won’t be and they’re happy when they see that we are really relaxed,” says Erin.

She says the variety and experience of the tutors makes Raising the Barre popular among the attendees.

Attendee Ash Pandian, 23, had finished all her ballet exams and wanted to do open classes at a higher level.

“One of the best things is that the tutors keep changing so you get a good variety of styles and techniques,” says Ash.

Victoria Lee, 19, has also finished her ballet training.

“It’s also quite good to meet different tutors, people from the company and people who have been with the company or still have associations with the company,” she says.

Former Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer and Raising the Barre teacher Greer Robertson says she likes the eclectic mixture of dancers that the classes attract.

“No two classes are ever the same,” says Greer.

The average class size is seven or eight dancers, the most being 18, and Erin is confident that it will keep growing.

“We can’t ever guarantee how many will be there, it’s a demand thing, and because it’s a small city it will always be on the small size,” says Erin.

Raising the Barre was started by Merenia Grey, an ex-professional who wanted to continue to dance and fill the niche for others in Wellington.

Erin, also a former professional dancer, thinks that ballet should be like any sport and you should be able to do it for as long as your body can do it.

“Think of all the training that we do. It’s a privilege to be able to move your body in a non-pedestrian way, and to appreciate all the years you’ve put into it,” Erin says.

Raising the Barre classes run every Tuesday and Thursday at the St James studios and rotate different workshop options on Monday nights.

In early November it is offering the chance to learn variations from Giselle.

IMAGES: Melissa Irving

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