Last week marked my one-year anniversary of my return to ballet. I clearly remember my trepidation that first class I attended… I had e-mailed the director a week or two prior, had purchased a pair of pink tights and a new leotard, and psyched myself up. I arrived early to the adult beginner class and wandered around the building for a few minutes trying to figure out where the studios were even located. When I finally found it and ventured in I was afraid I’d take someone’s barre spot by accident or that the class would be populated with Dance Bitches. Luckily neither of those was the case. One of the veterans very kindly introduced herself and I hid away in the corner. Balancing in sous-sus was a challenge. My developpes were sad and lurked somewhere below 90 degrees. The ballet vocabulary that was once so familiar sounded foreign. I could barely walk for a week afterwards. But I knew I’d be back the following week… and the next… and the next.
Now… my balance has improved tremendously. My extension is over 90 degrees (not quite as high as I’d like, but significant progress). There are still some things that elude me from my previous ballet days (beating jumps being one of them), but the terms have come back to me for the most part. I have gone from one beginner class per week to two intermediate classes plus one mixed intermediate-advanced class (with the teens) and pointe (not to mention the other styles I’ve started taking at the same studio). I’ve performed in a concert of new choreography, a recital, and one (soon to be two) full-length ballets. The room full of strangers has become a room full of familiar faces and I am even in on some inside jokes now. Hard to imagine my life without ballet in it… and even if I wanted to drop it I would be heckled by my classmates for skipping out. So that’s kind of nice.
And since this week was also Thanksgiving in the US, I wanted to take a moment to give thanks for what ballet has brought to my life.
Firstly I’m thankful that I found a studio in our relatively rural area (I’m in a city, but it’s not a City, if you know what I mean) that offers adults the opportunity to take “real” ballet as opposed to “ballet-fit” classes or “dancer workout” classes. That and it offers these classes multiple times a week! And pointe! Along with that, I’m thankful that the studio is affiliated with a ballet company whose mission includes giving adults performance opportunities, beyond character roles.
Secondly I’m thankful that ballet helps maintain my sanity. Just prior to returning to ballet I’d taken a new job… which did not turn out to be what I’d hoped it would be. I’m still slogging through trying to figure out my game plan, but it’s been nice to have ballet to look forward to, whether it be class or rehearsals. It gives me a bright spot in my day, and when I’m in the studio the annoyances in the rest of my life simply fade to the background. It keeps me from wallowing on the couch at the end of the day… good for my mental AND physical health!
Thirdly, I’m thankful that this journey introduced me to a whole world of ballet-o-philes, especially the bloggers. There’s nothing that excites me more than seeing an e-mail notifying me that Adult Beginner, the Melancholy Swan, or Leotards and the Buns in Them has written a new post, or scrolling through my Facebook feed to see that Pointe ‘Til You Drop or Tights & Tiaras has posted something. To think that back when I quit ballet, blogging was practically unheard of and MZ was still in high school. When I stumbled upon this community out there I was amazed at how many adults there are in the ballet studio and made me feel a little less silly about getting back in the game. It’s been a great source of information, commiseration, and laughs.
And finally, I’m thankful that I can still do this. While I get frustrated that the dancer in my imagination is far more talented than my given body, I have a whole heck of a lot more respect for what it can do than I ever did as a young dancer (what is it they say, too soon old, too late smart?). I might not be great and ballet will never be easy or natural, but you know what, I do alright. If nothing else I look at some of the roles the director has cast me in and I figure, well, I can’t be too terrible if she feels I can handle this stuff. And it’s not like this is the end of the line. I’ll keep working, pushing, setting new goals. It’s exciting to think that even though I’m not a kid and I’ll never get an opportunity to be pre-pro, let alone pro, I can still see improvements and progress. It’s not as obvious as the improvements of the first few months, but it’s there and I can keep setting new goals and strive for more turns, higher extensions, increased strength, etc.
Here’s to many more years!