Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Class at a New Studio

With my old studio dropping the Tuesday night ballet class for the summer, I decided to try a class at a new place. It's a 25 minute drive rather than 5, but it's against traffic. The facility is beautiful, with several classrooms, a small theater, and real changing rooms with lockers. Unsure how long it'd take and how much paperwork there might be, I got there 45 minutes early. The paperwork was a simple one-page form.

The lady at the front desk pointed out that they have ballet Tuesday and Thursday evenings, but the schedule she was pointing to said the Thursday evening class was an Advanced Ballet class. I said something about hoping to move up to the Intermediate Ballet class some day, and she kind of seemed embarrassed. Honestly, I don't look like someone who is taking an advanced ballet class.

I wandered around for a while to get the feel of the place, then headed for the locker room to change.

The floor in the classroom is some sort of synthetic (Marley?) that feels almost sticky without actually being sticky. No worries about sliding across this floor by accident! I'm pretty sure it's a sprung floor, as it feels resilient under the feet. One wall is all mirrors, and a wall perpendicular to that has the classic double barre mounted to it. The portable barres are all galvanized pipe construction and non-adjustable.

It turned out that I wasn't the only man in the class. The other guy remarked that it'd been a long time since there'd been another man, and trying to be friendly I commented that it'd been years for me. I think he misunderstood me, responding as if it'd been a long time since I'd taken a dance class, when it's only been 5 days. He tried to reassure me that there were plenty of people just starting out, and I wouldn't be left behind.

Nope. More like the other way around.

The regularly scheduled instructor is away this month, so we had a substitute: the artistic director for the school. He's a retired 20-year veteran of the Washington Ballet, so he knows a few things about the subject. He's amazing to watch.

I'm glad I took time to warm up and stretch on my own before class, because we did very little. OTOH, the class is an intro class, so just the normal class work is about my normal warm-up pace. That's not to say I didn't learn anything. I did. But it was more of detail rather than basics. He wanted coupés and tendus executed sharply, and fondus and développés executed softly. Attention to detail for those ready to handle it, and encouragement to those who needed it.

I could barely cover a smile when one of the women asked how to do a rapid tendu sequence "when there isn't time." His response started with, "make time", and then he explained. My smile was because I've asked that very same question, and if I can do it I know she can learn to.

The hour was over before I wanted it to be. I hung around to talk with him a moment, and asked how difficult the intermediate class was. I think he misunderstood my question because he answered, "there are some pros in the class" and he pointed out a couple of people who dance professionally. I wasn't sure how to take that. What I was feeling for, but didn't ask, was whether I could keep up with the intermediate class. Was he implying that I wasn't ready to take the intermediate class, or trying to assure me that it would be a good class? A little confused, and having paid for only the one class, I asked if I could sit in the back and watch, which he invited me to do. I went and changed, then found a comfortable spot on a pile of Pilates mats next to one of the other beginner students.

At first, my feeling was, "I can do this!" They didn't do anything I haven't done. That feeling lasted about 20 minutes. The pace kept picking up and the combinations became more intricate until a fair number of people were struggling to keep pace. It would have been a real challenge for me, but I don't think I would have been totally lost. I was mostly watching the good students with whom I would not compare favorably, but I did note that there were a few who were frequently a beat behind or doing the wrong step and they stuck with it. So maybe I could pull it off.

I ended up leaving about 40 minutes into the 90 minute class because I kept wanting to join in. I have the feeling I'm at that uncomfortable point where I'm at the head of their beginner class and the tail of their intermediate class. Oh well.

Next week I believe the regular teacher will be back. I don't think there's any sort of planned progression from class to class in the summer, especially with the change in instructor. I'm definitely going to go to the beginner class, and will try to talk with the instructor beforehand and tell her that I'd like to take the intermediate class too. Then she can let me know between classes if it's ok.

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