DANCING - ANDREW
I was only a lad from Lincolnshire, a fishing town with Friday nights of fish and chips and Saturday afternoons of football fans calling the same song in aspiring glory. I sang that very same song, however I also sung another, another that others did not understand. The Mariners danced with the ball whilst I danced in the studio, the only lad amongst a sea of hair pulled back into a bun.
At ten years old it was decided that I would audition for specialist schools that you would find in the cities away from Lincolnshire. Looking back I cannot quite decide whether it was for talent or for being the only lad in my class.
I left home at the tender age of 11 to live and begin full time training at The Royal Ballet School. This was one of my first privileges and sacrifices within the dance and performance industry. All of a sudden I wasn’t the only one singing that different song but one of many, our very own chorus and the tide was quickly changing. The training is all consuming, the competition casts its eagle eyes over your every move, and the balance between the training and personal life is greatly uneven but somehow, accepted. It is a privilege and a sacrifice that challenges both your physical health and mental health on a daily basis, but when I perform a piece or ballet that I truly enjoy it is as if I have taken flight, soaring and full of euphoria!
The hands of the clock ticked on quickly and the eight years of training was coming to its end. We had been taught elite training but we taught ourselves how to become young adults.
In my final year I was finding my way through international auditions and performances when a part of me went away, the passing of my father. It came quickly, hurt and never seemed to stop. I went absent for a few days until a call from the school summoned me back to the studios, a choreographer wanted to work with me. ‘Performance faces’ are a trick of the trade and something that is quickly learnt without the need of instruction. I found myself back in the studio, days after my father’s passing, rehearsing the leading role in a piece that was about death and loss. Sacrifice and privilege.
One lives with the other and the grass is not necessarily greener on either side and after all these years, it has not particularly changed.
My career has seen me become a Principal Dancer with a national dance company, working with many choreographers and performing all over the world and I am truly proud of this, however, they are not one way tickets. There can be a deduction of ones self in response to where another part may have made a gain and this cannot be ignored, it needs to be recognised and approached.
In 2019 my wife and I had our first child and without any effort, it gave me a different perspective. I quite literally felt myself change as I held my daughter with an inhaled breath of new responsibilities, worries and excitements.
As I looked towards the future I dreamt of a space for my daughter that would inspire and educate her. Thinking back to my love and interest for the garden and design from an early age, I knew this was a way forward.
We began our first garden and it brought us instant joy and with that, wonderful memories but what took me by surprise was the influence the garden had on myself. My time in the garden became more than a weekend list of ‘garden jobs’ but a therapy for my mental health. All the negotiating of life, its responsibilities and the realms of privilege and sacrifice became clearer. It is as if the garden became a large table and I could lay my tapestry on it, weaved with the old and the new.
This is the space I need in my life and it is a very difficult emotion to compile into words however, some time ago a gardening company asked me what gardening means to me and this is what I had to say.
‘One autumnal morning I was planting spring bulbs under the architectural frame of a silver birch. The cold air pinched my finger tips and filled my body like a ritual cleanse and it was here where I realised that being out in the garden and with nature that I had space. Space to let clarity unravel at its own pace and space to allow myself to consider, find comfort and in many regards, accept. All the while the garden was simply there, gentle and unassuming.
There is a story in all of us that is unique and powerful and if we succumb ourselves to nature and merely be its friend who lends a helping hand, we can navigate our space whilst absorbing the endless beauty of the garden throughout the seasons.’
Follow Andy on Instagram: @andypeasgood