Third ballet class

Katya Gridneva, “Olga Dressing.”

My adult beginner’s ballet class continues to go well, even though I still look ridiculous and cannot figure out how to get my brain to follow our instructor and then direct my limbs to mimic her movements. I sometimes feel like my brain is short-circuiting in class. Repeating the same routines each week has helped build my memory, however.

Forcing myself to check the mirror is something I have been thinking about as well. Watching oneself in the mirror during ballet is often disheartening. My arches, for example, are far less awesome than I thought they were. My arabesque arms occasionally veer dangerously into resembling a Nazi salute. And then you catch a glimpse of the girl in the back who’s been en pointe before, kicking her leg up above her hips, and you think, “What am I doing here? I look like a cow.”

But as Stephanie said last night, during our post-ballet drinks, “I am done with hating on my body. Done!” It’s high time we, as adult women, stopped disparaging our bodies and started treating them with gentleness and respect.

These are the bodies we have, and they have been good to us. And even if mine is currently struggling to be graceful, I am enjoying this learning curve.

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.