For years now — YEARS!!! — I’ve been wanting to take a class at Boston Ballet School. In fact that was part of my big excitement when I scored my current job. I’d be in the city, oh so convenient to taking classes in Boston.
But… since starting there nearly two years ago I’ve taken, oh, ZERO classes in Boston.
Not for lack of intention, mind you. Lots of good intentions. But with a few good excuses… and more often simply neglecting to actually, you know, make a plan, it’s never come to fruition.
But the last week in February when our own studio was on break, I was determined. Determined, dammit!
Another subscriber benefit is the opportunity to get my first class at Boston Ballet School for free, so I really had nothing to lose. One of my dance friends had taken classes there before and said she’d meet me there (admittedly some of my reluctance to go was that whole fear of looking lost, confused, and out of place). So, it was set.
What I didn’t count on is the damned polar vortex or whatever they called the bone-chilling weather we were experiencing. So when I popped up out of the T station at Copley Square I set the Google maps on my phone to give me walking directions, but was too damned cold to take it out of my pocket to look at it. I just hoped my internal compass would steer me in the right general direction.
I wasn’t feeling too sure. After I left Copley Square I found myself wandering through a decidedly residential portion of the South End of town. (Very cute part of town, it may be noted. I’m afraid that despite my determination to remain aloof to Boston’s charms I’m falling hopelessly in love with this ridiculous city.) I felt a bit lost, not helped by the fact that there was barely a soul in sight, aside from one woman who was hurriedly trying to get her dog to do his business so they could duck back into their warm brownstone. This really didn’t seem quite right!
Until suddenly I noticed a small girl walking up ahead with her dad. She had her hair in a bun. Then I saw another bunned-up girl a little beyond her. Maybe I was in the right place, after all! I came to an intersection and directly across from me was a building that had huge windows emanating a soft light on the street. I could see the shadows of what appeared to be dancing behind those windows. I MUST be in the right place!
I crossed the intersection and looked into a window where there were a bunch of people who looked like they were staffing a telethon. Which would make sense… I had just received a bored-sounding voice mail from someone at BB the night before asking me to call back if I wanted to make a gift (to which I said to myself, yes, I would, but not if you’re going to sound so unenthusiastic about it!).
Sure enough, I had found BBS. I ducked into the doors and took a good look around. I stood in a lobby that was a few stories high. In front of me stairs rose up to the next level. There was a security desk in front of me to the left and a booth off to the right with a young woman assisting someone who looked like she might be there to take a class. I stepped behind her, hoping I was in the right place.
The woman in front of me finished up and the nice girl behind the desk said, “Are you here to take an open class?” Phew, I’m in the right place! I signed in, with a bit of confusion regarding the whole subscriber-free-class thing. While I was in line I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see my friend who had just arrived a minute or so behind me. I waited for her to pay and she led me up two flights of stairs to Studio 6 where the intermediate class was meeting.
We were a good 15 minutes early for class, which is a remarkable feat for both of us. But it was nice to have time to settle our stuff, pick our places at the barre, stretch, and take it all in. We had walked past a couple other studios on our way, so I knew this wasn’t the biggest room of them all, but it did feel pleasantly spacious. And it was toasty warm… not the nasty, sweaty-teenager warm I typically expect of dance studios, but like someone was cranking the radiators warm. The gathering crowd seemed pleasant enough. It was obvious who made up the contingent of regulars, but the snobbery was kept to a minimum.
Finally, it was time for class to begin. Our instructor made some brief chit chat to talk up the current and upcoming BB shows and then we got to work. He did a pre-plié exercise which I enjoy… not a lot of my teachers do them. Then we progressed in the normal sequence of barre. Nothing terribly complex, though I did get a bit lost in some parts where the ballet vocabulary was dropped in favor of some: “and a buh-buh-buh-buh-BAAHH.” The regulars knew what the guy was talking about. I waggled my foot around in some approximation of what I thought he might have meant by that terminology. If it were a class at my home studio I would’ve asked for clarification, but that didn’t seem to be the culture here, so I kept quiet. It was a nice barre, good combination of exercises, some challenges, but not outside my range. Then we moved to centre. More of the same sorts of exercises. I hung back a bit, mostly because I wasn’t sure the culture of this place and I didn’t want to inadvertently step on any toes (literally or figuratively). All in all… a good workout (loved dancing in such a warm room!), not my best performance, but certainly not my worst, either.
Will I go back? Maybe. Probably. Might try some of the other classes, even the lower levels, just to experience more teachers. My main disappointment was that I didn’t find a shining star in the group. I don’t mean a real BB star. I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to be found slumming in the open adult classes. I just mean… you know how there’s usually at least one dancer in a room who exhibits that special… something? Could be stellar technique or incredible poise or just a certain je ne sais quoi. Maybe that dancer exists but was taking the night off, I dunno. There were plenty of adequate dancers, of course. I don’t mean anything disparaging by that. I was just hoping to see someone whose dancing would blow my mind. On the flip side, I was terrified going in that I would be in way over my head. Maybe Boston intermediate would mean something more than country-mouse intermediate. My friend had assured me that we would be totally fine based on what she’d experienced before, but the class descriptions can look a bit daunting. So it was good at least get validation that I’m performing at the level I claim to have!
After reverence my friend and I went downstairs to the locker room to change and then went strolling the frigid streets of Boston in search of post-class refreshments. We found ourselves at Aquitaine, which I’d heard of but never eaten at. I’m guessing their clientele does not typically consist of slightly disheveled, post-ballet class, but they were very accomodating of our vaguely hoboish appearance and we enjoyed a very sumptuous meal which more than made up for any calories burnt in class. Whoops!
So that was that. Now that I’m no longer a BBS virgin, I expect I’ll experience much less trepidation about taking classes there in the future. I know the space a bit and no one came after me with a pitchfork for having poor technique. It’s not nearly as scary as I imagined and, in fact, has a certain magical charm. So, yay for stepping out of the cold and into the studio. I’ll have to do so more often!