It has been 24 years……

February 8, 2012 at 3:07 am 6 comments

… since I stepped into a dance studio. Not an aerobics studio, but an actual ballet studio. Tomorrow, I am about to do just that – walk into a dance studio and take my first ballet class in 24 years. Oh my heavens! I am sitting here in disbelief, trying to comprehend what it is I am about to do and wondering why and doubting if I can and wondering how it will feel.

Twenty-four years ago I took a dance class in Washington, D.C. I had just moved there with my fiance, after having lived in New York City for a year. I had graduated from college with a B.F.A in Dance and Theatre and had an opportunity to work in NYC. I was no longer dancing professionally, but I was still quite capable and excited to finally realize a dream come true – living in The Big Apple and taking dance classes. My day job was as an assistant manager for a gourmet chocolate store in Midtown Manhattan – 55th and Madison Street, to be exact. My evenings were spent taking dance classes – every night and on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I worked to pay the rent and take classes and, well, I took in an occasional Broadway show. I became friends with other dancers, like myself, who had a professional career, but came to the realization that either the body could no longer accept the wear and tear of professional dance or that the profession, itself, could not accept the ‘bodies’ of very talented dancers, who, like myself, were not the ideal rail-thin waifs that classical ballet dance companies demanded.

After a year in NYC, the chocolate store closed, a marriage proposal was ‘popped’ and a move to Washington, DC was made. After getting my/his/our lives settled, I tried to find a studio like the ‘many’ studios in NYC, where an adult ballet class was more than a ‘literal’ adult beginner class. One had to be a mid-teenager or a first time adult to find a class worth taking. It sucked. I did not want to take jazz, modern or any other genre of dance. I wanted a strict classical ballet class with plies at the barre, adagio, jetes, pirouettes etc. in the center and leaping and waltzing from the studio corners. What I received instead was Ballet 101 – the five positions – the legs and arms along with other basic steps – and that was about it. So, October of 1988, I left a dance studio in Adams Morgan and never returned or even looked back. Not long after this harrowing experience, I began taking aerobics classes, and before I knew it, a few years later was teaching, training, moved to Ohio, had son number 1, moved to Chicago, had son number 2, kept teaching, got divorced, kept teaching and began triathlon training, did an Ironman, got tired of teaching, got a regular job with a desk and, well, here I am – about to revisit a dance studio – 24 years after the fact.

What precipitated this decision you may ask? To be honest, I believe it has been brewing deep inside of me for a very long time. There is a dance studio in my neighborhood where I have lived for a little over 10 years. Many times I have sat in my car, at a red light, which so happens to be at street corner in the middle of town. At this corner is a Starbucks and above the smells of lattes and cappuccino, is a dance studio. I have been watching for years the little ingenues with pink leggings, bun heads and walking like ducks as they waddle through the double glass doors, up a steep stairwell and into a dance studio. Every now and again, I would visit the school’s website to peruse the schedule and then I would abruptly exit the page. It seemed that each glance at the site would awaken years of memories – wonderful, terrifying, heart breaking, astounding and once in a lifetime, priceless memories – and I just could not face them. Then a few years ago, a person – a very special person re-ignited a flame that had been existing as a very faint ember deep within a soul that was and still is a dancer.

Recently, I had the opportunity and pleasure of attending a formal dance performance, with ‘the special person’. This was the first time I had seen ‘dance’ in a formal setting since 1990 when I saw the Bolshoi Ballet perform Giselle at Wolftrap. Back then it was an incredibly emotional experience. A matter of fact, I cried throughout the entire two acts. I fared much better this recent go round. I was relaxed, invigorated and inspired. So, today I went on the school’s webpage, took a few deep breaths and made a phone call. I stuttered a little, but I found out that I could try a class – an Adult 2 or even an Adult 3/4 class. I explained that I was an ex-professional with a 22 years of training and 24 years of life in between. She giggled, I giggled and we both decided that a level 2 class would be good for now. I told her that I know the vocabulary, I know the steps, but whether or not the 46-year-old joints can do what the head says to do remains to be seen. Honestly, between you, the reader, and myself – level 3/4 will see me at the barre in no time:)

Now, I am faced with the question “what to wear” and the task of going through old boxes of dance clothes. I doubt the tights and leotards will fit and, well, even if they did, the elastic has probably rotted. The point shoes will stay home, but my regular canvas slippers will still do the appropriate job. How the body will move? Who knows, but I am certain there will be a cramp or two or three. The bun head no longer exists and the hair is quite short and gray. I doubt my arabesque will rise even close to ninety degrees, but my port de bras will be flawless.

I plan on walking into the studio with a smile and a sense of humor. Any ‘out of shape’ dancer can attest to the frustration felt at the ‘first class’ back from a lay off, or in my case, a wayyyyyyy layyyyyy off. I will try not to dwell on what I see in the mirror and I will enjoy every moment of my class. Whether or not I will be able to move the day after class? Humph, I cannot say but I will certainly tell you when I write ‘The experience of my first dance class in 24 years’.

One final thought – It seems only fitting that my first blog after a long absence from writing would be about returning home to a place that has been absent from my life for such a very long time. It feels good to be tapping on the keys again and it will feel perfect to be home in a dance studio again.

 

Paquita - 1987

Entry filed under: ballet, dance, discipline, feelings, life, Personal. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

A student driver and his mom I DID IT!

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. G  |  February 8, 2012 at 3:48 am

    music and dance – the essence of life

    Reply
  • 2. The Presents of Presence  |  January 3, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    I am so proud of you for returning home to ballet. I was never a professional like you, but I do long for an adult class even though I stopped ballet when I was 20 and now I”m over twice that age. I can’t wait to read what happened! πŸ™‚

    Reply
  • 3. SirenaTales  |  October 11, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Yay you, Kimberly, for answering the call of your passion! As I wrote about recently, in my mind: once a dancer, always a dancer.

    Thank you for writing about your dance journey in such an honest, eloquent, and lovely way. I hope you are still dancing, or if not, that you are doing something else that brings you alive as your dancing did for so long.

    I can relate to your tale about the doubt and fears after taking a long break–I have followed a very unconventional dance path. Although dancing all my life, I detoured and went to law school, worked as an attorney for awhile, had several children and finally listened to my wise husband and dived into a dance career at 40. In my late 50s, I am dancing more than ever–performing, choreographing, teaching contemporary dance. The longer I live, the more I am profoundly grateful for the amazing gift of dance in my life.

    Thanks again for visiting so I could come find you. Looking forward to reading more. Shine on!!! xo

    Reply
    • 4. words4jp  |  October 13, 2014 at 2:17 am

      Thank you for reading – I do not dance anymore except around the house and in my mind. And I write a lot about it – it fuels my metaphors it seems or shall I say my metaphors ride the dancing waves πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  • 5. nottooold2  |  January 7, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Love this. πŸ™‚

    Reply

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