I have returned to ballet class. I have missed class for the last, oh....25 years. I can assure you that 25 years ago, my center was strong, by shoulders relaxed and my turn out..spot on. I could lift my leg over my head, pull a triple pirouette and land it! Today I bobbled my balance, drug my toes and wore my shoulders like earrings. That is okay. During the first 3 minutes of class, I was swimming in self shame. I quickly did something very uncharacteristic...I let go of that shame and gave myself a mental pep talk (while doing a pilates style core exercise that about made me throw up). I told myself that I am taking the road to health, strength and mental stimulation. It all starts with the first step. There I was, in a class after a 25 years, once again taking that first step, or chasse' if you will.
I grew up dancing, and I had some success with it. In college, as a student, I actually taught a college level class for the dance department. I always thought I would make a career of it - not necessarily as a performer, but as a teacher, studio director, or stage manager for a dance company. I have those organizational skills and enjoy working in that capacity. Why did I do the proverbial pas de bourree' away from something I loved so much? In retrospect, I think I was tired. I was not physically worn out mind you - but I was emotionally tired. My senior year in college was a tough one. The KU dance department had hired a professor who spent the majority of his free time sexually harrassing female dancers. If you did not receporcate, he would make certain that you were embarrassed in class and humiliated. I was often the target of this, but not the only one. I avoided this man at all costs and he saw that I paid heavily for it. So, this man, first name Scott, last name not mentioned, as he has a successful dance company based in NYC, really took the joy out of dancing for me. He left a scar. The only bit of justice from this, is that he was fired the year after I left for sexual harassment. He left with a girl I had danced with in the KU Dance Company, and she is now his wife. I shudder to think of anyone involved with that very creepy man. I cannot however, completely blame this Professor Scott for ending my dance journey. He marred it sure, but I gave it up for reasons I don't even remember. I was just plain 'ol tired. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have given myself a break by taking a mental and physical rest, maybe then I would never have forsaken dance all together.
Fast forward 26 (cough, cough) years or so....and I am knee deep in the television program 'So You Think You Can Dance'. I love it. I love the dancers, the judges and how that program has inspired people to dance. I realize that something has been missing for a long time. That something is dance and the joy it brought me on so many levels. I have never given anything as much effort as I did dance - with the exception of being a mom. I was yearning to get back to something that is so intrinsically 'me' - something that I connected with physically, mentally and brought me complete and utter joy. I stumbled upon this great dance studio in Atlanta. I researched and discovered that this studio is for ages 18 and up. The idea that I could take a jazz class and not have to deal with the 90 pound, 14 year old dancing circles around me was appealing. So, to date, I have 2 ballet classes under my belt. Ouch. It has become very clear that my mind recalls all the movement, but my body is in complete denial that it ever participated in a dance class before! I have lost my center, my ankles are weak, a grand plie makes my legs shake, and I cannot execute a grand battement higher than 90 degrees, and even that looks sloppy and hurts. Forget about flexibility. I have none. It was a blow to my dancers ego...and I thought I would quit...but then, something wonderful happened, like the sun breaking through the clouds - I had clarity. I gave myself a break, and I never give myself breaks. I let go of the ego, I let go of the worry...and I let myself enjoy the moment. I discovered something wonderful! I can still find joy in dance, no matter my skill level. I can now, more so than before, enjoy it purely. It is something I can do to stimulate my brain, strengthen my body, and express myself. It is not something I have to do to prepare for stressful auditions, or maintain my skewed idea of a normal body weight. Plus, I am not in love with the mirror anymore. The mirror is there to check my form and placement, not to check myself out. This is new, but good for me.
I love my new dance studio. Check it out... http://www.dance101.org . It feels good to let go of the dance hang ups and just enjoy being in the moment and the movement. My how things have changed in 20 some odd years. Dance shoes have evolved and are more ergonomic, the music is different, and dance forms themselves have also evolved - with hip hop, funk and other street dances incorporated into mainstream styles. So, I guess it is time for me to embrace the change too! The next challenge is a jazz class. That will be a true test, as jazz was my strength and the dance form I enjoyed most. Hopefully I can be as forgiving to myself in that class as I am in ballet. Also, it is a good excuse to buy a pair of super cool jazz shoes.
Love and jazz hands to you all!