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I started ballet lessons aged 26 – this is how it changed my body

To mark the release of Rudolf Nureyev biopic, The White Crow, Victoria Fell started four weeks of intensive ballet training – and the results were amazing


Surprising fact: I never attended a ballet class as a child. As a slightly more robust kid, I gravitated more towards climbing trees and pony camp, where I spent rainy afternoons eating packed lunches in old caravans.

So ballet, which is often a rite of passage for young girls was something I never got into: no tutu, no pink tights, none of those impossibly tidy hair buns. Apart from a two-month foray into the world of classical dance at the age of 11 when I had ambitions of becoming a musical theatre sensation, my experience with the art form is zero.

Which is why when offered the chance to train with Bennet Gartside, I jété’d (sorry, not sorry) at the chance. A Principal Character Artist of The Royal Ballet, who also runs Everybody Ballet, Bennet coached Ralph Fiennes leading up to the production of his new film based on the life of ballet legend Rudolph Nureyev, The White Crow, so that he could get a better understanding of the art form. Safe to say then, that I would be in good hands.

Would I be sugar plum failure, or would it turn out that ballet was the pastime I was born to do? Only time would tell.

Week 1, Day 1

I am anxiously lurking outside the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and I’m pretty sure that at this point, I’m the personification of imposter syndrome. However, Bennet is an absolute pro at making even the most inexperienced beginner (me) feel welcome. We start with the first few basic positions of arms, then move on to legs, and I am immediately using muscles that have pretty much lain dormant for the last 26 years, AND using them all simultaneously. By the end, I had managed a plié and learned what turnout is, and how important it is. Not bad for Day 1.

ballet challenge

My first picture – it might look like I am merely standing on my tiptoes, but I am thinking about at least 6 different posture-related matters at this point.

Week 1, Day 2

Ballet takes mental, as well as physical strength, and the fact that I’m up at 6.30am to do a class before work proves this. After a quick warm-up, today we ventured into the realms of tendus and battements – the latter involving lifting your leg off the floor. It’s so much harder than it looks, and I feel a wave of pride when I manage to bring my straight leg and pointed-ish toe to the heady heights of about 5cm off the floor.

Post-class, I am raring to go for the work day ahead. Outside of classes, I’ve also started thinking about my posture more – the muscles in my back are frankly, killing me, but I already feel that I am sitting and standing more upright.

Week 2, Day 1

The muscles in my back are finally back to normal, but the fact that it’s taken a week is a pretty worrying sign of how bad my posture actually was before. Today’s class was filled with jétés, battements, and even the odd grand battement, but the most fascinating thing for me has been seeing how my body has responded to the training. Bennet has been catering for an old injury in my left knee (I sledged into a wall on a Norwegian mountain aged 9, as one does), yet ballet is the only sport I’ve undertaken where my left leg has a noticeably weaker side… it’s no exaggeration to say that ballet uses every muscle.

Big thank you to the team at Bloch, who put up with my many questions about ballet shoes and have the most social media-friendly packaging ever.

Week 2, Day 2

Today we moved away from the safety of the barre into no man’s land, where we worked on jumps, and this is some serious cardio. Thankfully, having played netball at school definitely helps with the jumping, however the muscle memory for flailing my arms around (interception queen) also remains, which isn’t particularly balletic.

Leaving the class, I felt pretty positive about my new-and-improved posture, but then I see actual Royal Ballet company members gliding into the studio incomprehensibly gracefully as I leave, and realise that I definitely need to keep on practising.

Week 3, Day 1

Today we faced a milestone in my ballet training: the pirouette. However, like most things in ballet, the effortless appearance of these spins is very, very deceptive. The checklist of muscles to keep engaged is lengthier than usual, so means that pirouette prep takes a lesson – there is balancing, there is turnout, there are toes that need to be pointed. This element of ballet is as much as a cerebral workout as it is a physical one, and I’ve noticed that the mornings where I have my ballet lessons before work are often the most productive.

Attempting an arabesque (note the intense concentration).

Week 3, Day 2

Last lesson’s prep came to fruition today… well, sort of. I spun, and I spotted and I almost succeeded at a pirouette (again, see the Marie Claire Insta channel for the evidence). I don’t think I’ll be able to master pirouettes by the end of the challenge, but trying to is amusing enough.

From the way my clothes are fitting me, I am seeing the toning effects of ballet first-hand. This is only with two sessions a week: imagine what the professionals go through, working and training six days a week.

Week 4, Day 1

The final week is here. The pirouettes are still as hard as they were the week before, but my muscle memory has developed to the point where the mental checklist of muscles to squeeze and tighten is being ticked off so much quicker than at the beginning.

Today also saw me attempt what can only be described as ‘speed tendus’, which illustrates the general position I find myself in with ballet, where my mind understands what I need to do but my body just won’t play ball. Having said that, I’ve noticed a definite improvement in my stamina and my consistency, which makes doing 14 of these moves in a row a fraction easier.

Week 4, Day 2

We went all out for our last sessions: think jumps, think turns, think chassés across the diagonal of the floor. All this in The Clore Studio, an incredible rehearsal and performance space in the Royal Opera House, which has hosted such names as Princess Margaret in the audience… no pressure then.

An hour of putting what I’d learned into action, and the mental checklist that I went through with every balance and tendu was getting quicker and quicker. It’s also probably rose-tinted glasses, but in this session, it felt like I was able to balance for longer and could lift my legs higher and more accurately than even the session before. And with a final chassé smiling at my imaginary Royal audience, our final lesson was over.

The Clore Studio

So, what did I learn?

Even in four weeks, a lot. Firstly, a huge thanks to Bennet Gartside, whose knowledge and patience made what could have been a fairly embarrassing challenge (I am that clumsy) so much fun. Post-challenge, my posture is noticeably better and I have so much more awareness of what each muscle in my body controls and is capable of doing: even something as simple as trying to stand in the middle of a tube carriage during rush hour without taking anyone out is easier.

Add on to this a somehow even greater respect for just how intense ballet is, and just how much effort it takes to make an art form so intensely difficult look so breathtakingly easy, and I’m sold.

I’ll see you at the barre.

The White Crow is out on March 22.

The post I started ballet lessons aged 26 – this is how it changed my body appeared first on Marie Claire.

Marie Claire


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Dick Miller dies aged 90

OHMYGOSSIP — Dick Miller has died.
The 90-year-old actor – who was best known for his portrayal of Murray Futterman in 1984 classic horror ‘Gremlins’ – passed away due to natural causes on Wednesday (30.01.19), just a month after celebrating his milestone birthday with a party.
A family spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter that his wife Lainie, daughter Barbara and granddaughter Autumn were by his side when he died.
His loved ones said in a statement: “His sense of humor and the unique way he looked at the world won him many lifelong friends and worldwide fans.”
The ‘A Bucket of Blood’ star’s career spanned over 60 years, and he had over 175 movie credits and 2,000 TV appearances to his name.
Director Joe Dante – who used Dick in almost every project he worked on, including the ‘Gremlins’ films – hailed his friend as one of his “most treasured collaborators”.
He wrote on Twitter: “I’m devastated to report that one of my best friends and most treasured collaborators has passed away. I “grew up” (kinda) watching Dick Miller in movies from the 50s on and was thrilled to have him in my first movie for @RogerCorman..
“We hit it off and every script thereafter I always looked for a role for Dick–not just because he was my friend but because I loved watching him act! But he leaves behind over 100 performances, a bio & a doc–not bad for a guy who hardly ever enjoyed a starring role.(sic)”
‘Baby Driver’ filmmaker Edgar Wright also paid tribute to the ‘Terminator’ star, describing him as the “king of character actors”.
He tweeted: “RIP Dick Miller, surely the king of character actors. A friendly, funny face in Gremlins (1&2), Piranha, the original Little Shop Of Horrors, Not Of This Earth, After Hours & my personal beatnik fav, Walter Paisley in ‘A Bucket Of Blood’. Any role of his was cult movie nirvana.”

Find us also on Twitter @OHMYGOSSIP and @OHMYGOSSIP_USA


Aged 26 – 30? Get a millennial railcard now

This is not a drill. We repeat. This is not a drill.

Women only train carriages

Getting older is never good news – hangovers get worse, going to the gym becomes necessary and saving money becomes a reality.

One of the worst things about passing the 25 mark however is losing your rail privileges, with our young persons railcards (for 16 to 25-year-olds) expiring.

Yes, that means paying full price for national train fares.

sleeping on the train

It was announced last year that there might be hope, with Greater Anglia Railways breaking the news that it would be trialling a new Millennial rail card, offering up to a 30% discount on train travel for 26 – 30-year-olds.

We were hesitant with our celebrations as it seemed too good to be true, but sure enough, the news has been confirmed, trialled, and is now available for everyone deemed eligible.

Yes, really. The 26-30 railcard is officially available – and they’re flying, with millennials across the country ordering theirs online.

What is the millennial railcard?

The millennial railcard is a digital annual pass for 26 – 30-year-olds, costing £30 a year and entitling the holder to up to a third off their train fares. It’s essentially a continuation of the young persons rail cards – but it’s a first for the UK.

How can I get a millennial railcard?

If you’re aged 26-30, head on over to the National Railcard site and fill out an online form to apply!

We’re off to form an orderly queue for our railcards but given the popularity, it looks like we might be queueing for a little while!

The post Aged 26 – 30? Get a millennial railcard now appeared first on Marie Claire.

Marie Claire


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WWE legend Gene Okerlund dies aged 76

OHMYGOSSIP — WWE legend ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund has died aged 76.
The Hall of Famer – who made his name as one of the most iconic interviewers in the history of the wrestling business – sadly passed away one year after he was last seen on TV.
In a statement, WWE said: “WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Gene Okerlund, the most recognisable interviewer in sports-entertainment history, has passed away at age 76.”
He first joined WWE in 1984 and became a staple of its TV programming through his entertaining skits with the likes of close friend Hulk Hogan, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior.
Okerlund played a huge part in the company’s expansion around the world when Vince McMahon signed him up after his time in the American Wrestling Alliance, and he went on to host shows like ‘Tuesday Night Titans’, ‘Wrestling Challenge’ and ‘Prime Time Wrestling’.
He later joined WCW in 1993 as lead interviewer, working with legends of the industry including Sting, Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page.
The charismatic star would continue to appear on WWE TV over the years after returning to commentate on the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania 17, and more recently, he was a cast member on the WWE Network show ‘Legends’ House’.
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 by Hogan, who offered a simple tribute on social media.
He wrote: “Mean Gene I love you my brother HH (sic)”
Current WWE boss Triple H tweeted: “A voice and sound track to an entire era of our industry. He was the star of some of @WWE’s most memorable segments.
“‘Mean Gene’ was beloved by all who got to work with him. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. (sic)”
Fellow Hall of Famer ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin was also among the many stars and fans to pay their respects.
He said: “Just heard Mean Gene Okerlund has passed away. As an interviewer, pitch man, announcer, or host, he was untouchable. Simply the best.
“Total professional with quick wit, sarcasm, humor, and that golden voice. Condolences to his friends and family. (sic)”
Longtime WWE referee Charles Robinson also paid tribute.
He said: “So sad to hear of the passing of one of the greatest voices in wrestling. Mean Gene you will be missed and we will continue to love you. What a true class act. I am very fortunate to work with you. (sic)”

Find us also on Twitter @OHMYGOSSIP and @OHMYGOSSIP_USA


How to write a bestselling novel by Cecelia Ahern (who wrote her first aged 21)

Her first bestselling novel P.S. I Love You was published in 2002, and she has since written 15 books. For this week’s Writers Bloc series, Cecelia Ahern reveals the secret to producing one novel a year

Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Powell/REX/Shutterstock (522360w)

Cecelia Ahern’s first novel P.S. I Love You was published when she was 21 years old. Now 37 and living in Dublin, Ireland with her husband and two children, she has since written 15 books, which have been translated into thirty languages and have sold more than twenty-five million copies in over forty countries. ROAR, ‘a collection of stories for every woman’, is published by HarperCollins, £12.99.

You have been a full-time writer for most of your adult life. What is your routine?

My writing hours have adjusted over the years to work with my life. I wrote my first novel 15 years ago during the night from 10pm to 4am because it suited me to work that way then and that’s when I felt inspired and alive, but it’s not a practical time to be working when you have other commitments during the day. I now write from 9am to 5pm, four days a week. I begin a novel in January, it’s due in June, I edit during Summer and it’s published in Autumn. As I write a novel a year, it’s a very disciplined and precise schedule but thankfully it has worked for me and changing my hours hasn’t meddled with my creativity; if anything, having a routine has made me more focused.

I leave my house to go to work in an office. I used to work from home but I felt it was important to have a creative space separate from my living environment. It means that I focus better when I’m at work, but it also means that there is a separation between my life and work. When I lock the door to my office, it’s time to stop working and return to life, and when I step into the office, it’s a lovely free space to create, with a calm atmosphere that allows time and freedom for my mind to explore. With boundaries I can properly be in each moment as I should be without feeling conflicted.

My stories begin as an idea. I ask myself, who would find themselves in this situation and then the idea inspires the characters. The development of my characters then help the idea and story to grow so they both feed off one another. One of the most exciting parts of being a writer is that moment of coming up with an idea. I get an adrenaline buzz in that instant when I feel I’ve created something original and unique, and I’m eager to make a note of it and research it so that I don’t lose the thought. I keep a notebook of ideas because no matter how fresh I think they are, I do forget them and also because it’s not always the right time to begin the story.

Cecelia Ahern writes one book a year

How many drafts do you tend to write, and do you edit as you go or prefer to push through to the end and work through any problems in rewrites?

I write the zero draft for myself first. I find that in my excitement to just get the story out of me, I do a fast first draft that is full of heart but full of holes. I write first with the heart and then go back and write with the head. I go over it and over it and then send the second draft to my publishers. They provide a general overview at first, pointing out the larger structural issues and then I write another draft. It’s on the third draft when it has come together as it should be that we get into the nitty gritty. I work on a fourth draft and then we move to copy edits, page proofs etc. I don’t put pressure on myself about making the first draft perfect, I need to see how the story comes together first and if it’s working for me, before perfecting every detail.

I plot the story before I write – and of course this helps develop it further as well as acknowledging the problems and needing to solve them. Some ideas are great ideas but they don’t have characters or aren’t meaty enough to be novels, and so some ideas have been with me for years before I’ve found the missing part that can help bring them on. Others can develop very quickly, and I write them within months of thinking of them. I tend to come up with different ways to structure a novel, like an overall concept, but I don’t have a story. Every idea is different.

I plot the novel first, writing out in point form the characters and storylines, however most of my favourite pieces are the spontaneous sentences that flow as I’m writing. I can plot storyline but I can’t plot how I’m going to phrase it or what tone it will take, and so it’s important to me that I plot but also allow the story to naturally unfold and evolve as I write. A story is a living, breathing, ever changing thing and as characters evolve, so does the plot, as the plot thickens, so do the characters and that’s not always possible to predict.

What is your favourite part of the process?

My real thrill is in writing the first draft. That’s the one that comes with the rush of adrenaline and emotion, the one that is fresh and new and exciting and I allow the pen to take over and go with the flow. Finishing the first draft is an amazing feeling, such a rush of adrenaline and emotion and relief, too. Polishing for me is hugely important, but it’s the part that I have to use the other side of my brain for. It feels like a more mechanical process. I find the first 25,000 words of any novel the easiest because the first ideas are flowing, everything is being set up, it’s new, and the story is wide open before you. After that first section I usually pause, look ahead at how much further I have to go and wonder if I can do it. Then I remind myself that I feel like this during every single book and I have to push on through to the finish line.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would that be?

When we’re reading we are drawn not just to the plot and characters but how an author tells a story, so the voice is an important one to get right. I believe it’s important to be authentic and original. Write what moves you, what intrigues you. Write with the voice that you think with because that internal voice is yours, it’s original, because nobody thinks like you, and therefore will immediately set you apart from others.

The post How to write a bestselling novel by Cecelia Ahern (who wrote her first aged 21) appeared first on Marie Claire.

Marie Claire


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