I want to tell you about this ballet class I’ve been taking, but I’ve been mulling over the reasons I love it and I’m afraid it makes me sound like I’m into S&M. So, for the record, I’m not. I just happen to enjoy a beautiful woman in tight clothing with a look of disdain in her eye ordering me to hold a painful position until I’m almost ready to puke. It’s not that weird. Lots of people feel that way. Stop judging.
And with that introduction: I’m taking this ballet class I really love! OK, I know, the male portion of my readers have already clicked ‘mark as read’ on their Google Readers. What, even the S&M reference in the first sentence wasn’t enough to overcome the topic of ballet? Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis aren’t enough to make ballet hip and relevant?
I’ve probably mentioned before that I was a terrible student when I was young. I liked to do what I was good at, but anything that required effort for me to be above average at was of little to no interest. I got reasonable grades in English and on standardized tests, but basically refused to do any homework whatsoever. I’m not proud of this and you can feel totally satisfied that it’s now karmicly biting me hard on the ass in the form of my doppelganger eldest. My mother certainly is.
Sadly, my schooling flaws even bled into my extracurricular activities. I loved to dance, but mostly I liked to do leaps, which I was naturally good at. Turns or anything else that require technique sounded boring to me. I took a few ballet classes, but could not have been less willing to bother with plies and tendus. It wasn’t exciting and impressive to have perfect posture and hello, I could do flips and awesome center leaps. Take your battement and shove it.
Of course it took me until age 30 to appreciate anything requiring hard work. Now, when I drive past my old high school I have to resist the urge to roll down the window and shout, ‘Stop squandering your educations, you idiots! Life is not all about sex and weed! Effing young people! Youth is totally wasted on you!’ I don’t do it because I’m already prematurely grey. If I give into urges like that I’m going to end up being prematurely senile too.
One of the many things I wish I could go back and not completely blow off is ballet class. My extreme natural flexibility is gone and the strength I never had to work to maintain has dwindled. It makes me puke to attempt a simple leap. I almost broke my arm doing a front walkover last year. If I had the basics of ballet they would still be with me. If I knew the correct muscles to use to keep my turns upright and my turnout wide I wouldn’t be back to square one once my abilities to overcompensate with flashy tricks evaporated.
I’ve tried several times over the years to find classes to take where I could relearn everything I missed out on when I was young but it was clear I had two options: classes where I was the only one old enough to wear a bra, or classes full of semi-professional dancers who made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of using all five letters in the word ‘dance’ in reference to what I was doing. I was really more like ancing. Or maybe even just ncing. Those classes gave me recurring nightmares about my lack of self-worth, is all I’m saying.
And that brings us to the class I’m taking now. Here are the reasons I love it:
1. I’m not the youngest or the oldest person.
2. I’m not the chubbiest person.
3. I’m not the only one who’s given birth and is attempting to relive my youth.
4. The teacher is a badass drill sergeant in tights and a wrap skirt. My first class she told a middle aged woman with a chubby, muscular build that ‘big calves’ weren’t an acceptable excuse for bending her knees through the center in rond de jambes. She said when she was young she had big thighs and she had to figure out a solution. Apparently the solution was to do more rond de jambes which made her thighs smaller. And I’m pretty sure ‘eat less’. She’s hard core. (See, I’m a little bit of a masochist. When she pokes my abs and says, ‘Hold it in. You’re not even trying.’ I want to answer, ‘Yes, Mistress. Public humiliation pleases me.’ I think it’s that she really believes I can do it. She’s not giving me permission to wuss out because she knows I have the ability to master this, even though I’m old and weak. It’s empowering.)
5. The teacher gives us metaphors to help us hold the positions correctly. I love metaphors. I also love knowing just which muscle I should be forcing to move to be doing the move correctly. It appeals to my slightly OCD nature.
6. Even though most of the hour and 15 minutes we spend in class is stationary or involves very small, basic movements, when we’re done I’m sore for literally days in places I had no idea could hurt.
It’s such a great class. I just wish I had as much time to attend class as I did when I was 12. For now once a week will have to suffice. If you live in the East Valley and you ever wanted to be a ballerina, I highly recommend it. It’s kind of like fight club for mommies. (That’s the reference I should have started with to keep the male readership engaged! First rule of ballet class is that we never talk about ballet class.)