From the time I was under 3 feet tall till now (5’6 and 3/4′), I have had an affinity and absolute obsession with ballet. 90% of this fascination has to do with the tutu, but more on that later.
My mother enrolled me in dance classes at the tender age of 4, probably at my youthful insistence. The immediate disdain I had for the art was astronomical. I vividly remember my mother tying the red and green plaid, ribbon laces of my tap shoes as I braced myself, afraid for my life and limbs, to tread across the slippery floor, thinking this was a terrible idea.
Although tap instilled in me fear, ballet inspired in me hate. I still see the circle my fellow pink slippered friends and I were forced to stand in, our arms on the shoulders of the preschooler in front of us to perform the bunny hop. I stepped out of the circle, refused to move, and shook my head. This wasn’t going to happen.
The teacher, the elderly Mrs. Stuckey, walked over to me and worked her grandmotherly charm to get me to move. I stood firmly in the corner while the class stared at me with perplexed faces, and stubbornly refused her pleas to dance. Then Mrs. Stuckey uttered the right words to get me moving, “if you practice and dance in the recital, you will get a trophy!” That did it. I would get a trophy! No one ever did practice or perform a better bunny hop…
Fast forward to 3rd grade. Preschool was a huge miss for dance, but now I was convinced this was my calling! I was 10, in the double digits so practically an adult, and although my mother was wary from prior experience, she gave me the benefit of the doubt.
It wasn’t long into the class that I remembered I hated dance. More importantly, I realized why I was dancing—the costumes. I did, and still, love to dress-up.
I opted out of tap dance as I was still terrified of the slipperiness of the shoes and was convinced tapping would be my end. For ballet class I pretty much stared at myself in the mirror and twirled on my own volition. In the end, I only danced jazz and the best part of that was the hot pink leopard pants I got to wear.
This strange juxtaposition of attitudes toward dance, hate and love, fascination and rejection, persisted. On my way to basketball camp, my friends and I would count all the ballerinas that were walking to their studio, which was above the gym we practiced in. I loved basketball, but I envied them for their grace and tight buns (hair, not derrier).
I was obsessed with the discipline, the way of life, the dancer habits. I wondered if they ate, if they dated boy dancers, and if they had time for anything other than dance. I romanticized about them and wondered how they could make something look so easy and pretty and twirl that much without regurgitating.
Fast forward again, this time to college. I had physical education credits to fill and dance was on the docket. I signed up. That class really changed things for me, not just in my view and appreciation of dance but in many other intangible ways. My professor, classmates, and the ballet itself served more than just a 3 credit course. I wasn’t at a great place in my life and I found support in an unexpected way through the people who plied and pirouetted with me.
It was the first time I didn’t choose to dance for the costume. Which was especially significant since our costumes were quite ugly.
I took a few classes here and there since then. I choose my Halloween costumes based on whether a tutu can be factored in, never losing my affinity for the dressing-up or the idea of being a ballerina.
I won’t name names, but someone who is my boyfriend asked me a question about dancing (perhaps of a ballroom nature), and I began researching lessons he and I could take together that were couple-y. As I was looking, I thought it would be interesting to see if DC offered adult beginner ballet classes.
Not only was it offered, classes started the very next day for the 7-week enrollment! How convenient and spooky. Enrolled immediately.
I dance once or twice a week now; I am not overly graceful or exceptional—I don’t care to be. I just know that when I dance, I can’t stop smiling and I feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Maybe my performances will be limited to my living room, but I’m happy to just twirl and twirl with all the grace of a wrecking ball.