Dancing my way home

This has been a good week so far… no specific reason, really… just a lot of little things. For one thing, I went back to ballet. I understand that the image of an almost-40-year-old woman in tights isn’t one that most readers might want to have in their minds, but there I was, Monday night, in tights once again. I should preface this post with some background.

I was a dancer growing up. My mother put me in the standard combo tap/ballet class when I was three years old, and except for a few fits and starts of a month here or there, I danced until I left for college. Things gradually became more serious for me as I got older. I guess I had a bit of ability, and moved up through levels at a normal or slightly accelerated pace, to the point where I was in a pretty serious class from about 6th grade on. I danced at a serious classical studio, one which turned out several professional dancers through the years, who went on to Joffrey, the Houston Ballet and other big companies. (I was not quite that talented!) It was the kind of studio where you stopped talking when ballet class began, and you didn’t speak until it was over. You kept your mind on your body and at times found a poky stick helping you put parts back where they belonged if you were out of alignment. The school (along with a few others) fed the Fresno Ballet Company, where I danced roles of increasing difficulty through my junior high and high school years. Between the hours of ballet class, rehearsal for Company and my tap and jazz classes, I didn’t have much of a social life… I sometimes regret not being a part of organized sports (since it turns out I’m kind of coordinated and might have done okay…), but ballet was a part of who I was, and I don’t regret that.

Sometimes I wonder about putting kids into serious pursuits so young… I was three when I began. I didn’t have a choice about it, and it became part of my identity before I was capable of deciding if I wanted that to happen. But maybe that is how these things go. Maybe I was lucky enough to find what I loved at a very young age. (It does seem a bit coincidental, considering my mom ended up owning the studio where I danced — a place where she grew up taking lessons herself and where we lived at one point… ) As a result, I think that ballet — like it or not — has been a part of me my whole life, even if I haven’t acknowledged it often.

Anyway, I have had ballet dreams on and off, since I stopped dancing. I cannot hear the music for Swan Lake, Coppelia, or The Nutcracker without finding my entire body tensed, my muscles rehearsing independently from the rest of my conscious being. I watched the movie “Black Swan,” and thought all the same things about all the shocking scenes that everyone else did… but I was also swept up in a wave of emotion that I couldn’t identify. I watched the scenes that took place backstage, and in the empty theatre on the stage, and my heart ached. There’s something about waiting in the wings to appear before an audience; something about preparing yourself in a dressing room under those cold harsh lights… something I miss.

So I went to a ballet class this week. A grownup ballet class. I had no illusions of returning to what I used to be. I only knew that something in me wanted to dance again. When I told my mom what I was doing, she said simply, “It was inevitable that you’d dance again someday. You are a dancer. Dancers dance.” And it hurt. And it was hard. And I have no balance anymore, and I got dizzy doing turns across the floor. And the “grownup” class is not serious and there was a lot of chatting between exercises at the barre. But my body knew what I was doing, and my heart swelled with the music, and my feet remembered. And I felt like I’d come home.


2 thoughts on “Dancing my way home

  1. I love this post. I’ve always wanted to be a dancer, but was never in any classes of any kind. I think it was a combination of not being an interest of my parents nor a financial option at the time. But anyway, once I had a daughter, I thought she would like it and she absolutely does. But she is 3 and like you mentioned, I do not want to put an identity with it nor live anything vicariously with her as some parents may do. Thanks for your post.

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