New York’s Coolest Adult Ballet Class Held Its First-Ever Recital
From backstage to the after party, the night was ballet at its most joyful.
Sure, pregaming is fun, but there’s nothing more sacred than the morning debrief — especially when you’re the one who threw the party. That’s why NYLON is catching up with the hosts of the most exclusive events before, during, and after to find out how it went, who showed up, and all the juiciest you-had-to-be-there intel. Below, we go inside Angela Trimbur’s first-ever recital for her popular Balletcore class.
It’s nearing 8 p.m. on Feb. 1 at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City and all 700 seats in the auditorium are filled. The sweet scent of roses from the many bouquets mingles with the smell of chlorine wafting up from the pool downstairs.
Angela Trimbur, the choreographer and director of the evening’s ballet recital What Dreams May Come True, tells NYLON that she thinks the curtain is going to open and close at least seven times tonight. “A lot of this isn’t just for the audience,” she says. “This is for us backstage. I want the dancers to experience these moments.”
Around us, 80 non-professional ballerinas ranging in age from 20 to 40 years old pad around the linoleum hallways, adjusting their makeup and going over their routines one final time. Leanne Castro, a Manhattan kindergarten teacher (and one of tonight’s dancers), says she doesn’t feel nervous at all considering how much everyone’s practiced. Though at first hesitant to do ballet, Castro signed up for Trimbur’s class and quickly became a devotee. “It’s once in a lifetime,” she says of participating in the recital.
Last year, Trimbur began Balletcore, an anti-perfection ballet class that’s just as much about dressing up as it is about dancing. Frustrated by other introductory-level programs, where it feels like the most movement someone can achieve is switching between first and second positions, Trimbur says imagined a ballet class that prioritizes fun over technique. While scrolling through social media one day, Trimbur saw the now-viral photo of Brittany Murphy taking a smoke break outside her ballet class wearing Louboutins and leg warmers, and something clicked.
“There is this untouchability about that [ballet] world,” Trimbur says. “You really have to dedicate your entire life to be a ballerina. But here’s Brittany Murphy who just gets to pretend to be a ballerina. My idea with Balletcore is we dress the part, we act the part. You can walk into my dance class, and you’ll feel like you’re in Center Stage or something.”
After the course grew in popularity and received online coverage, Trimbur announced her plan for a recital. Anyone who auditioned was guaranteed a spot — 100 people showed up. Now, after four months of preparation, it’s finally time. One of the ballerinas writes “WHORE” in lipstick on a mirror à la Natalie Portman in Black Swan. For good luck, other dancers kiss a sign posted in the dressing room: an illustration of a bow with a single tendril smoldering like a lit cigarette above the motto “Whatever happens happens.”
The curtain rises to reveal all 80 ballerinas on stage dressed in warm-up leotards and wraps, gathered around rows of barres. They gossip and giggle, adopting the persona of the b*tchy ballerina like Black Swan’s Mila Kunis. Trimbur is onstage as well, in the guise of Miss Angela, a stern, devastatingly French ballet director in search of her prima ballerina. The dancers stretch sensually as Miss Angela stalks the stage, puffing a fake cigarette. Welcome to Balletcore.
The curtain closes and opens 14 times over the course of the ninety-minute show. There are five routines in total, each one containing its own narrative. “Swan Lake” is about a perfectionist breaking from her people pleasing tendencies and drowning in a lake of Beyoncé’s sweat, while “Vivaldi” tells the story of a rebel ballerina balancing being hot and talented. In “Carmen,” a waitress closes up shop in anticipation of her hot date. “Beethoven” finds the ballerinas confronting a cheating lover. Finally, “Sleeping Beauty,” is about being lost at sea and learning to live happily in the mouth of a whale. Each routine is imaginative and playful — and met with roaring applause.
“This is what it’s all about!” Trimbur says in between performances. “We’re celebrating someone being brave and vulnerable.”
For the finale, the ballerinas were joined by Trimbur, who had shed her strict alter ego for a new joyous character. The true finale, however, was a screening of home videos Trimbur collected from each performer and pieced together: grainy camcorder footage of toddlers in preposterously teeny ballet shoes stumbling into position, little girls playing dress up at home, figure skaters, and pageant girls. Though the audience ooh’d and aww’d, they were largely silent. We all remembered how it felt to be so young and unafraid. Before we had learned to be self-conscious or label ourselves as “shy.” The recital, in the end, was a celebration of that childlike bravery.
The After Party
When Trimbur stops into the after party at Bushwick bar Danger Danger, everyone erupts into cheers. “It was exactly how I imagined it would be,” she says. “Now we’re gonna celebrate all this hard work. Everyone here has worked their asses off.”
As for what’s next, Trimbur has dreams to open her own community center, where she’ll hold classes during the day and transform the space into a dance club in the evening. But right now, it’s time to let loose. The ballerinas, joined by their friends and family, swivel on the zebra-print carpet to the bouncy synths of Taylor Dayne’s “Tell it to My Heart.” Some are still in costume, recounting each moment of the night amongst themselves.
At the bar, I ask the mother of one of the ballerinas what she had expected. “My daughter kept telling me, ‘Oh, it’s going to be silly.’ But, it wasn’t silly at all. It was earnest.”