Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ballet as an Adult- a lesson in humility

When I was little, I took ballet in Connecticut. I don't remember the instructor's name, but I remember the studio was a huge, warehouse type place, with big windows, metal bars, and was always freezing in winter. She was Russian, and old, and had a cane that she would smack us with if our turnout wasn't great, or we weren't doing what she wanted. I remembered liking the barre work but being horrible at floor work, because I am not an aural learner and I never understood combinations called out quickly.
In college, I took Ballet I and II to fulfill credits for graduation. I always loved the barre part, but as a theatre major, taking class with dance majors is not guaranteed to make you feel great.
Still, I did enjoy it- there's just something about being able to, in any way, say you're a dancer.

So, I've been thinking (and writing) a lot about ways in which I can make myself happier, and things I can focus on, something just for me. So, I started thinking about taking a dance class. I did some hunting around, and chose one. They offered a brief summer session, so I signed up.
First, I'd forgotten how expensive dance is- there is the class, then the shoes, then the leotard, then the hair accessories. Go ahead and laugh- but it adds up pretty quickly. There's also, from a lot of schools, the pressure of the "one more thing" they try to get you to do. Most schools make their money from convincing people they NEED more- more outfits, more shoes, more classes.
So, I paid for my class (was a little upset later when I realized it was only for one week, not two, and therefore suddenly seemed VERY expensive), a leotard, shoes, and tights. The instructor said since it'd been so long, I should start in the baby class. Which by the way, really was the baby class- I think they were five years old.
I was feeling okay until I slipped on the floor and came down like a ton of bricks.
Other than being in a fair amount of pain, bruised, and humiliated, I recovered and finished the class. In my defense, the floor is ridiculously slippery for a dance floor, and therefore, not completely my fault. On the plus side, after the class, the instructor asked me to come back and try the Ballet II class, and see if I could keep up. I did, and did (except for the fact that I'm obviously STILL not an aural learner, and still have a hard time with combinations quickly called out). She even told me that she thought I was strong enough to start on pointe in the fall, and said I should stay after Ballet II for the pointe class. But of course, that's also more money. What little girl doesn't dream of those beautiful pointe shoes- so of course, I ponyed up the money. Yep, I'm a sucker.
However, I didn't have time to get up to Virginia to get pointe shoes until yesterday, so I spent the class, just going through the exercises.
I left early yesterday morning, and drove the hour and forty minutes to Virginia Beach. Small issue- President Obama was in town, they shut down all the 264 interchanges, and my GPS kept telling me to take 264. Finally- two and a half hours later, I reached the dance store. I was in and out in fifteen minutes, and then got stuck in traffic as the motorcade went by (I didn't even get a good view). On the plus side, once the motorcade had passed, all the interchanges had opened back up, and it was smooth driving home. An hour of sewing later, and I had my shoes!
I was very excited about having shoes for the last pointe class of the summer before fall. I was less excited when I realized the floor was still slippery, and I'd been put on the movable bar, which was not going to take my weight if I lost my footing. Also, the pain. I knew pointe shoes were painful, but I guess I had always assumed that was true of dancing on them for a while, not half an hour of class. I would be wrong. After class, I already had two blisters, and the tops of my toes still hurt.
I'm happy I took this week. I'm happier that there's six weeks between now and when fall classes begin. Not to save myself the pain- rather, it's six weeks to stretch, practice, and break in my pointe shoes. Because here's the deal- I'm 36. The kids in my class are 13. They have been dancing since they were five or six. They are bendy dolls. They think nothing of doing splits and easily get into fifth position. I've never been able to get into a split, and my thighs seem to be getting in the way of fifth position. So, I've got some work to do.
I'm looking forward to class in the fall, but really hope that there aren't any of the students I teach in my classes. I can take a little humiliation at my age- but that may be too much, even for me.

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