Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Miss Pettinger by Jane Seymour

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Miss Pettinger by Jane Seymour

Article excerpt

Despite not being built for ballet, this aspiring dancer was literally pulled up to professional standard by her disciplinarian teacher

My parents enrolled me in a ballet class when I was in kindergarten and from the age of 13 I attended the Arts Educational School. This wonderful school provided training in singing, acting and all kinds of dance. I did tap, modern dance, character dance and ballet. It was ballet, ballet, ballet for me and my ambition was to become a ballerina.

We did acting competitions in school and outside adjudicators would judge our performances. I used to do much better in the drama than the ballet adjudications.

My dance teachers included Anne Heaton, the very famous ex-ballerina, and Ben Stevenson, who now works as the artistic director at Texas Ballet Theatre in the US. He got an OBE the same time I did in 2000. Mr Stevenson and Mrs Heaton taught me how to really sell my dance, in other words, how to bring the emotion into it, while an extraordinary woman called Eve Pettinger taught me technique. It's very hard for me to pick a favourite teacher, but Miss Pettinger was there from beginning to end, having taught me for three or four years from the age of 13, so I have to give her credit.

Miss Pettinger had enormous patience with everyone, but she was very strict. If you weren't in class, warmed up and ready to do the bar 10 minutes before the class started, she would give you a disparaging look and then close the door on you. From then until this day, I am always 10 or 15 minutes early for everything and that was Miss Pettinger's influence. A lot of people have told me I am incredibly disciplined and that they appreciate my willingness to push myself to the limits. I am this way because of the training I received from Miss Pettinger.

Miss Pettinger used to pull our hair from the top of our head, so that we could balance. To this day, if I want to strike a balletic pose and balance, I do an "Eve Pettinger" on myself. Then all of a sudden my head is straight, my legs are straight and my spine is straight.

I wasn't built right for ballet because I had flat feet and wasn't very supple, but because I loved it so much, Miss Pettinger never gave up on me. She never said to me "You shouldn't be doing this", which is probably what she should have said, because it was a fact. …

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