A dozen members are preparing in a somewhat unorthodox way this Wednesday evening for the ballet class that will begin in just under ten minutes. Where you might expect stretching exercises from the attendees, they spend minutes dragging lecture tables and chairs to the back of the Audiozaal in the Vrijhof. They also drag all the bars and mirrors from a storage space before class starts. 'On Wednesdays we are the first dance group of the evening, so this is part of it. On Mondays we are the last group to dance, so we have to put all the tables and chairs back in the hall. In that respect, the schedule is not ideal for us', says Sigri Hoekstra (22).
The Technical Medicine student has recently been allowed to call herself president of the brand new association. Primo Ballerino saw the light of day in February 2019. 'But the ideas for a ballet association were there for longer. Arabesque already existed, and it being a modern dance association it comes closest to ballet. Still, it's not the same. Around those years, my predecessors polled for interest in a ballet association and it turned out there was one. The association actually originated from a student house on the Matenweg. Many members and former board members still live there. That house has since been renamed the Primo House. Last year we held our barbecue there.'
'Primo' proved to date that the arrival of ballet is not an unnecessary luxury within the palette of cultural associations. The association has 45 members. The ratio of women to men is 40/5. Since the beginning, the classes are well filled. In fact, just like last year, there is a short waiting list. 'Every week there are three lessons, given by our teachers Adinda Groeneveld and Jennifer Willems. Wednesday the beginners and intermediate group train. On Monday the advanced group trains and then there is also a quarter of an hour pointe class,' Hoekstra says. Each group has eighteen members. There is not more room, because Primo has six ballet bars and per bar there is room for three members. 'That is why there is a waiting list for the average group. We are still going to try to scale up.'
Hoekstra - herself part of the advanced group - is watching from the sidelines this Wednesday. Teacher Adinda familiarizes the beginners with the basic techniques. She regularly gets on her knees and helps new members to place and turn their feet. Classical music by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev sounds from the boxes. 'Ballet is very difficult, especially in the beginning. With many dance styles you can run along just fine from the start, but the basic technique of ballet is difficult to master', Hoekstra knows, who at the same time regularly encounters a nice paradox with beginners. 'Sometimes you can tell right away whether someone has talent. You can tell by the way they move their feet. I've been doing ballet since I was three, but sometimes I envy the movements of beginners.' According to her, ballet is difficult to perform, 'because you often make movements that are not natural for a human being.'
Classes at Primo Ballerino - often shortened to Primo by members - are taught in English. Hoekstra: 'Most of the members are Dutch, but we always have a lot of international members.' During the lesson it becomes clear that language is rather relative, as it mostly 'rains' French ballet terms. 'Terms for which the association names all its committees, Hoekstra says. 'Our activities committee is called Assemblé, Plié is the cake-baking committee, Relevé the media committee, Developpé the merchandise committee and Balancé watches over the cash control.'
Because Primo Ballerino only just exists, Hoekstra can tell little about its history. Trips and excursions have not yet been undertaken by the association, but given the popularity of the classes, the board is mainly looking to the future. 'Apparently there is a lot of interest in ballet, although we do our best to promote it. Last year we participated in the dance show from Apollo and we are going to do that again this year. The goal is to give a performance ourselves with all the members. Now that we can finally train together again, we thought that would be a great idea.'