Genevieve and I would often go to the latest ballet that was in the theatres. We sat and watched as the dancers moved around the stage with such grace. I wanted to learn more about movement and improve in how I sketched and then painted the female form.
When I watched them I would take out a small handful of papers and a pencil and would sketch them for future reference. I was asked by one of the dancers if I would like to stand in the wings and watch more closely. I was very honoured and accepted. I had never been this close before and the energy and atmosphere was out of this world.
In the week they took ballet lessons and also practised for the latest shows. I asked if I could come along to watch and draw them. The instructor said that would be fine, but I was not to talk to any of them as they had to concentrate.
I went along to the ballet class and sat at the back. I watched as the dancers carefully put on their shoes. They were so delicate. Next, they would take the ribbons and wrap them around and then secure them tightly. A quick jump and onto the toes of the shoes. Stepping quickly from shoe to shoe. Sometimes stopping and undoing the ribbons and then redoing them up.
They warmed up by doing stretching exercises on a bar that ran along the back of the room and there were around ten dancers.
I was intrigued by the way that they could move around, but more importantly, how they were able to move their bodies into different positions.
It was not the final performances that I was interested in, it was showing in my sketches real people and how they looked and moved.
I captured the women, talking to each other as they put on their dresses. How they brushed their own hair and each others. The movements that they performed in front of a mirror, to ensure that what they saw was a true reflection of the dance.
The ballet was not the only place that I went to. There were many dance halls as well. I only came to watch the women and then draw them. The same cannot be said for the other men in the audience on those nights though. It was not as calm and mesmerizing as the ballet was, but I wanted to capture women from different walks of life.
The ladies were always very friendly and would allow me to draw them. When I had finished they always made me promise to come back so that they could see the finished painting.
I agreed and would take my paintings for them to see. I had captured them in ways that nobody had ever seen before. The first picture showed them on stage, it was at the end of the performance and people were throwing flowers at them. Some were bending down to pick up the flowers and others were blowing kisses to the audience. They were wearing pink dresses that had lots of netting under the main skirt. Their hair was tied up with ribbons and they wore pearl necklaces.
Sometimes they just wore white and had a white headdress to match. As they danced around they were like a beautiful swan on a lake.
The ladies from the dance hall were quite different. The dresses were longer at the back and the skirt at the front only just covered their thighs. They wore lace-up boots and their cleavage was on show. I painted them when they were kicking their legs up and each hand was placed on their waist.
The responses were always positive and all the girls loved them and asked when I would be coming next. I didn’t know was the answer, it was coming up to Christmas and I wanted to go back to France to see Christophe. He must be so big now since the last time I saw him. If I was to go back, I couldn’t go back empty handed and would have to find some gifts to take back for him and the family. I hadn’t seen anything here, but there were a few places back in Loughborough that I had seen and when I got back I would seek them out.