Ballerinas v Footballers

That reminds me of a story I really enjoy!

Scottish Ballet was on that week (a year after my hard-learned lesson) and the Empire decided to invite Sunderland football team to attend the Company Class on the Tuesday morning, which was the time of the regular theatre press call.

Normally, the press call consisted of a couple of photo opportunities and a chance to interview one or two significant company members (plus, of course, the obligatory free drinks!), so a chance to watch Class (especially with Sunderland footballers, for the club was in League Division 1 in those days, before the Premiership was invented) was a big change. Yes, it was publicity stunt, but as publicity stunts go, it was a good ‘un. All too often they are cringeworthy!

Now, for those who don’t know, Company Class is the daily pre-rehearsal or pre-performance warm-up which is compulsory for every dancer. It consists of barre and free-standing exercises, warming up and stretching every muscle so they are ready for the hard work ahead.

Note: it’s a warm-up, the precursor to the actual work.

The footballers came on stage, dressed in their Sunderland strips. I don’t know whether they were first team members or what, but there they were, confident and ready to go. When the dancers arrived, you could see their self-confidence getting even stronger; for goodness’ sake, a bunch of girls and some men who just didn’t look anywhere near as hard as them!

And so it started. To begin with they kept up quite well, but Class is unrelenting. It’s continuous and everyone does everything together; there’s no possibility of a breather while you watch others.

You could see them gradually slowing down, breathing heavily, grabbing a moment of rest when they thought no one was watching, and then, one by one, they sank to the floor while the dancers carried on, hardly seeming to break a sweat.

“This is a fucking warm-up?” one of the footballers gasped to no one in particular.

Yes, and the dancers were going on to do a run-through of what they would be performing that night.

As I’ve said before, I know very little about ballet, but I do know that professional dancers, men and women, are very fit and very strong. I had learned that from observation but those footballers learned it the hard way!