When I was in high school, my two best friends (let's call them Carrie and Hannah for simplicity's sake) and I decided it would be fun to go to a dance studio and take some lessons. None of us had taken any dance since we were maybe five, doing the obligatory ballet-and-tap combo where you run around with scarves, but we all thought this was an AMAZING idea.
When I was five, I sucked at the dancing. I was not coordinated. My joints were awful. I don't remember anyone saying, "Ah, she's going to be the next Anna Pavlova!" I knew who Anna Pavlova was because she was featured in this beautiful coloring book I had featuring her doing gorgeous arabesques in different costumes (Swan Lake! Firebird!). Despite not having done any kind of dance since I was a chubby little kindergartner, I still really loved dancing.
I remember a girl in choir telling me that I had dancer's feet, and in my head a little voice squealed, "I AM A CLOSET BALLERINA! This is my DESTINY!" I loved the book Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I loved the idea of being a sneak attack star. I had that picture book, The Little Ballerina, which made me want to install a broomstick barre in the basement and do all the positions with my feet. I mean, she had joint issues too, and turned out to be amazing! It could happen, right?
|Look! She's in toe shoes, after less than a year of lessons!|
So when we were deciding which dance classes to take at the studio that gave you a punch card and free reign to pop into any introductory classes, I was like, "LET'S DO BALLET!"
Hannah was totally with me on that one, but Carrie was more hesitant, saying, "I don't know, I think tap would be a lot more fun. Why don't we do tap?"
"Why don't we try BOTH and see which we like better?" I proposed, and so we went to a ballet class.
As soon as we walked into the studio I knew I was in trouble.
The girls were tall, lean, and lithe, with obvious backgrounds in dance. They stretched impossibly at the bar and on the floor, and I felt like all of them were watching me and wondering why on earth I had wandered into this particular class. Carrie and Hannah were both thinner than me, and Hannah ran track with me (her idea to increase our odds of getting into "good" colleges, I did it because you didn't have to try out for track) and she was athletic. I didn't yet know I had PCOS and while I was much, much thinner than I am now, I had boobs and butt and my ever-present belly.
We started at the barre, and I was actually pretty flexible (although my hips turn in better than they turn out). We stood and did plies in different positions, and the teacher, who I remember as older and French and scary, came over and pushed on my stomach and my butt, hissing, "Suck it IN! Straighter! IN!"
I laughed and said, "I'm sorry, but this is as far in as it goes! There IS no more in!"
At this point I knew that ballet was NOT going to be my thing, I wasn't a secret ballerina, and I was giggling to the point of possibly snorting, along with my more lithe and coordinated friends.
The worst was yet to come.
One of the last things we did in class (because we were determined to stay the whole time) was to do this running leaping arabesque thing across the floor. I watched as all these other girls effortlessly ran and leaped, landing with a soft sound like they were sacks of feathers. And I felt a little dread at the pit of my stomach.
My friends went before me, and they landed louder than the others but were graceful enough.
And then I went, and I felt like as I landed the mirrors shook on the walls and the other dance classes must have stopped to see if there was an earthquake. I have to point out, I weighed probably 128 at this point in my life, but graceful I was not. I did not even remotely know how to land softly, like a delicate sack of feathers.
I landed like a tutu-wearing hippo in Fantasia.
When we left, we were overcome with giggles. I was totally ready for tap, where the more noise you made, the better. Maybe it wouldn't be as awful as I remembered from being five.
Tap was AMAZING. I felt coordinated(ish). I could do the steps, eventually. I made all the right kind of noises. AND, it was a much smaller class, with a lot of middle-aged ladies (oh god, probably middle aged ladies at that time in my mind were younger than I am now... sheesh) and a teacher who was a former Rockette. We belonged. And I stuck with it for a couple years, which helped me land a role as an Angel in Anything Goes my senior year of high school.
I still wasn't the most graceful of the bunch, but I loved it. Surprisingly, I was relatively good at it. I didn't fit AT ALL as a ballerina, but I did pretty okay as a tap dancer. I just had to wear a good sports bra.
Now, I find myself itching to dance again. I still remember parts of routines from high school, and I love pretending to be a ballerina in my house, since so many of my pilates/yoga/dance fusion fitness DVDs have ballet-like moves in them, and we listen to a lot of classical music. I am probably going to injure myself leaping around the living room, but I have this urge to do it. And so I do. I also dance around my classrooms frequently, which makes some students say, "you are the happiest teacher I've ever had; you're always dancing around" and others say, "Oh god, why is she dancing again? Aaaaargghhhh!" After the talent show when some girls did amazing Irish dance routines, I tried my hand at it. I ended up on the floor. So maybe no Irish dance. But I must say, I am capable of good balance and I can do a mean high kick.
There is a studio near me that opened up that is women only and has various dance classes, including...TAP. I feel like it could be really fun to sign up for a class, but I am a little afraid of feeling like I did in that ballet class -- like I have the wrong body, the wrong skill set. And now I'm old(er). More prone to busting up something. But, what do I have to lose? Did being a Fantasia hippo kill me? No. So I should totally look into starting the next session. I should get myself some tap shoes. What I like about this studio is that it sounds like the place I went to in high school -- not a super competitive dance studio, but a place to go have fun and dance your little heart out, once a week for an hour.
I have an inner dancer, and she's dying to come out. Maybe this studio will be the right fit. Maybe I can let her out without breaking any bones or spraining any muscles. Maybe this will be the ticket to [continuing to] get my body in better shape, along with the gym and my tapes. I just have to get over my fears and commit. Maybe I am a secret 40-something tap prodigy. How will I know if I don't sign up?