Elena Glurjidze, ex-lead principle ballerina at The English National Ballet, is teaching La Barre classes at The Hogarth Club in Chiswick to help women get strong and fit. The Resident catches up with her to find out more…
How did you get into ballet?
I was born and raised in Georgia and I started ballet at the age of seven. I was advised to try ballet instead of piano at an entrance exam, and I always joke about how that was a very good piece of advice! After three years in the arts school I really wanted to achieve further, so I went to the professional ballet school in Tbilisi at age 10. After two years my teacher, who was one of the lead principals at the Opera House, recommended that if I wanted to continue seriously then I should go to one of the best schools in Russia, the Vaganova Ballet Academy.
How did you go on to become lead principle in London?
After working in Russia for nine years, I joined English National Ballet after the director saw me performing in Swan Lake and remembered me. I started as principle and was promoted to lead principal. I had always dreamt about it, so to have that moment was amazing. I was very lucky and spent 13 seasons with the English National Ballet, only retiring last year after 23 years on stage.
Was that a very emotional moment?
Yes! I tried to remain very calm though, as I didn’t want my emotions to take over. The audience was really beautiful and it was an amazing moment.
You were chosen to wear a tutu designed by Karl Lagerfeld…
I feel very privileged that it was me that got to wear that tutu and meet Karl Lagerfeld; the colour matched my skin beautifully and the whole thing was incredible. Some people at the very top have the ability to look at the art form and then create such special things – his costumes inspired me and so many other people. It was very special.
How did you manage the hard work and training?
I think it’s only possible if you really love it. You have to be ready to sacrifice a lot for it. Very often, someone can achieve a lot more with a real love.
Do you live in the area?
We live in Chiswick and we are actually moving just next door to The Hogarth Club soon! I love the community here. It feels like one big family and we are very central and close to everything too. It’s the community though that makes it a home; everyone really looks after each other. It’s the same at the Hogarth Club, everyone knows everyone and it makes it different to other places.
How did you come to teaching there?
I set up the classes because I was inspired by the parents of my younger students, so came up with the Barre class. It uses different ballet movements, the barre and the floor to combine coordination and strength.
What can adults expect from the classes?
It’s very different to working with children, who can understand and have the ability to position themselves but their minds aren’t quite connected to their feet just yet. With the adults it’s different, as they fully understand but they find it harder to do. It allows adults to see how much you can achieve when your mind focuses. It is good for anyone who likes to be fit as the floor work is great for strength and the coordination is great for posture.
Is it achievable to all levels?
Yes, our aim is to achieve a certain level of fitness, so everything that I do is beginner ballet. It teaches you how to engage your core, but it starts from scratch so it’s achievable.
Will the classes be a regular fixture at the club?
Yes, I hope so. We were just finding our feet but now it is really popular, so we’re hoping to run alongside the school terms as a lot of people that come have children.
Are you a member of Hogarth?
I am and so is my husband. Soon, my son will be joining too so that he can have his swimming lessons there. We have no excuse; we’re going to be just down the road!
The next La Barre courses at The Hogarth Club begin on Sunday 24 April and Tuesday 26 April for 10 weeks. £150 for members, £300 for non-members. Call 020 8994 0500 or see thehogarth.co.uk