Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

Ballet photos of me as a wee girl, Big Ballet, Regina Rogers Ballet School.

Posted in Ballet, Big Ballet, Regina Rogers Ballet School by sheelanagigcomedienne on May 6, 2012

My birthday is May 6th. I share a birthday with Sigmund Freud and Tony Blair. I decided to this little compilation of photos of me as a young ballet dancer just to remind myself and my tired bones and muscles of what I could do once.  I was also inspired by the Big Ballet series on Channel 4.

The three-part series follows former ballet principals Wayne Sleep and Irish ballerina Monica Loughman as they attempt to draw up a troupe of plus-sized amateurs. After pruning the 500 to 18, Sleep and Loughman have five months to train up their 16 women and two men for a performance of Swan Lake at St George’s Hall in Bradford.

I loved ballet but recognise that dancing en pointe is unnatural and not good for women’s feet. It is another form of foot fetishism, along with Chinese foot binding and the wearing of 6 inch heels. Suffering for beauty is a concept familiar to most women, who have dyed, plucked or shaved their hair, squeezed their feet into uncomfortable high heels or even surgically enhanced parts of their anatomy. Millions of Chinese women went even further — binding their feet to turn them into the prized “three-inch golden lotuses.” These “golden lotuses” were proof of a foot fetish on a national scale, with hobbled feet acting as another erogenous zone, the most forbidden of them all.

Different women’s body parts have been fetishised over the centuries according to cultural tastes, not surprisingly, emanating from patriarchy and religions.  Neck elongation, corsets, chastity belts, tanning, face lifts, breast enhancement, clitorodectomy,  vagazzling etc.  Ballet en pointe, without wires supporting, was introduced by Marie Taglioni  dancing La Sylphide in 1832 and she had been trained by her father Filippo.

The V&A exhibition on women’s footwear is horribly tagged with agony and ecstasy. Pleasure and Pain.

I am posting the few ballet photos that I have.

This photo is of me and Regina Langan in our Bluebirds costume which was taken in 1960 for the publicity photos of the pantomime in Castlebar Co Mayo which was CINDERELLA that year. This was a pas de deux that we danced. Regina’s mother Marie Langan was a ballet teacher in Galway and Regina, now Regina Rogers runs her own ballet school in Galway.Regina Rogers School of Ballet, Galway

Regina looks as good as her mother did at the same age.

This is from her website.

Regina Rogers
B.A. H.Dip in Ed

Regina Rogers has been dancing since the age of 4 and teaching since 1986. Her mother, Marie Langan was a well known Ballet teacher who taught in Galway and  Mayo. Marie trained in London and Paris and was a cousin of Patricia Ryan who was Artistic Director of the Irish National Ballet Company during the late 50′s and early 60′s. Regina also worked with the prestigious Bertha Carr School of Dance whilst living in the U.S. (Rhode Island) and also took Master classes at Boston Ballet.

In 1995 Regina first brought the renowned Russian Ballet to Ireland with the intention of exposing students and audiences to the best of ballet.  Since 1996 the Perm State Ballet of Russia have come to Galway on a regular basis and their performance is a gem in Galway’s theatrical calendar. This has greatly enhanced the appreciation of Ballet as an accessible artform in Ireland. Two years ago, Regina Rogers was honoured by the Perm State Ballet of Russia when she was invited to sit on a panel of jurors at the prestigious Arabesque Ballet Competition in Russia. The Director and founder of this competition is the renowned Vladimir Vasiliev, former Director and Dancer of the famous Bolshoi Ballet.

Michael D Higgins with Marie-Claire Rogers when he launched Galway Dance Day in 1991. Michael D is now the President of Ireland and from Galway and was Minister for Culture. I was a student at University College Galway at the same time as him and served on the committee of the Literary and Debating Society when he was auditor.

This is me in my SPRING costume taken in a cold studio – my legs are purple with the cold.

This is me, Regina, Stella and Leonie  in our Castanet Dance costumes. We actually danced to the tune Dance a Cachucha from the G&S THE GONDOLIERS.

This is me in costume for a dance called The Coquette. I was about 13/14 a bit inappropriate!

Me posing for THE BAT DANCE.

I am posing en pointe in costume as Sheela-na-Gig preparing to dance THE DYING OLD BAT. It is not recommended for eleven and a half stone women to dance en pointe so don’t try this at home or anywhere else.

The Channel 4 Big Ballet was very enjoyable and I was delighted that, at last, the idea of ballet for people of all sizes and older was possible, fun and a good way to keep fit. I have always lamented that it is perceived as only for professionals, aspiring ballet dancers and youngsters.  I hope that this will create a demand for ballet classes for older women and men for fun, fitness and dancing to classical music. However it is NOT the first time.

The Big Ballet troupe was established 16 years ago by renowned Russian choreographer Evgeny Panfilo to prove that bigger women could still move elegantly. The 16-strong alternative group was set up to challenge social standards in the ballet world and dancers weighed in at just under an average 20st during the last UK tour in 2008.

 monica and waynes

Monica Loughman is an inspiration for Irish dancers.


Monica with Galway Ballet Dancers from Regina Rogers Ballet School.

monica and galway dancers

Several senior students from Regina Rogers Ballet school have successfully auditioned for the Irish Youth Russian Ballet Company (I.Y.R.B) Artistic Director Monica Loughman, Ireland’s Premier Ballerina. These students have performed in the Helix Theatre Dublin and also featured on RTE’s TV Programme “Ballet Chancers“    Here they are with Regina.

regina rogers students

So that neatly rounds off my post about ballet and my photos from the 50s from our little ballet class with Marie Langan which first used the Golf Links Hotel ballroom before moving to the Columban Hall to her daughter Regina’s thriving ballet school in Galway whose pupils progress to Monica’s Ballet company and beyond.


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