…or do we?
As adult dancers we often tell each other to be gentle with ourselves. We’re doing this for fun, remember? We’re not training to be pros. Our bodies are aging and some things just won’t work anymore the way they did when we were young.
G-d damn, that’s depressing.
But yeah, I get it.
I’m just not sure I buy it.
At least… not yet.
See there are two things I’ve noticed over the past few weeks/months.
First off… les pieds. AKA, the feet. AKA, the bane of my existence (or is that my turnout? I can’t remember). I think it was sometime in college that I came to the conclusion that I was flat-footed. I mean, so many dancers have these amazing arches and super-high insteps and I have — what is it Adult Beginner called them?… ah yes, meat rectangles (correct my terminology if my memory is totally botched up there, AB!). I tried to find solace in the saying that us lower-arched girls tend to have stronger feet than those bendy-footed goddesses. Haha, Flexi-Foot, take that! But damn, it’s so hard to feel happy about this when so much of ballet is about lines and here you get down to the end of your leg and it’s all *sad trombone, wah-wahhh*.
But over the past few months I’ll be tenduing or just doing some mindless pointing during break and will look down and say, dang, feet, look at you! I mean, they’re no bananas, but it’s a vast improvement over where I was when I started back to ballet. The left one will always be a bit stupid, I’m afraid, but still, the amount of strength and flexibility I’ve gained in my feet… wow.
And then there’s extension. For those of us who were dancers in the past and took time off, that is one of THE most depressing things about coming back to dance. You get that developpé exercise at the barre first class back and think, oh yeah, I like these and then realize with horror that your leg barely goes higher than a dégagé. *gasp!* Okay, so that was a few years ago and things improved fairly rapidly and I was able to get to 90 or a smidge above. That should be enough, right? But I can’t deny wishing for one of those glorious side extensions with my foot over my head. Especially since I know I can get my leg up there (you know, that whole heel-in-hand stretch), it just… needs a crane to hold it up there.
One of my dance friends said something to me a month or two back about how much my extensions had improved. I thought it was sweet of her to say, but that’s about all I thought about it. So then there I was today at barre, doing a side developpé, when I caught sight of a foot in the mirror and realized, holy hell!, that’s MY foot up there. I looked over at it. I mean, I turned my head and, whoomp, there it is! At eye height. Without any major exertion on my part. That’s just where it went.
How did this happen? I mean, it’s not even like I’ve been putting in hours doing stretching and cross-training outside the studio. I should. I know I should. And sometimes I do. But… as an adult, sometimes the whole going-to-work, keeping-self-fed, cleaning-out-the-litter-box facts of life get in the way of my hobby and I have to be realistic. Most of the work is in the studio. Trying to be mindful of my technique and whatnot.
Dear reader, this is not meant to be a gloat, though I AM proud of myself. It’s simply a validation that all our work is not for naught. Up until these recent revelations I was feeling like I’d hit a plateau and was pondering whether it was time to accept the inevitable that some adult dancers try to peddle: I’ve reached “a certain age” and I can’t expect much improvement.
Well, that day may come eventually. But it’s not today.