Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My first ballet class in 25 years

The day I'd selected for my first class in 25 years was rapidly approaching, and I hadn't sewed the elastics into my slippers yet. I asked a dancer friend of mine for advice on where to attach the free ends, and got busy with a needle and thread. I'm not much for "woo woo" spirituality, but doing this felt a bit like some time-honored ritual. Ever the perfectionist, I didn't clip the excess elastic so I'd be able to redo the stitching if I needed to make them longer.

Then, suddenly, it was time for class. I was told class attire was casual and comfortable, as this is intended to more of a "fun" class than something leading to performance. Feeling a bit self-conscious I decided to forgo the dance belt and tights, instead wearing the shorts I usually wear to yoga classes. I was the first student to arrive. This turned out to be a "large" class at five students. Not surprisingly I was the only male. Three of the women appeared to be in their 40's, all wearing sweatpants or the like. One was younger, I'd guess in her early 30's, and she wore more traditional attire: pink tights, pink leotard, and a short gauzy skirt. The instructor was a woman in her late 30's with a lot of enthusiasm.

Barre work was like riding a bicycle. A bicycle with flat tires and a rusted chain. I surprised myself by remembering the basic positions, and remembering the motions of the simple steps we practiced if not their names. Still, it was like walking in a familiar place though a dense fog. The younger woman in the tights and leotard clearly knew what she was doing, and things were much easier when we were turned so I could follow her.

Then we moved to the floor for some stretches. I do love it so when the instructor says something like, "Sit on the floor, legs in together in front, then fold forward with your arms forward until your hands reach your toes." Yeah. Right. The last time my body was in that position was during a mishap on the trampoline in 1976, and I spent three days laying on the floor on my back with my legs propped up while my back muscles started to heal. In the words of one of the women in my yoga class, "it's a female thing." Still, I need to work on flexibility.

Moving on to some simple combinations in the center the rust got thicker. The names the instructor said had a vague familiarity to them, but the motions felt unfamiliar. I'd never really been good at things like balancé (yeah, simple, I know), being much better at jumps. Part of it is probably that I don't remember ever properly learning arm positions. I've often said that the more mature you become the more you become aware of what you don't know.

After class I was tired but at the same time exhilarated. I grabbed something for dinner, went home, and tried to relax. "Tried" being the operative word. My leg muscles, unused to this sort of activity, twitched sporadically for several hours, and hurt for a couple of days. Fortunately the following week was spring break for the local school system, and class was canceled so families could vacation.

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