Finding your mojo in Cambridge

Image credit: Madeleine Täylör-Läidler

I have seen so many posts on Cambridge Confessions over the past couple of months talking about loneliness at university. It comes as no surprise to me that the majority of these posts come from first-years who are afraid that they have missed their chance to make friends and enjoy their time at Cambridge. I would like to tell all these people that I, too, faced this problem upon returning to Cambridge for my second year. In my first year I had barely mixed with my fellow freshers – I missed a lot of the early socialising events. I actually remember sneaking out of the college bop because it really wasn’t my scene.

During the summer break after first year I scoured the list of Cambridge societies frantically, hoping against hope that there was something – anything – that I could take part in to make friends, or just something that would get me out of my room. After a few days of checking different societies out – and thinking that I simply wasn’t good enough to do a lot of serious sport – I stumbled upon the Cambridge University Ballet Club.

At the time, they were getting ready for their annual show of that year, Romeo and Juliet. I e-mailed the president at the time asking if it was possible for me to be involved (I’d given up ballet at the age of seven, and so it had been some time since I’d done any dancing). They eagerly encouraged me to sign up for the show’s beginner class dances. I did and, checking out the Club’s website, discovered a list of weekly classes ranging from beginner to advanced level. They had professional teachers, the prices were modest compared to other dance schools and the location of the classes were dotted mostly around the Cambridge colleges and so entirely accessible: There was literally no excuse for me to not attend.

Of course, the first class was always going to be a bit daunting. However, I soon discovered that the Club was friendly and encouraging, and the drop-in classes made it much less stressful to fit into my weekly schedule. If something suddenly crept up on me – a deadline, or an illness – I didn’t feel the pressure to go because I hadn’t pre-paid for any of the classes. In addition, the Club offered – and still does offer – a fitness class designed to be available to all: You don’t even have to know ballet to take part! It’s just a good way to stay fit and get chatting with people.

So, I started with beginners in my second year, and haven’t stopped ballet since. I’m now in my fourth and final year, dancing at a pre-intermediate level, and have just started pointe work. I’m happy to say that I have taken part in three of the society’s annual shows and have served on the committee for two years in a row – first as a costumes secretary, and then as a social secretary. Being on the committee was another big stepping stone in helping me get further involved in the running of the Club, and in helping me overcome a lot of the shyness that I have battled all my life. Whilst at many times it could be stressful (the mad rush trying to get a whole ballet of one hundred plus dancers ready to be on stage for the sixth week of Lent Term springs to mind), I made many lasting friends.

What made the Ballet Club so perfect for me was the drop-in classes, the love for ballet displayed at all levels, and the true sense of community and purpose that really evolved during the run-up to the annual show. It’s a friendly environment which encourages you to come out of your shell and just have fun and dance. I know for certain that when I finally graduate this year, the Ballet Club is one of those things about Cambridge that I’m really, truly going to miss. So, if you’re in the same position as I initially was, or just looking for another club to try out, I’d definitely check the Ballet Club out!

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