I DID IT!

February 9, 2012 at 7:53 pm 9 comments

Yes, I did what I was determined to do – I walked into a dance studio and took a ballet class.  After an absence of 24 years, I walked home and discovered what I so greatly missed all of these years……………

The paragraph above was written last evening during an emotional haze, blurry eyes, pounding chest, throbbing legs and lying in bed.  Now, the day after the fact, I will write about my incredulous experience……….

 

Earlier in the day, I realized that I made a mistake.  It seems I misread the school’s class schedule.  The Level 2 class I was expecting to take was on Monday and, since it was a Wednesday, the available class was Level 3/4.  As I previously stated, I am certainly capable of a Level 3/4 but whether or not the body is able, well, that was the question I was afraid to tackle.  So, when I came home from work, I decided that I was going to grab the bull by the horns, and take the class.  I figured if I could at least fudge my way through the barre, then I would be content with my efforts.

It took me about an hour to figure out what to wear and locate my ballet shoes.  I ended up wearing my black running tights, a camisole and one of many wool sweaters that I used to wear over my leotards.  I also wore my favorite pair of black leg warmers.  In my bag, I had a pile of ballet shoes – some leather, some canvas – and, yes, an old pair of pointe shoes.  I had no intention of wearing them, but it just seemed like the ‘right’ thing, the ‘comforting’ thing to do.  I mean, what classical ballet dancer does not have a pair of pointe shoes in her bag?

I was going to walk to the studio but made the last-minute decision to drive.  When I arrived, I ‘waddled’ up the steep staircase, went to the office, paid $20.00 and was directed to another set of stairs which led to studio 1.  The moment I stepped out of the office I had the first of many, many deja vous moments.  There were parents sitting on couches which lined the walls of the hall.  They were chatting with each other, on phones, laptops and I-Pads.  There was music coming from 3 different studios and there were pictures mounted everywhere – dancers from the past, the present, posters of dancers, old dated paintings of dancers and the hall smelled of sweat, rosin and leather.

I walked through the couch-lined hallway and made my way up the stairs to studio 1.  As I came to the top step, I could hear a mom talking on the phone and the sounds of little girls chatting and giggling in the studio.  They all had pointe shoes on, except for the teacher.  There was recorded piano music playing, dance barres along the back wall, one side wall and portable barres in the center of the studio.  The front wall had a floor-to-ceiling mirror and in the corner of the studio was a shallow wooden box of rosin dust.  The ceilings were high and the lights were bright and the smells were exactly as they were twenty some years ago.

I found myself with 30 minutes to spare.  I needed to get myself ‘acclimated’ to my surroundings, plus figure out ‘which’ pair of slippers to wear and stretch.  There was a teeny set of stairs which led to a room called the ‘Dancers’ Quiet Room’.  There were two computer desks, two chairs and a couch.  There was also an open carpeted area which proved to be the perfect spot to stretch and calm my nerves, which were beginning to boil over.  I could feel the flutter in my chest and the pit in my stomach.  I swear I felt my heart skip several beats and my hands kept trembling.  I spent 30 minutes stretching, taking deep breaths and mentally psyching myself out.  I also watched the little girls with pink tights, pink satin point shoes, bunheads, little chiffon skirts and colorful shiny leotards.  They looked so young and they were so inexperienced.  They wobbled on and stumbled off their point shoes.  They ‘white knuckled’ the dance barre, squinted their eyes and bit their lips.  But, in the midst of all this concentration and fumbling, there were huge smiles and laughter.

About 10 minutes before the class commenced, more parents arrived and chatted in the waiting room.  There were also a few young ladies who were waiting for the next class – the level 3/4 ballet class.  I tried not to focus on them – rail thin, long-legged young girls with bunheads and pink tights.  But it is was a bit nerve-racking until the ‘little ballerinas’ walked out of the studio and we ‘adults’ walked in.  Somewhere in the midst of the transition, I became a dancer walking into a new studio, looking for the teacher to introduce myself and find my place at the barre. 

The teacher was so welcoming, generous, and very sweet.  She seemed genuinely happy to see me and told me that this was the perfect class for me.  The students were late teens to early 20’s.  Some were still looking to pursue a career in dance and some were at the age where they no longer performed or seriously studied, but still wanted to take a regular class.  All in all, there were 10 girls – women – and we were about to take a 90 minute ballet class complete with barre, stretching, center adagio, petite allegro, and travelling combinations from the corners complete with pirouettes and grand jetes.

As I stood at the barre, I looked at myself in the mirror, I watched the teacher present the first combination and prepared myself in first position.  When I heard the first notes of music and begun to plie, my eyes began to well up.  There were a few tears but I managed to control my emotions and from then on I continued – through the entire 90 minute class. 

I was a bit rusty at first, meaning when the teacher vocally rambled a combination my mind had a little delay in digesting the steps, but by the end of barre, my ability to memorize choreography quickly returned.  I knew every step, every French vocabulary word and every piece of technical information that was given.  If there is one thing a dancer learns and has hammered into their brains from day one,  it is the fact that technique is the backbone, the foundation of one’s ability to dance.  Technique is what carries you and supports you and keeps you strong.  It is engrained into your muscle memory and something you carry inside of yourself forever. 

My mind was sharp as a tack and my port de bras was pretty damn good.  I was able to handle every step and, even though my extensions were ‘low’ and my jumps lacked their ‘ballon’, I managed to carry myself quite well.  For a soon-to-be 47-year-old with a few extra pounds, arthritic knees, hips and cramping calves, I rocked in that dance studio.  And when all was said and done, I was complemented by my teacher and fellow students. I was exhilarated, humbled and grateful.  I was also stumbling a bit.  My legs felt like jello and my head was beginning to feel loopy.

When I got into my car, I texted a friend and drove home.  As I started to pull up the driveway, I began to cry, and, well, the crying never stopped.  I completely broke down.  It was so bad that I began to panic. I had that out of-body experience where you see yourself falling apart but you are frozen to do anything to stop it.  The pains in my chest were beginning to get scary and my head felt like it was going to explode.  I almost called my neighbor – I needed a lifeline of sorts, but then I remembered I had some anxiety medicine, which after 15 minutes began to kick in and then I crashed.  The last I remember of last night was being numb, heavy and motionless in bed.

I woke up about 1ish with cramping in my calves and ankles, so I stumbled out of bed, located my Tylenol bottle and then went back to bed where I slept until the alarm went off. 

How do I feel today?  Honestly, I am ready to jump right back into the studio – again.  I am sore and fully aware that tomorrow will be even worse (delayed onset muscle soreness).  I am inspired and, most importantly, I feel complete.  For me dance was not just a hobby or some teenage phase I fell out of – it was my life.  From the moment I stepped into the dance studio at age of 3 and all the years through till I was 24, I lived as a dancer.  Everything revolved around my dancing. Even my mother dedicated her life to my schedule of classes, rehearsals, performances, and touring.  Money was spent on shoes, ribbons, thread, leotards, tights, DanceMagazine, bandaids, bobby pins and hairnets. Hours were spent driving to and from the studio, sitting and stretching in hallways, existing on coffee, Diet Coke and Cambell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  There were late evenings in the studio and theatre, opening nights, dozens of roses, galas, parties and closing performances.  There was lipstick, false eyelashes, ice baths and heating pads.  The smells of rosin, Bengay, make up and point shoe glue.  There were the sounds of the piano, a full piece orchestra and commanding voices barking out steps, directions, so many hours of rehearsal.  We flew planes and rode in tour buses.  Stayed in hotels and danced in theatres big and small.  There were so many tears, pain, sacrifices, moments of laughter, regret and fear.  My social life was contained within the walls of a dance studio and, even though I went to school and college, my life as a dancer took priority.  Dance influenced and defined every breath, every moment and every ounce of my being.  It became all that I wanted, I needed, I loved.  It was my family, my friend and my enemy. 

Dance is an incredible career.  But like any career it takes hard work and dedication.  Where there is light, there is dark. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail.   When darkness breaks our spirit, we have to work harder. And sometimes, we get tired.  Twenty-four years ago, I got tired. 

 Now, I am awake.

1983

 

1986 - Backstage with wig & make up. Costume - not yet.

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

It has been 24 years…… numb – revival – take 2

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Traveling Dancer  |  March 11, 2013 at 2:35 am

    I know this was posted more than a year ago but I really enjoyed reading about your first class back to ballet! Have you continued going to classes since this one? You look so happy in your splits picture :).

    Reply
    • 2. words4jp  |  March 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Hi there – thank you so much for checking me out. Yes, this was a year ago and unfortunately not long after I stepped into the studio after ‘many’ years away, my best friend and boss passed away suddenly. I am afraid I have not been able to get back in the studio or into anything really. I have been running a company and dealing with more stuff than I care to, which has taken priority over my dancing. I actually just began writing again & I have posted more pics of me in performance or in the studio.

      I have a dance barre at home and occasionally take part in some stretching and plies, tendus, rond de jambes…. I am a dancer and will always be one and I will get back into the studio. The studio in my neighborhood is actually quite a ‘nice’ place for the adult dancer to go – I am not a beginner, but not in the greatest of professional shape – they welcomed me quite graciously which I very much appreciated.

      I have checked out your blog and look forward to reading more – I saw you have some Horton on there – my modern dance teacher was James Truitte – who studied under Lester and was the best of friends with Alvin Ailey, Carmen DeLavallade, Judith Jameson – a matter of fact I spent a summer at Jacob’s Pillow with Mr. T and Carmen. Ms. Jameson actually stopped by. Mr. Truitte was one of the founding members of the Ailey Co.

      I gots to get back to work now – but I would love to stay in touch!

      Kimberly

      Reply
      • 3. The Traveling Dancer  |  March 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm

        Hi Kimberly! Thanks so much for checking out my blog and for subscribing!!!!! Much appreciated!!! I’m really enjoying Horton despite the aches and pains :). That’s so cool that you studied with James Truitte and met Ms. Jameson!!!!! 🙂 🙂 Did you dance a lot of modern? How was it at Jacob’s Pillow?

        I’m so excited to keep in touch with you!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • 4. words4jp  |  March 14, 2013 at 2:30 am

        Just wanted to let you know that I received this email. I have been swamped but will have the time this weekend to talk about Mr. T, hinges, fortifications, knee surgery…..

        It is nice to find a fellow dancer!

        Kimberly;)

        Sent from an 🍎 👀 device.

  • 5. The Presents of Presence  |  January 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Your post sent tears down my cheeks as I understand how you felt. I often fantasize about returning to ballet, but I’ve lacked the courage up until now. I was never great like you, but it was ingrained in me since age 3 as well. I understand the emotionality of the situation so well. Your writings are amazing. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • 6. words4jp  |  January 3, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      You are welcome. A few weeks after this class I lost someone so special to me unexpectedly. I was unable to back in the studio. I hope someday to do it again.

      Reply
      • 7. The Presents of Presence  |  January 4, 2014 at 1:47 pm

        I hope you do too as I think we all felt the joy you experienced when you were at the class. There was something mesmerizing about what you wrote. I just understood. I’m sorry for you loss…xo

  • 8. nottooold2  |  January 7, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    This post and it predecessor gave me such a huge smile for you. It is the feeling I got walking onto a baseball field after 25+ years. I get your point now. 😉

    Reply
    • 9. words4jp  |  January 7, 2015 at 11:37 pm

      Thank you for reading these two posts. I re-read them after I forwarded the link to you. Needless to say, I started crying. There is much more I could say, but, there is no point.

      I understand the importance of optimism. I am very optimistic – for my boys. Always for my boys. I can feel their future and see it. What I do not see, is me. Plain and simple.

      I am certain you were a wonderful baseball player. My ex-husband was and still is. He turned down a bball scholarship for Dartmouth, because he got admission to the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering. He wanted the Co-Op program which Dartmouth did not offer. He did not play collegiate ball at UC. After college he got involved in an adult bball league which essentially had a lot of ex-pros and collegiate players on the teams. And he has been doing this ever since. He always said that he would have been a better player had he the discipline and drive that I did. He is right – because he always looked at my dancing and my interest in dancing – post career as a hobby. He never encouraged it. With that said, he did not understand the deep, deep desire – need to do something – without the ability or at least the thought of it – a person might as well be dead.

      Reply

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