Miss Hannah’s Magic

We got to Greenwich in daylight. Last time we came it was Guy Fawkes night and the air was full of fireworks and smoke. We had no idea where we were. This time, I could see Greenwich’s neighbourhood clearly. Not too bad. Still close to the city. Metal-cladded apartment buildings springing up like pasta around the old dockyards.

Delphine’s dance school, the Laban Building, is a ten minute walk from Greenwich station. We needled our way down an alleyway. Docks lined one side and a building site lined the other. Thank you Google Maps.

We walked inside. The Laban Building is modernist/reductionist in style – even a little on the bleak side for me. I guess I’m used to the provincial warmth of Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Although it is impressive for the way it caters exclusively for dance, being a dance university and all… and only the biggest centre of contemporary dance in the world (my mouth dropped when I read that). It just felt a little daunting.

At 4:30pm, the cafe was already coming to a close. I bought two cups of tea. A rifle through the rucksack removed the rest of the packed lunch we’d been munching on during the day. Sitting around us were a few willowy young women. Perfect postures, pointing feet, chins lifted – we were definitely in the right place. I smiled at Delphine. Tried not to slouch.

At the end of the building, there’s a whole therapy centre for dancers who’ve had injuries or need therapy of some kind. Next door is a gym where a class was going on. Not for dancing but building-up body strength. Everyone held dumbbells in their hands. Next door a conference room. The library is upstairs and a small bookshop (dance academia from what I could see) as you enter the building. No, this is a serious place. Just a little different.

Delphine and I munched on semi-soggy sandwiches and looked around at the swathes of concrete. I decided to send a message and a photo to Delphine‘s dance teacher, Miss Hannah. Delphine’s Grade 2 ballet lesson was taking place in Aberystwyth at the same time. For this reason I didn’t think I’d hear back from her, but only a few moments later my phone pinged.

‘The whole of Grade 2 ballet wishes you the best time, Delphine,’ Miss Hannah’s message read out, ‘and we can’t wait to hear all about it when you come back home.’

A grin spread right across Delphine’s face like melting butter. Haha! We looked around again. This place wasn’t so bad after all.

We went to get changed twenty minutes before the lesson. The dress code for Candoco is definitely more relaxed than for Aber’s RAD syllabus. For this, Delph was ready to take full advantage. She still had on her ballet leotard but accessorising it now with tracksuit bottoms and funky ballet shoes. Hair at home needs to be in a neat, covered bun. I put it into a tight, high ponytail.

We squinted at each in the empty girls’ toilets. Surrounding us was minimalist, dark concrete walls and a huge mirror – we could have been in a nightclub rather than a dance school.

‘Okay Delph, I said softly, ‘you’re ready.’

She looked back at me, eyes narrowed. More steel than butter now.

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