Wow, hold on to your butts for this class recap because you are in for a wild ride. First of all, I talked, out loud, for several minutes, to a classmate. Yeah. I’ll let you process that for a second. Okay, ready to move on? You’re probably not ready for this. Last night…. there was a boy in class. What was my (a happily coupled, grown-ass woman) reaction when a male human being walked in to the studio? Doing a double take and thinking, “Oh my god it’s a boy.” Of course!
Let me back up. A hurricane was speeding through Georgia on its way to the ocean from whence it came, so I wasn’t sure if driving along Atlanta’s miniscule streets aka rivers in a pre-hurricane downpour was the smartest idea. However, my trusty Toyota, Gail, transported me over land and sea safely to ballet class. As I was changing shoes in the studio before class, a big loud wind suddenly roared outside. I looked up and exchanged a worried glance and then a laugh with another woman there, since it was just us so far. Then we chatted about the weather, which led to talking about where we had driven here from, which forced me to say I’m new to Atlanta and also very bad at directions, then she asked why I moved here and where I came from, etc, and it was like a whole convo. I didn’t get her name because of course I didn’t, but I think she comes regularly, and she seemed really nice! I talked to a classmate and I didn’t even have to try. *pats self on back thousands of times*
The class filled in and was pretty packed, despite the weather. Then in walks a straight-up man. Yes I’m being purposefully silly about this but of course in reality it’s no big deal—there were a few regulars back at NCDT who were men, and it can be sort of refreshing and nice to have male energy in the studio. I’ve also had male teachers many times, which can be intimidating but they’ve all been good teachers. But anyway, this dude came in wearing black tights and a white shirt and slapped on his slippers in such a way that you just know he knows what he’s doing. When female dancers come in and are clearly either pros, ex-pros, or close to it, I always feel intimidated, if only for a second before I give myself a little pep talk about how I’m here for myself and I can only improve from where I am, etc. etc. The combination of a different energy entering our little female bubble of ballet class, plus the fact that he was an advanced dancer, had me shook! I had to do the same inner pep talk, this time including a bit about how he is just a human being, there to dance like the rest of us.
To make matters worse, I was sandwiched between him a few students back, and on the other side right in front of me was a woman who had the most experience and best technique of the class. I couldn’t catch a break! Sometimes I find advanced students inspiring, but sometimes all they do is hack away at my self-esteem. I think it’s worse right now because I’ve only been dancing regularly again for a few weeks. I need to build back up my dance mojo until I believe deep in my ballet heart that I can hang.
Class itself was not so good, as far as how I felt and how I danced. The actual class, me notwithstanding, is always great; this is the one with the ebullient teacher and slightly loosey goosey vibe. I had a thought that one of the drawbacks to ballet class, especially during barre, is if you mess up, you don’t really get a good chance to do that exercise again. That was your one chance at frappes to the right. And you blew it.
I should probably mention that I was sleep-deprived, so even having that small-talk convo with the other dancer was extremely difficult (what is words are?), let alone remembering combinations and then using my brain to tell my limbs to do things. I’ve never been a person who can function on minimal hours of sleep, and I start feeling the effects if it’s like one nanosecond under 7 hours, and that’s the bare minimum. (A personal side note: sleep deprivation is my number one fear about having kids! How do people do it??)
I’m still glad I went to class. I let the “always take the optional releve” rule I’d made for myself go out the window and into the rain. Taylor kept saying, “If you’re feeling fancy,” we could take the releve, and I was like, you know what, I am decidedly not feeling fancy. And that’s okay.
Random thought: I kind of forgot about the term “demi-pointe” and that might have been a better phrase to use rather than “releve” in some of my previous laments about getting high up on demi-pointe (like that). My dance brain is even rustier than I realized. I know there are some technical things that I use incorrectly, like passe vs. passe-retire and retire, and eleve vs. releve vs. just say “demi-pointe.” Feel free to leave a comment if you’re bothered by something I’m getting wrong (I mean, if there is even anyone reading this). You know us ballerinas, we love corrections.
As far as what we actually did in class, there’s not too much to report. Like I said, I didn’t feel like my best self, so I kind of just did the best I could without worrying too much about any particular thing. One thing of note was we did a simple pirouette combination that we had done maybe the first or second class I went to. Taylor commented that she was glad she’d repeated it because it was so much cleaner this time, and I definitely felt that to be true. I remember being really overwhelmed with arm and body positions during the first week or two of classes, like nothing “felt” right and every single step I would have the port de bras wrong at least. I can feel it coming back to me a bit, which is a relief. I think arm and body positions are one of those things that are drilled into you when you dance seriously as a child/teenager, and if you didn’t, they are so hard to learn as an adult.
Besides the woman in front of me at barre, there were a few others who had clearly danced during those crucial formative years. You can always pick them out. I should try not to envy them so much that I feel bad about myself, but sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I feel sloppy and unrefined. On a good day, with stars aligned, after a good night’s sleep, I can summon all my experience and concentration and courage and pull out some steps that showcase my technique, and maybe then I look like an advanced dancer. But 45 minutes into class, after crappy sleep and a full workday, a commute, walking the dog, rushing to class, it seems so unfairly cruel, how quickly it all falls apart and I glance at myself in the mirror and see an untrained beginner flailing around.
I’m trying to think of a positive note to end this on. I didn’t mean to get so maudlin. It wasn’t even a bad class! Trust me, I know bad classes and that was not it. I was just a little tired and a little discouraged, but that’s a normal part of ballet training! Nevertheless, for the sake of morale I can say that some of my balances felt really solid (on my stupid low releve) and although I did not attempt or complete any doubles, we did a lot of en dedans pirouettes that at least internally, in my mind’s eye, were clean and pretty.