Pointe Work and a Red Leotard

pointe work and a red leotard
Photographer: Darian Volkova

Would a strappy red leotard distract the eye from my puffer-fish face or accentuate it? The many thin straps of the garment crisscrossed my back in a pleasing design. It was different. It was daring. I wore it.

The above quote is from TENDU, the first book of A Dancer’s Journey, a romantic-suspense series. The main character, Amalphia, has just been through some relationship turmoil, again, and is returning to class after injury caused by an inappropriate level of pointe work. The red leotard gets her into a surprising amount of trouble.

Her injury came from being asked to perform every exercise in class en pointe. This is something that I took from my own life.

pointe work

Memories of Pointe Work

One week at college, our usual morning-class teacher – the late great Imogen Claire – was absent and a substitute put in place. This new teacher decided I needed to be stretched and pushed, and had me do everything en pointe. Just me. Nobody else. This singling-out drew a few nasty looks from the other dancers. But really, there was nothing to be jealous about.

Because it really was everything. Every bend. Every jump. I love jumping en pointe. I still do it sometimes. But as a training method in morning class, this excessive pointe work made no sense. It removed the benefit of many of the exercises, and I limped off to the other lessons of the day improperly warmed-up.

After two days of this, my feet were sore. After a week, they were a mess. But then Imogen returned with her no-nonsense approach to teaching and ballet, and I healed.

Imogen Claire and Christopher Biggins in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Imogen looks through her glasses in disapproval (Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975). Christopher Biggins, to the left there, once said very nice things to me while judging my annual assessment at college.

There was no need for extra pointe work, as we were blessed with a specialist teacher for that. At first I was surprised to learn that the class was taught by a man, but Gary Harris was a true expert on the subject, performing all the steps en pointe himself in his soft trainers at the front of the studio.

So, dance-school memories indulged, it’s time to head back into the next manuscripts. There’s a connected series coming…

A Dancer’s Journey Series on Amazon UK

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A Dancer's Journey by Ailish Sinclair

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Sisters at the Edge of the World

Ethereal and spellbinding... says the Historical Novel Society of SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

When Morragh speaks to another person for the very first time, she has no idea that he is an invader in her land…

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance!

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Chosen Sisters: Friendship and Dance

Chosen sisters in front of Windsor Castle. Ailish Sinclair and friends.
Windsor Castle

Chosen Sisters

Two weeks after my sixteenth birthday, I travelled from Scotland to London to start dance college. I’d worked very hard to get there. It was daunting. It was difficult. But it was made easier by friendship. In particular, my friendship with Suzette, my chosen sister in the pink above. I’m in the stripes there, looking a bit hyper. We were on a day trip to Windsor Castle, and I may have been experiencing some early castle-love!

The two of us met at the youth hostel where we lived and quickly became friends. This woman was my emotional support that first year of college. I recall her standing between me and an aggressive man who kept asking me out, and giving him a thorough telling off for his belligerent behaviour. He left me alone after that. And Suzette was unusual for a non-dancer, in that she fully recognised the gruelling nature of the course I was on. My days started at 8 AM with morning ballet and went on till 6 PM. They were filled with high-impact dance classes of various types. There was one hour a week of ‘history of ballet’ and another hour of ‘anatomy’, but those were the only sitting-down style lessons.

Name-dropping Louie Spence

This video shows the sort of leaping about I was doing all day (it should start in at about 25 minutes, the audition). Louie (of TV’s Pineapple Dance, Dancing on Ice, and Benidorm) was in the year above me. I knew him a little bit, because the school was relatively small and everyone knew everyone a little bit. I can’t claim to have been actual friends with him, but I can attest to the personality you see on television being the real thing. That’s Louie. No fake TV persona for him.

So Suzette encouraged me to eat, and to rest, and to generally look after myself. Despite the fact that I advocate self-care to others in this article, I have never found it easy to do for myself.

And Suzette and I are still friends to this day. We even speak on the phone (well, Facebook Messenger call) sometimes, and I am not a person who is fond of the phone. I don’t use it much. It rings and summons me and then delivers news about deranged blood, and while that is actually just really responsible healthcare, and I’m so lucky in that, it doesn’t feel good at the time.

So, we two friends talk about the past, and Suzette recently commented that we were like sisters back then. It’s true. We were there for each other when things got hard. And we still are. We talk about our lives. I send her videos of snow in Scotland. She sends me pictures of her having lunch on the beach in a bikini. Suzette is from Mauritius. And, in honour of her, I have made a favourite character from the Dancer’s Journey series Mauritian, or half-Mauritian, as suits the story. He’s the main character’s best friend, Justin, and certainly provides her with plentiful emotional support (she really needs it, given all that I put her through). Though, he is not like Suzette in any other way. His character is not based on her at all.

An (Old) Dancer’s Journey Writing Update

As the latest flare-up of illness recedes, work on the series picks up. The first book, TENDU, is actually complete now. Book two, CABRIOLE, is about to start its third edit, and FOUETTÉ is into its second. It’s all very intense. I get up excited to work on it all each day, loving finessing the darker plot threads that run through all three books. There’s a lot of crying going on. And laughter too. The whole series will be out later this year, with no long waits between titles.

I’m really going to miss working on these when they’re finished. I so enjoy being in that world. The energy of it is immersive and possibly somewhat addictive. It’s just as well there’s another three-book series set there too. It’s waiting quietly in the wings for now…

A Dancer’s Journey Series on Amazon UK

Series on Amazon worldwide

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A Dancer's Journey by Ailish Sinclair

Earth and stone and air and water…

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, a novel about chosen sisters, of course, continues to sell well and attract thoughtful and expressive reviews. Elizabeth Felt, a lecturer in English at the University of Wisconsin, had this to say about it recently: “The tone of this book is amazing. At the beginning, the narrator is mute, and the book feels so quiet, so in touch with the earth and stone and air and water… Amazing writing. Excellent story. Highly recommend.”

See the whole review here.

Newsletter

Sign up to the mailing list for news about my life and writing, and some exclusive photos. If you would rather just hear about new books and offers, you can follow my Amazon author page.

SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

Sisters at the Edge of the World by Ailish Sinclair. "Ethereal and spellbinding..." says The Historical Novel Society

Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance…

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

See the press release here

Read the article New Novel Highlights Roman History in North East from Grampian Online.

THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR

The Mermaid and the Bear by Ailish Sinclair

Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story. There’s 6 chapters of medieval Christmas too.

See the press release here

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From the Press and Journal: New book by Fraserburgh author highlights horrific extent of witch trials in Scotland 

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE

Fireflies and Chocolate by Ailish Sinclair

FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas… and there’s chocolate!

See the publisher’s Press Release here

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“Filled with excitement and suspense…” Historical Novel Society Editor’s Pick

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