Today’s post is a guest post from my sister, Kevina. I took her to “Intro/Beginner Ballet” while she visited Atlanta for the weekend. Here is her dance class recap! My notes are in brackets.]
TAKEOVER ALERT! To all those in the dance world, hi, I’m Kevina, Kaylyssa’s big sister and a total newb to the dance world since starting modern dance in 2017. This whole “dancing with my baby sister” thing is a surprising twist in our sisterhood, since as a youth I was all about sports and feats of strength, and was/am also the least graceful person I know. Well, the times they’re a changing, and now I know like three ballet words so let’s jeté right in, shall we?
Just for transparency I did take a ballet class with my sister once before. She really wanted to take a ballet class when we were sophomores and juniors in high school and (seeing as how I take my role as big sister seriously, v. seriously) I did it with her. Pretty much the only takeaway from those classes were that a ballet body is the opposite of a gymnastics body, and that nothing is more humbling to a cocky sports tomboy than literally having to just kind of leap and flail across a room, in a group of three, when you know NOT ONE OF THE EXPECTED MOVES!! It wasn’t exactly 2 decades until I tried to dance again, but it was close…
Just one more thing before the recap. Modern is life, y’all. I crave learning new things, but after my kids were born I went years without picking up a new skill (besides mothering-related essentials). I could feel it in my mind and body: a craving to do something hard, something foreign, something with full-grown humans… At the same time, a fellow mom and friend was feeling similarly and converted her garage into a dance studio. I took a modern class — just one — and oh, I was sore, and I was working a part of my brain that had just never been touched, like my BRAIN was sore after dance — and I. WAS. HOOKED!
Fast forward a few years and Baby Sister and I are getting ready for our first ballet class together as adults!
Without further ado… Beginner Ballet recap!!!
Kaylyssa managed to dress me in an entire “ballet outfit” per my request. If I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it all the way. They even had loaner shoes at the studio, so I was feeling pretty good going in.
I’d never been in such a big studio space and there were so many people! Dudes, ladies of all ages, ladies “in a family way,” and even a kid (turned out he was in the wrong room but damn if he didn’t fucking rock it!). I am very intrigued by, and love watching, humans in specific communities and this didn’t disappoint. The pre-class preening and stretching and arranging one’s neat body, the shoe fussing, even a little toe taping, all of it was perfectly delightful!
In flits the dance teacher and after some calm music selection with tiny dips and head nods, we begin! This teacher sort of sings the routine as she does a rough run through and then we do it for reals (as she still sings it), which I found pretty helpful. It was a giant class, so there was no walking around with tips like “push out with your heel, you are an iron puuuushing across the floor” like I get with my Russian dance teacher/friend. I couldn’t see myself in the mirror, and often couldn’t see the teacher, so this was a good push to trust/feel where my body is in space — with just my freaking body moving in space.
I had previously take one beginner ballet class, from my same teacher, and was trying to adjust all the things and remember her tips and corrections, but as we are doing the little leg lifts out [dégagés] and then tapping our toe to our ankle, then back out [pas de cheval] I looked over and saw my arm had floated at a 45 degree angle up! Good gosh.
We did several little, thankfully short barre routine things and I felt like, “Is this right?” “Like thissss????” “Wait, we bend our knee here?????” “Remember my elbow…my arm is just supported by sticks” “I’m a queen, a royal queen, CHINS UP!”
We did some relevés(?) [yep!] which is apparently some girl’s least fave, because when the teacher said we’d have to do them quick, the girl was all “or we could just skip them today, ha ha.” For mostly all of the barre stuff, I was able to engage my tiny dance-brain and get through without any major SNAFUs. I was surely not a standout as OH MY GOD THIS GIRL HAS NEVER DANCED! So, a general win for barre work in my book.
We put away the extra floating barres and then we all joined in for (extremely light in my opinion) stretching. Then, wait, that wasn’t the end…nowwwww we all went to one side of the room! Did my heart beat a little fast, sure. I’m human, guys. I tried to just keep my body with the others and not freak out about what could happen. I’m a grown woman now and if I have to flail wildly and wrongly across a room by myself in front of 40 strangers I WILL DO SO LIKE AN F-ING QUEEN!
False alarm guys. It was just groups of five, and thanks to Kaylyssa’s prompting and edging in, we went second, so pretty much no one was watching [ballet class pro tip!]. It was a little routine of fancy steps [just walking], a side prance thing [balancés side-to-side] that was the most challenging for me [the balancés were truly quite quick], fancy slow steps in a circle [again just walking] and then a, I just asked Kaylyssa what it’s called, a tombé pas de bourée followed by a super high (sing-song) “sou-sous”. We did this back and forth a few times, during which I bonded with a figure skater who was “NOT A DANCER,” like me. But we cheered each other after each completion, and, you know. We did it. Not beautifully like Gray Shirt [Gray Shirt is a woman I pointed out as an experienced dancer to watch] but ya gotta start somewhere.
Lastly, we did a hop with our knee out [sauté passé] and then a little leap, like just a standard arms at 90 degrees one leg back leap [sauté arabesque] across the room and back and that was that.
I like the freedom of modern, but there is something about the strong but soft look of ballet that makes me want to keep working it in here and there. My elbow is still pointy, (because how do you make a right angle curved????) and I constantly feel as if I’m a marionette trying to get all these limbs and neck and toes and what-not looking stiff or soft, respectively. However, I do see it, I see the power in these moves and leaps and I felt that soreness in my tiny dance-brain from this cross-training experience.
[Final Ed. Note: Kevina actually did so well! All the modern really paid off. I mean look at this perfect ballerina!]