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  • Sarah Aspinall

My ballet journey

Updated: Jun 27

I grew up wanting to hide. I was a painfully shy child and it showed itself in so many ways. I would hide behind my mother’s legs if anyone dared look at me, let alone talk to me. I just didn't want to face the world.


It was around this time that dance became a huge part of my life. The thing is I never felt shy when I was dancing. I mean, I could dance no problem, just not speak! I never had that feeling of going beetroot because I had found my safe place. I found a place where I could express myself how I wanted to, and a huge part of that was in my love for ballet.


I had an amazing teacher. Her name was Pearl Shaw. I adored her. She was without doubt the person who ignited the fire in me. She was a wonderful, kind (but strict) lady, fully invested in her student’s experience and progress in ballet and made each and every lesson an absolute joy. Her love for ballet and her love for me really, really nurtured me and helped me develop this skill. It was a huge part of my life all the way through school.


But at the same time, I was finding other areas of my life increasingly more difficult. I found the move into high school, and all the associated pressures of school, anxiety inducing, I had panic attacks regularly. I hated the spotlight being on me. I was doing so well in my dancing career - I actually even won a scholarship at the age of 14 to ballet school but didn't go because it was deemed an unsuccessful career move. But I was still unable to audition for school shows. The anxiety and fear just got too much.


At the same time I fell victim to the mean girl mentality in school. There was exclusion. If I got better marks than my friends, I was sneered at. I was left out of arrangements with the other girls who would then openly discuss their night outs in front of me. I was trying so much to fit in and be something I wasn't and it had a huge impact on me. So, by the time I reached sixth form, I had a plan in my mind. All of these experiences had led me to want to get the hell out of town.


It was around this time that I actually ended my relationship with my best friend and it was like a switch was flicked. I decided there and then I was not going to be victim to my fear ever again. I decided to to reinvent myself. And from that moment on I set myself a mission to move towards fear rather than hide, or run away from it, like I'd done on so many occasions before, letting that fear hold me back. Because a career in ballet was off the table early on, I pursued a career in law. I went to university and I got enticed by the bright lights of the big city of London and the law firms. And that's where I moved. And I actually met my now husband there.


But in journeying to the city, I started to let the things I loved fall away. I was chained to my desk for long hours every day, I didn't have time to think about my wellbeing and stopped dancing altogether.


I was eating unhealthy, wasn't exercising at all and I was losing myself in the process. Around that time I also lost my dad. And that was the wake up call that I needed. I needed to try and understand a better way of living my life for the sake of my mental health and wellbeing.


So I started to be more intentional about it and I started to get back into exercise. But I couldn't find anything that really inspired me. I missed the inherent grace and strength in ballet, the artistry it requires and the logic of how it fits together. The focus is not on the “thing” - the kettle bell, the running machine, the weights – the focus is on your body, the way it moves in the space, in sequence, in time with and in appreciation of the music, the balancing involved between limbs extending and contracting. The stimulation of your mind, as well as the physical changes you experience in your body.


Then I found a New York City Ballet Workout class. And it reminded me that I danced because I loved it and it happened to keep me in shape. So why not do that now? That love could help me to get back into being fit. I realised I could do fitness my way. This set me on a path in motion to reconnect with my passion and train to become a dance teacher.


I was chained to my desk for long hours every day, I didn't have time to think about my wellbeing and stopped dancing altogether.

I remember being five months pregnant in my assessment for the Royal Academy of Dance teacher training. I had to sit out of one class because I was pregnant. I was observing people doing some floor barre exercises, which was a real fusion of fitness and dance. This whole qualification was born out of me, determined to do my teacher training the right way. Observing the barre class was fascinating and it inspired my vision to teach this to adults and to become fully qualified in what I did. So, I did my hours, I taught children, I did all of the classes and then I started to diversify my offering, teaching elements of ballet fitness because this was an area that really fascinated me and it was really forward thinking and progressive at the time.


I was always adding to my portfolio, including things like Animal Flow, (which is a primitive form of movement), floor barre and Progressing Ballet Technique. I built up all this fantastic experience and then decided to set up my own classes focusing on ballet fitness for adults. What happened then was it took off so much that people actually started to approach me from all over the country asking me to help them. And that is where breaking ballet was born.


Breaking Ballet is a unique form of ballet fitness designed for busy women in their forties and beyond. I know just how important exercise is for physical and mental wellbeing.


My fitness philosophy


In order to stay healthy and happy I know how important it is to find an exercise regime that works for you and has longevity. Something that you enjoy, that can become part of your daily routine, that challenges you and uplifts you. A healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.


Ballet is an art form that anyone can learn. It is not just for those svelte long limbed creatures whose vocation is to dance professionally. If you attend a ballet workout/barre class, not only are you reaping all the benefits physically, but you learn how to move to music, which muscle group(s) to engage to perform a particular movement correctly and you will learn a new language (it's all in French!). Most importantly you learn correct posture, which can be applied during your daily routines and help to prevent and alleviate any aches and pains you may have.


Ballet provides a huge sense of achievement at learning a new skill. It is this sense of achievement that will keep you going.


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