As a grown up (ha), I find it hard to come up with new things to challenge myself with. Yes, I did the rock climbing earlier this year, but it is HARD to push yourself out of the work, home, work, home, work, home routine. And it is even harder to meet new people outside of work as a grown up. This is why I love classes!! My best friend, Claire, does too and she is here to talk about her grown up ballet experience. A dance class – possibly one of the scariest put-your-self-out-there activities. And guess what? She rocked it. Because it is always so much easier to swim after you jump in. Promise.
Like a true Gemini, I flit around to various interests and activities in my life – but I keep coming back to dance! I took many years of dance as a child (think tap dance, jazz, ballet, and an array of weird sparkly props) – and I loved it! It’s a commitment, in terms of time – but Ballet is something I really, really love. I can still feel the way that my pink tutu as a child was made of really rough material and kind of scratched the insides of my arms. I’m sure I wore it until it looked more like a wrestling outfit, eeps. Ballet still reminds me of Christmas and closing my eyes and spinning in my living room listening to REM, and being barefoot everywhere.
I had taken some classes college, in a cramped basketball court above our gym with 40 other girls (and 2 guys! shout-out to the mens, go you) – and now that I work at the University of Washington, I decided to sign up for another class (perks, I say, perks!). A friend of mine was looking into taking some classes also, so we went with the buddy system. I expected it to be beginners, since we signed up for the bottom rung class, in terms of experience. With the added sprinkling of know-it-alls, cause really, I know ya’ll have seen Center Stage and know how that ish goes down. But mainly I was nervous and excited and already practicing my toe point at work under my desk. I went full on, watched the jaw dropping documentaries, listened to Tschaikovsky pandora, and checked out the Pacific Northwest Ballet youtube channel. It was a sickness. I knew deep down it was going to be lots of fun, but a lot less graceful, more sweaty, and more work than I expected.
Some of that was true, and most of it was a little bit of both. The first couple of weeks were slow. Lots and lots of talking, on the part of the instructor. She apparently was new at teaching the class and was obviously really excited about sharing her knowledge, but it actually detracted from the experience. I started to wonder if I had wasted my money. Even though I knew I wasn’t that good, and it all would be good for my overall mental health (trying new things! new people! fun mid-week break!), the movements seemed to come too easily, and there was a lot of standing around. Maybe half the hour was spent dancing. The techniques seemed to go over our heads or were too far under our levels. These were things like, how to push our feet into the floor, the way to brush the floor with the balls of our feet, and the over-obsession with posture and back alignment. It definitely felt like a hodge podge of a class. And yes, I’m looking at you ladies with your perfect buns and leotards! What are you doing in beginners ballet? My friend Anna said she felt like looking the part was half the battle, and maybe she was right? I ended up swinging back and forth between feeling like “I totally got this” and “what is going on?”
As time went on, we got some more material under our metaphorical tutus (ballet pun!) – and we mastered more complicated things. Some across the floor movements, the combos of the arms and the legs, and the head tilts. Oh the head tilts. They make me totally swoon with ballet love. Thoughts: Yes, my neck naturally does that, and it is totally that long and beautiful… Wait just a minute, that is ME in the mirror being totally awkward, yep. I did, however, end up looking forward to sweating a lot. And forgot that I was wearing baggy tshirts and jazz shoes, as opposed to leotards and ballet canvas shoes. It felt real, and much more real than my twirls on my linoleum kitchen floor chez moi. At one point, I even remember talking to Anna about, “that one girl who can. not. point. her. toe. to. save. her. life. Like puhlease!” And then we instantly realized how ridiculous we sounded. And said 10 Hail Marys and 5 Our Fathers.
Overall, it was tons and tons of fun. There was even a piano guy playing for the entire hour! Who, I think was a cute little male UW student in some music something or other masters program most likely. It flowed and the strength involved made me realize how strong I was, and the areas I needed to improve on (hello skiing shoulder injury, there you are). Also, did you know, that sometimes, your ass is the only thing in the way of you being awesomely flexibile? And that it also is sometimes keeping you from the ability to kick your leg so far behind you that you look like a peacock? I do. I know that now. But I also know that no one notices you sweating like you think they will. And I can even learn something and know it so well that I don’t have to think about it very much. And if that keeps me loving ballet, even if I am just watching it, then I’m glad I pushed myself and took this class. Hopefully the instructors feel the same when my next class starts in January!