Dancing to the Stars

“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?

Ameliabest

Our Dancing Queen

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.

Amelia ballerina

Beach Ballerina

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.

Rowena

I had infusions of IVIG every 3 weeks for five years.

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.

rowena piano

Playing Moonlight Sonata after chemo.

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.

Matchbox 20

Yet, this is the same person who plays the violin and skis, even if I don’t walk that well.

Rowena skiing downhill Fri

Skiing down the mountain at Perisher in August 2013.

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.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

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.”

Jane Austen

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.

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?

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

27 thoughts on “Dancing to the Stars

  1. Joanna Lynn

    I’m so, so proud of you. You not only took a huge step in expanding who you are and what you can do, but your daughter will always know that Mum is not only an amazing lady, but she lives to the fullest and without fear in trying something just because she wants to do it!

  2. Catherine Cheng, MD

    YAAAAY HOOOOEY!! 😁 Thank you for sharing this story!! Looking forward to following your experience! Best wishes and may you dance joyfully and with abandon! 👍🏼👏🏼🎉

  3. Suvi

    Awesome, you are brave! A lady at work took up ballet too and said it was fun except that the teacher was awful. Always correcting her and so on. I think in adult ballet classes you should encourage your students, it’s not meant to be and won’t be perfect anyway!

  4. trentpmcd

    Good for you for going out and doing it! Most people don’t dare, even if they don’t have some of the cards stacked against them. I hope you continue and enjoy every second of it as you dance your way to the stars.

  5. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much, Trent. I really feel this class gave me a huge motivational boost. I was so surprised that I could keep up and that’s done wonders for me. Sometimes, I can feel a bit useless, hopeless due to my health issues but sometimes it’s not that we can’t do something, it’s that we think we can’t and so we don’t try. I did need a bit of a jolt. I also started walking the dogs again and that’s made a huge difference. Am hoping Lady will stop getting out too.

  6. Rowena Post author

    I was curious about how our teacher was going to approach teaching us. It is a six week course. Was she just going to teach us the basics or assume we had done extensive ballet before and I’d get left behind at the start? What I am finding interesting is that she’s talking to us about how our bodies move and educating us about human movement as well as ballet. It’s important with teaching adults that you talk at an adult level and yet explain things simply so we can pick it up easily. I felt she handled that very well. I am very curious about where this is taking me both in terms of the ballet but also with my writing and violin playing. I feel they’ll influence each other…creative cross-training.

  7. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much, Derrick. You’ve done well advancing from picking up computers to writing a blog too. I used to have a boss who refused to learn to use her computer and stuck post it notes all over it and used it as a notice board. That was around 1994 and we still had a typing pool there. That certainly is a thing of the past.

  8. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much for being my own private cheer squad, Catherine. I am not a person really lives in my body and am a huge over-thinker and I thought ballet would be goxx Rowenaod for that but I was totally amazed by how much I enjoyed it and I was walking around a foot taller today.

  9. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much. I really struggle with trying new things and I’ve been quite cloistered since having the chemo two years ago and breaking my foot. It’s like I ducked my head under my wings and shut shop. I can feel myself starting to come back to life. Who knows where this is all heading? xx Rowena

  10. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much, Joanna. I can get very anxious trying new things..even very simple things. However, I wasn’t anxious at all about doing this ballet class. I really know the Principals and teachers at the school and I found out that they had a guy recovering from a stroke in a previous jazz class and that really encouraged me. I thought jazz was a bit much for me but ballet sounded good. I’d done it as a child and it is familiar…even if I am not moving the same!
    I’m also hoping that by taking up the ballet, I can help my daughter get over a bit of a hump she’s facing. She’s 10 and it’s around this age that all those childhood activities ramp up and you’re really needing to work at it and not just rely on natural talent or your costume to save you. I learned the piano and reached around Grade 6 level. I wouldn’t have taken it further but I think it helps to know about that hump so you don’t give up too quickly. I sit on my daughter a bit with the ballet which is on Friday afternoons when she’s really knackered but I can see a dancer in her and sometimes it’s your role as a parent to provide that outside feedback perspective. I never thought about that as a kid that you are seeing yourself from inside and that can be quite a different picture to what people see from the outside looking in and it’s useful to have both.

  11. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much, Monika. I am going to buy myself a pair of satin ballet shoes so I can feel like a real ballerina. If I get the shoes right, the rest of the body might follow.

  12. Kit Dunsmore

    I love your bravery, and that you are embracing and doing something without worrying about doing it perfectly.

    Being an observer has power. Thanks to our mirror neurons, our brains act as if we are doing things we see other people do, so those hours watching your daughter dance aren’t wasted. They may not be prepping your body for dance, but they are wiring your mind for it.

    My current foray into doing something I love imperfectly has been drawing classes. While I still don’t have the skill I want to have, my drawing is getting better the more I practice. That I enjoy it is enough for me.

    Good luck with your classes!

  13. Joanna Lynn

    We love our kids and it is so important for us to point out their talents and guide them in directions where they can use them. They’ll eventually find where they enjoy using them and how. My niece was huge in gymnastics. When she got into high school, she decided she wanted a life outside of gymnastics. She had been getting tired of since middle school, but her parents had her stay for longer. By staying until HS, she now is teaching gymnastics and loving it.

  14. Eli Pacheco

    It would have been so easy to leave this idea in the idea bin. The moment you took up your first position, you opened a world of possibility. It reminds me of the time I told my meditation teacher I felt inadequate and that I accomplished nothing.

    “Did you even once breath in with awareness?” she asked. I had.

    “Then you’re already better than you were before you began.”

    You’re better for this, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

  15. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much for all that encouragement, Eli. We probably need to be thinking in terms of making small steps forward instead of trying to leap buildings in a single bound but feeling too intimidated to even get out of the chair.
    I have struggled with meditation too so I admire you for taking that on. I’ve now gone for an active form through beach walks and photography.

  16. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much for sharing your niece’s journey, Joanna. I really try to learn from others and build up that bank of collective wisdom to draw on. It can be very challenging working with talented kids and knowinghow far to push/encourage them and when it’s time to let it go and see where it leads.

  17. Louise

    Oh I love this post! So wonderful that you took the step to turn this thought into reality. It’s fun for you and your kids seeing you dance too is a great thing.

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  20. New Journey

    I wish I had the drive that you have to be daring….not that I sit on the side lines but I have never been athletic, I loved to jog…but with my bad knee that is not happening…but swimming is the closest I can get to jogging…and that’s okay with me..I am so excited to get to learn ballet through your doing it…LOL just enjoy and listen to your body…if it wants to fly…well I say, Fly….!!! kat

  21. Rowena Post author

    I really agree with you, Kit and your drawing classes sound great.
    When it comes to watching the dancing, I’m very blessed because the Principals are beautiful to watch and I of course, become them in my dreams. Surely, that has to help?!!
    xx Rowena

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