First ballet class

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One of my 2013 goals is to take a ballet class. My friend Cate is apparently a sharp-eyed blog reader, and she sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago that said there was an adult ballet class at the city parks & rec center in January and that we should take it. “This is one of your 2013 goals, right?” she wrote.

Oh, right. It is.

Frankly, I was kind of dreading fulfilling this goal. Ballet is HARD, y’all. I took ballet for a handful of years, like many little girls, and I think I probably stopped when I was about 11 or 12. I don’t remember why I wanted to stop, but I think it probably had to do with a combination of factors, mainly, that a.) I was not flexible at all, and b.) my bossy personality often conflicted with the bossy personalities of my dance instructors. (Ballet teachers everywhere being famous for being the real-life, studio versions of Miranda Priestly.)

Over the past year, however, my interest in ballet has been reignited. Reignited! I sit around and watch snippets of ballet performances on the sly. I bought the New York City Ballet workout DVD. I am trying not to start a hoarder’s collection of leotards. I think I’d probably blame it mostly on reading Apollo’s Angels, which is just incredible. Also, three of my closest friends (Emily, Catherine, and Rose) were all very serious ballerinas, and I think I have always been a bit jealous of their grace, experience, and fluidity. So. I took up Cate’s challenge and signed up for the class, and then convinced Stephanie to take it with us, too.

Our first class was last night, in the brand-new dance studio in the sparkling, newly renovated rec center. The group is small (10 women, probably all within their early 20s and 30s) and our instructor, Amanda, is young, calm, and clear. We are all plainly nervous, but I think everyone seemed heartened by the fact that none of us looked like we knew what we were doing.

We jumped right into small ballet routines, with hardly any instruction or explanation at all. And it was fun! And confusing! I was relieved. I was worried that the class was going to be a jazzy pilates routine disguised as ballet, but no, this is ballet. We use all the French terms. We have a barre (which Stephanie and I get pushed to the front of, being the class giants). We listen to simpering piano music for an hour. It is the real deal—I mean, as real as you can get from an adult beginner’s class at the parks & rec center. But I am delighted and heartened.

I’d forgotten how physically AND mentally engaging ballet is. It’s not just the utilization of all of these weird muscles you never use; it’s also this intense engagement of the mind, trying to connect the mind with these strange muscles, and then trying to make yourself look like a swan in the process. I am thinking about all sorts of things now: the shape of my spine, the direction of my hips, the turnout of my feet, the flow of my arms, the arrangement of my fingers, sans thumbs…

I’m committed to not looking like a total gangly fool at the end of these six weeks. It will certainly be a challenge, but one that I’m looking forward to. Thanks, Cate, for making me follow up with my goals! More to come.

A few thoughts

Crape myrtle has turned red

Recent thoughts, resolutions, internal injunctions:

  • It is important to look words up in the dictionary. I should do this more often, instead of assuming I know what “fulsome” means. To this end, I recently bought the new fifth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary for our use at home. This goliath will also support me in my attempt to read Infinite Jest in a few months. (Also, we are a poet and an editor! We should own a real dictionary, even if it is more convenient to use the house iPhone to look things up.)
  • Corollary: The idea of “looking something up” did not exist until writing existed -> the beginning of a cataloging of information -> converting language into data. (Thoughts from reading the excellent The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood.)
  • Ballet. I am thinking a lot about ballet. More on this later, perhaps. (I am thinking about Apollo’s Angels, about how I hate most forms of exercise, about how flexibility is something I only possess in my dreams.)
  • Best movie I have seen in quite a while: Rust and Bone, dir. Jacques Audiard. Guion and I saw this at the Virginia Film Festival and we were equally floored by it. Highly recommended. (Because, really, Marion Cotillard can do no wrong.)
  • Men look best in fall clothes.
  • I need to say “no” more often and not feel guilty about it.
  • The dog has become very pushy lately. She’s one of the ones I need to say “no” to more often. (But look at that face!)

Man the food-gatherer reappears incongruously as information-gatherer. In this role, electronic man is no less a nomad than his paleolithic ancestors. — Marshall McLuhan