“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”
William Butler Yeats
A few weeks ago, I booked myself into an adult ballet class. The classes are being held at the dance studio my daughter attends. While taking up ballet again as an adult sounds crazy, it actually felt like a natural progression…the next step. After all, I’ve been driving my daughter to dancing for 6 years, and after years of being the spectator and observer, why can’t I have a turn? Why can’t Mummy get out of her taxi and spread HER wings?
Dance in body, as well as mind, because I’ve been putting myself in other people’s dance shoes for years and even dance in my dreams. I borrow the best too…like a cuckoo moving into another bird’s nest. That way, I can almost reach the stars with my pointed toes, without even leaving my seat.
Yet, my time has come. After waiting in the wings all these years, I had to step out of Mum’s Taxi. Grab the bull by the horns and carpe diem seize the day. Shift gears from 1st position into 4th and even attempt a pirouette!
Watching was no longer enough.
As many of you can no doubt appreciate, taking action can be a huge thing for a writer. I suspect it could well be in our wiring, but we’re used to being the observer. Sometimes that’s because we’re in a support role, but I also know fear and a crippling sense of failure hold me back. So instead of doing, I write about it instead. Sound familiar? It’s great fuel for my writing, but you can end up living a second-hand life. Keeping your wings folded, never learning to fly even though you could.
However, all this positive thinking is only one side of the coin. The flip side is equally convincing.
Looking from a logical standpoint, me returning to ballet was ludicrous, ridiculous, stark raving mad. I have multiple disabilities and even struggle to walk along a footpath. I broke my foot last year walking on grass. So, how could I ever expect to dance? Added to all of that, I recently turned 47 so I’m no spring chicken.
Bearing this in mind, I set the bar low and decided that even if I spend the classes sitting in a chair, if I can just hold my hands like a ballerina, I’ll be happy.
Yet, with so much stacked against me, I did have one ace up my sleeve. I’ve been watching ballet for 6 years and as a photographer, I don’t just watch, I absorb. I’ve been intrigued watching their bodies move in ways I could only ever dream about… setting their bodies free from all sorts of limitations, inhibitions and actually leaving the ground. Now, that my body struggles to move, I really know what that means. I appreciate being able to move, in the same way you savour that first day of Spring after a long bitter Winter. It’s pure joy and I take nothing for granted.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
After years of sitting on the sidelines, I recently noticed that I was enthusiastically tapping my foot in my chair and that the other parents weren’t necessarily tapping…only the dancers. Slowly but surely and through shedding years of being told I’m “unco” and believing dancers were wafer thin and very young, I felt there was a repressed dancer hiding inside. A dancer longing to come out of her cocoon in a safe, nurturing environment. That I was meant to dance.
Ha! Not that long ago, I even joked with the Principal that instead of being a DANCER, I am DANGER.
So, you get my drift.
So, what with all of that stacked against my dancing career, I didn’t tell my parents what I was up to and I joked about it with a few close friends in the same way you might announce that you thought you could fly to the moon.
Meanwhile, as I waited for the classes to begin, the doubts set in. Rather than feeling like a risk-taking explorer, I felt like I’d well and truly crossed over to the other side of crazy this time. You probably know the line:”But I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell” from Matchbox 20’s hit “Unwell”, but you might not be so familiar with these lines, which sum up my apprehensions so well:
I’m talking to myself in public
Dodging glances on the train
And I know, I know they’ve all been talking about me
I can hear them whisper
And it makes me think there must be something wrong with me
Out of all the hours thinking
Somehow I’ve lost my mind.
Yet, this is the same person who plays the violin and skis, even if I don’t walk that well.
Perhaps, walking is too pedestrian for me and I’m actually meant to fly:
“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”
So, tonight I finally headed off for my adult ballet debut…barefoot in concealing attire. I was thrilled my friend also signed up and we were embarking on this madness together. There were a couple of blokes in the group too. So, we were quite a motley crew. That was a truly special thing, because as our teacher pointed out, you don’t have to be a particular build, shape, gender or age to enjoy ballet. Ballet is for everyone.
“Every savage can dance.”
So, how did I go?
Well, I could remember the basic positions… just like you never forget your times tables. However, as I stood in 1st position for possibly the first time since I was 11 years old, it didn’t feel like it used to. My legs have changed and it all felt odd, unfamiliar with no muscle memory whatsoever. On the bright side, while the movements felt strange, I can now understand the French ballet terms better than I used to…not that speaking the language necessarily translates into being able to keep up with the steps. Or, perhaps it does because I did keep up most of the time. Holding onto the barre, I pointed my foot, moved my arms, and dared to dream that the clumsy ducking could become a swan.
So far so good.
Yet, just when I thought it was time to go home, Miss Bronwyn mentions “pirouette” This is a term which eludes my French, but I know it means trouble. It all starts off with needing to focus on a spot on the wall and then turning your head and your body while moving your foot up near your knee, like a stork. I did try turning but at this stage I’m just focusing on the feet and keeping my balance.
So, I not only survived my first ballet class, I came home feeling exhilarated, fluttering with excitement and feeling frustrated that I have to wait a week for my next class. I am hooked. Not only with the joy of dance, but also experiencing the thrill of conquering so many boundaries and limitations. I even reacquainted myself with my inner hero. Great to know she’s back.
Now, I’ve got to get on with my homework. We need to practice our heel rises so we can be ready to jump.
What the? The Castle’s Darryl Kerrigan had it right:“Tell her she’s dreaming”.
Yet, now I’ve stepped out, there is no turning back.
I will be dancing my way to the stars!
Have you ever tried something out of your league and found a missing piece of yourself? How did it feel?