This is Bane in his natural habitat—leaping over railings, scaling buildings, and being all-around awesome as he documents his Parkour training. Take a peek at his Instagram account and you’ll notice a quality in his movement that is both powerful and precise. It’s not surprising that Parkour Generations praised his ability to make Parkour look “natural” and “utterly elegant.”
What may surprise you, however, is that—at least once a week—you can also find Bane in a ballet studio.
Bane is 31-years-old, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and he has been taking classical ballet for two years. Prior to that, he had “absolutely zero dance experience,” but he could have fooled me. Like many of the dancers you’ll read about in this blog, I became acquainted with Bane through Instagram, and I was immediately struck by his willingness to tackle complex turning sequences. If you haven’t seen the video of him turning multiple pirouettes (and even a few fouettés) while dressed in a full-on Disney Beast costume, well—let’s just say you’ll be impressed that he has only been dancing for two years.
Bane is not your typical re-beginner or late-starter. He is primarily a Parkour athlete and coach, whose unconventional path to the studio derived from a curiosity about ballet training methods. His focus on athletic training does not diminish his deep respect and appreciation for the art form, however. An artist himself (he is a painter), he is no stranger to the paradoxical quality found in good artists—that is, the ability to make strenuous effort appear effortless. His insightful comparison of Parkour with ballet expands upon this idea, but I’ll let you read it in his own words.
In his answers, I found traits we can all model in our own practice—good humor, determination, and a willingness to experiment in dance, no matter how awkward we might feel at first. After all, we never know what will lead to improvement.
When asked about his goals for his training and life in general, he succinctly states, “I just want to be better than I was yesterday.”
Good answer. Me, too.
Q & A with Bane
Q. What first drew you to ballet? What do you still love about it?
I don’t recall a solitary stand out moment where I discovered or was drawn to ballet for the first time. I think that my experience in other movement disciplines, Parkour for one, gave me insight into the spectacle of ballet from an athletic perspective. The two disciplines are intrinsically linked by their defining characteristics. They both demand incredible strength and condition. They both prioritize technique, execution and consistency with fluidly linked movement all while making it look effortless. They both have hidden depths that a casual observer may miss entirely.
For a growing number of years in my 20s I developed an increasing admiration for it, ironically contrasted starkly by my complete inability to dance and indeed the fact that ‘dancing’ actually makes me feel awkward. It was seeing my first live ballet on stage that spurred me to query just why, after years of wanting to know more and being curious of the training methods, I had not done anything about it. I quickly learned that there was a whole world of adult ballet out there. An acquaintance on Instagram was able to recommend a local class to me, and I bit the bullet walking into a studio as a blank slate ready to learn.
What I enjoy about it is the precision and the grace. While I can adequately perform neither, it’s the development of and subsequent attainment that is the most intoxicating elixir. I love it when something finally works… after countless hours of seemingly futile effort. I also love the 4th dimension of appreciation it nurtures when watching a professional performance—it becomes more relatable and I constantly find my eye breaking down elements and trying to figure out any one little part I might actually be capable of.
Q. Speaking of performances—what is your favorite ballet to watch?
I really love Giselle. A lot of the male parts stand out to me and I love the story. I’m booked to see the English National perform this again in Belfast in June. I loved Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein last year. I think I prefer classic ballet in times of royalty and nobility over more modern variations. For example, I much prefer the classic Swan Lake over Matthew Bourne’s, both of which I’ve been happy to see live. In saying that my knowledge is limited so I remain open!
Q. How do you prepare for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?
Ballet is secondary to my primary focus of Parkour. I try and get out for movement work over the weekend so I’m typically pretty well drained and sometimes muscularly sore before I even look at my ballet class on a Monday evening. I like to spend some time in a resting squat both in parallel and with feet in second to start the hip opening. I also am guilty of every dancer’s habit of seeking out the ‘regular’ spot at the barre and I go straight into warming up my feet and calves. I HATE cramping on my very first retiré!
Q. Do you wear the typical class attire for men?
We don’t have a ‘uniform’ or prescribed attire in our studio. Nice and relaxed. I wear Capezio footed tights and a t-shirt.
Q. Do you have a favorite step or section of class? Least favorite?
I think anyone who follows me on Instagram will know I LOVE turning! When I practice at home it’s in my wooden floored living room so no space for grand allegro and very little for petit allegro. I really get a kick out of pirouettes for some inexplicable reason. I’m not a natural turner, or a natural anything when it comes to ballet for that matter, but I probably work on turns the most as I can dip in and out when I’m cooking or making coffee, etc.
Least favourite is probably any step sequence in class. Hear me out! I’m the kind of person who would need to spend an hour or more just going over a tiny step sequence just to get the order of movements right, then to figure out all the right steps to get from one technique to the next all before actually trying to do it well. Arm coordination is another thing entirely. This obviously doesn’t lend itself to a class format where you get a few tries and then move on to the next section. Ironically, I would probably love it if it was just 90 minutes of booked studio time and I was given a video of just one step sequence to work on. I’m all about the drilling and the repetition so always find centre work impossible in a class scenario.
Q. Learning ballet as an adult can be frustrating. What do you do to stay positive?
No truer words have ever been spoken. Frustrating covers all bases. I am endlessly frustrated because I tend to impose high expectations on myself. This isn’t through a cavalier attitude or a belief that it ‘should be easier’, but I feel that I am capable of more than my body lets me do a lot of the time.
To stay positive, I need to constantly check myself and remember that until my 30s I hadn’t danced a day in my life and that people spend their lives developing in this game. Also, Instagram is a big part of my learning process. Predominantly a training log for myself of Parkour, conditioning work and now ballet. It’s less about showing people what I can do (which is very little honestly) but more capturing the hard work I’m putting in so that I can continually review successes, or failures. Case in point when I was really feeling like my turning was not improving in the slightest I was able to dig out a video of my very first attempt at a single pirouette after a class ever, then I found my first ever raggedy double pirouette and then my cleanest triple at that point to date, after about a year and a half. I edited them all together into a little ‘milestone’ post and the difference was like day and night in terms of improvement. I try, in these situations, to focus on how far I’ve come and not on how far I still have to go because that road is endless.
Q. Great answers. Do you have any other advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?
If you can afford the time and money—do it! This may be slightly controversial, as I’m not convinced it’s best practice, but my advice would be to not be afraid to experiment. I regularly play around with variations, turns, etc., that I really have no business trying at my current level. However I’m convinced that I am better for it. While I’m not deluded that I have great technique, I taught myself how to double pirouette long before I even attempted it in a class. I’ve also experimented with fouetté turns, turning with different arm positions and lots of little step sequences that I break down from videos found on IG. Having some basis for these, I feel, makes my class time more productive because when we do cover something I’ve tackled at home I am better equipped to take direction on board and improve the technique rather than just floundering trying to get to grips with the mechanics of what we’re trying (as I’ve already done that at home!)