Tutus, tears and the awful tiger costume - by Becky Latham

Becky is a student at Stoke on Trent Sixth Form College and earlier this month (July 2016) spent a week doing work experience with Cox Bank Publishing.  You can see her blog about her time with us here.  She was inspired by some of the stories she read to write her own 'sporting story' about dance - and what a beautifully written story it is!

 

When I was only two and a half, my mum decided to enrol me into ballet and tap lessons at the Jill Clewes Performing Arts Centre to give me a hobby - and probably also because I was a very chubby baby. Most children lose interest in their first hobbies until they find what suits them best, switching between musical instruments or sporting activities, but surprisingly I maintained dance for a while. Until now, in fact, at seventeen years old. 

There’s something about my dance school which feels like a family. You see the same faces every week and it is a great space to build relationships. Dance teachers become like parental figures who teach you so much more than just dance, and even the other parents become like distant aunties and uncles. It really is a big community. I took a break during my GCSE exam period and returning again felt like going home. 

Taking part in dance shows at the Regent Theatre will always hold some of my most treasured memories. Preparation begins around nine months prior to show week, which starts with extreme excitement but after a while becomes exhausting when the thrill has settled. Long Sundays are then spent sweating to perfect every move so you aren’t the one to let the rest of the group down. However, the arrival of costumes usually sparks up interest again- whether that’s a good thing or bad. Usually ballet costumes are pretty, a safe bet. The opening number costume is bound to be bright and loud, so you know what you’re expecting. From there, it’s all a game of luck and occasionally you do get an awful outfit.

I recall a fire drill happening on a dress rehearsal one year and my eleven-year-old self, whilst being led out of the building, wished it wasn’t just before the Pirates of the Caribbean dance so my ugly pirate costume would be the one to burn in the flames. At that age I just wanted to wear pretty dresses and tutus (if I’m honest, I still do). The next show, when I was about thirteen, I got given a tiger print catsuit to wear in the circus dance which clung to me like a second skin. Most thirteen-year-olds do not appreciate being a tiger. Or being suffocated by lycra. As you can imagine, this did not make me a very happy thirteen-year-old. 

Show week was always mad. The rush to find someone who could French plait your hair before it all started; the fight for mirrors to touch up the brightest red lipstick you owned; the distress when your costume disappeared from the rail and the rest of the room looked like a glittery, feathery mess. Infamous “Quick changes” were the worst, flinging your clothes around to find a crucial headpiece under the clutter as you could hear the current show number coming to an end. If you tell people you’ve been cursed with a “quick change” on the show schedule I guarantee you’ll be met with a mournful look of condolence, paired with a brave pat on the back. It was nice knowing you. Soldier on. 

But other than chaos, which is indeed part of the fun, there is nothing better than the exhilaration you get from performing on stage. Showing off the dances you spent long, hot days working over and missing events for is so fulfilling, but on the closing night it’s bittersweet. Normally the show is held before the summer, and everyone is aware of the dancers who will soon be heading off to university and not perform with the dance school again. There’s usually tears at that part. The shared emotion of happiness and sadness is also familiar because the show is over and done so quickly but all the sacrifices become worth it. It’s only a two year wait until the next one. 

I could write so much more about dance exams, classes and daily experiences which dance has helped to aid me through, but we would be here for centuries. I owe my sport a lot. It has helped my confidence, social skills, comfortability in my own body and provided me with friendships and memories which will remain with me until the day I die. Overall, I am who I am because of dance and the little community I have grown up in. Therefore, I am very grateful that, at the age of two and a half, my mum decided to take her chubby little child to learn to dance because I can confidently say it has been the best decision ever made in my life.