Sunday, July 4, 2010

Middle-Aged Beginner

It is fascinating learning an art from square one. The dance-supply store unnerved and thrilled me. I needed a leotard, tights and ballet slippers. Pale-pink tights allow the the instructor to check if your leg muscles are correctly engaged; I never knew that. "What size shoes?" "Don't know..." "Leotard with long sleeves, short sleeves, tank style, camisole style?"

I am taking ballet lessons for the first time, and am terrible at it. What they call "first position," arranging the feet so toes point apart (ideally) 180 degrees -- I call the LAST position I ever imagined. Merely standing correctly is a workout. I can hardly tear my eyes away from the mirror that reflects me, the oldest member of the class, in an unprecedented and ludicrous outfit. Best are the pink leather slippers with cat's paw padding. I cling to the barre with a death grip. I'm out of step. Everyone cheers when after five tries I make it across the room.

The teachers speak using stunning imagery: "This is like writing your name with your toe in wet sand," "Imagine you're holding a mini-marshmallow between your knees," "lift your chest as if you're wearing a necklace and someone is pulling at it"

And last week the teacher was a professional ballet dancer, formerly a student in my Introduction to Creative Writing class. She took me to dance performances and got me interested. Now she gets to be the expert and I get to flail and ask for extra help and have my foot grabbed and correctly positioned. She laughs and I laugh, and I experience the trackless universe that is the beginner's mind. I'm learning that messing up is normal and okay, and enjoying it is all that matters.


  1. I think it's awesome you're doing that. Maybe one day, I'll be brave enough to try acting...

  2. This is so wonderful...not just that you're doing this (which is awesome) but how you're writing about it.

  3. I'm certainly enjoying your candid comments on being a beginner. That you are dancing is especially interesting because I am quite involved with the dancing "career" of my 10 year old grand-girl (who has 7 years of experience now). I am her scholarship donor for the duet/trio aspect of her competitive numbers this coming year. Full disclosure: I do NOT dance. I "trill" at the performances and take many photos! That's good enough for me.