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Category Archives: dance

Ballet Saved My Life

No, those aren't my feet. Well, maybe in my dreams!

It’s true.  It started with relevés and pliés, battements and tendus, then progressed to cabrioles and tour jetés.  My hour – sometimes hour and a half – all for me.  No kids, no husband, no pets – just the class.  For more than ten years, every Tuesday evening I put on my leotard, tights and slippers and – at least in my head – I was a ballerina.  As long as I didn’t look in the mirrors too closely I believed I looked just as beautiful and graceful as our instructor.  Certainly I thought my leg was extended straight behind me and easily at a 90° angle.  Or at least 45°.

I owe it all to a friend.  Staying home with three kids under the age of 5, I was drowning.  Not that I didn’t love it most minutes of most days of most weeks.  But one day I read a Christmas letter from a friend, also a stay-at-home mom, who said she had fulfilled a lifelong dream by signing up for aikido classes.  A light bulb went off.  I could do that!  Well, not aikido – really not an ambition of mine.  But something else.  My secret lifelong dream was to be a ballerina.

I let it stew for a few months.  Too much time, too much money, nervousness, etc.  But one day I picked up the yellow pages and called around.  Hi, do you have adult ballet classes?  A few scoffed.  How many years have you studied?  None? (always said on a rising pitch, incredulous that I would even consider such a thing).  A few offered to let me try something else.  Hip hop is very popular right now, we have that for adults.  Then one, practically right down the street, said the magic words.  Sure, we have a class.  There’s one tonight – come try!  I hemmed and hawed.  I don’t have a leotard, no shoes.  She was undeterred.  Just try!

So I did.  It was love at first plié.  There were only a few in the class in the early years.  One, the charter member as we called her, had three kids at the studio.  One day she asked the owners if they’d ever considered an adult class.  Next thing you know she was it – with the two owners standing on either side of her so that she always had someone to follow.  I actually preceded my daughter at the studio by several months, but that’s how most of us started, following in our daughters’ footsteps.  So much fun!  Always supporting each other and laughing at ourselves.  Trading envious glances when the teacher did a stretch that none of us would ever reach.  And the best part – the dancing.  Landing my first pirouette, and even better, nailing my first double.  The first time my jeté looked more like a leap than a hurdle.  Being able to touch the floor on a cambré.  The Santa Polka at Christmas.  Taking time off over the summer, then coming back in the fall and listening to every joint pop and crack that first time back at the barre.  Joking that NEXT year we’d be good enough for recital.  Joking further that we’d need long sleeved, long skirted costumes, and our dance would be only 16 counts long because that’s as much as we’d be able to remember.  It was wonderful.

But I stopped going this past fall.  It seemed time.  The studio had changed hands.  Our teacher was moving on.  It had been 11 years.  I’ll try something else, I promised myself.  But every Tuesday I’d find myself looking at the clock, figuring out when I had to get ready.  I think I’ll be going back.  It seems time.