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Performance Poems

By Josie Whitehead

Young Dancers in Ballet Class


By Josie Whitehead

Tripping the Light Fantastic

Are we ready?


Shoulders down and stomach in;

Push out chest and tuck in chin.

     Turn out knees and also feet.

     In leotards you sure look sweet!  Hmmm!


              OK, let’s start – (music starts)


Hold the barre, keep shoulders down.

The music starts, remove that frown.

     The pliès exercise the knees,

     But mind you tuck that tail in please.


                     Ooooh - Aaaah


You slowly rise and stand up straight.

It’s down again - you’re doing great.

     It’s rise again and into third.

     Perhaps I’m looking quite absurd.

                 Oh, dear dear dear!!!


Point your toes and arch your feet.

Stand upright - keep in that seat.

    Try a glissade – bend those knees

    And gently glide your foot with ease.


                    Gasp!!  Phew!!

Move your arms to match your feet;

Curve your fingers, come, don’t cheat.

     Move your shoulders as you glide

     Then circle with your arms quite wide.


             Drags herself to a chair –

            loud p h e w!!  Then thinks:


Ballet stretches limbs and mind,

It’s good for teamwork too I find.

    But ballet for the eighties plus?

    A stately waltz is much less fuss!

Copyright on all my poems

Note:  Trip the light fantastic:  

This phrase evolved over time. Its origin is attributed to John Milton's 1645 poem L'Allegro:

Come, and trip it as ye go,
On the light fantastick toe.

In Milton’s use the word 'trip' is to 'dance nimbly' and 'fantastic' suggests 'extremely fancy'. 'Light fantastic' refers to the word toe, and 'toe' refers to a dancer's footwork. 'Toe' has since disappeared from the idiom, which then becomes: 'trip the light fantastic'  A few years before, in 1637, Milton had used the expression 'light  fantastic' in reference to dancing in his masque Comus: 'Come, knit hands, and beat the ground,/In a light fantastic round.'

For myself, 'tripping the light fantastic' refers to  the energetic exercise we did in the years and years of ballet lessons/performances which I did from the age of 3 until I was 18, and then again when I was in my thirties.  Josie  

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