With the release of my first book, I have met a major goal in my life. I have more books to write, including a sequel to Tears, and there are many other writing accomplishments I must face. However, I put my life on hold to get published, and now is the time to meld writing and living. I’m in this for the long haul, and I still have children to raise, a husband to tend to, and my own self to take care of.
Time to start exercising again. Time to dust off my hobbies. Time to get the homeschooling in order. Time to rejuvenate my soul.
So I jumped into something wild and crazy: I’m taking tap and ballet classes.
Last year, my kids took ballet, and I was so proud of them when it came time for recital. They worked hard all year, and they performed beautifully. But a part of me wanted to be dancing on stage too.
I swore to myself that next year, I would be.
When there is something I want to learn or achieve, I absorb myself in it. Pouring over the schedule, I settled on three classes: Adult Ballet, Intermediate/Advanced Tap for ages 8+ (Makani and I take this one together), and Lyrical Ballet for ages 8+ (Rowena and I take this one together). Then I added some Zumba from the YMCA to my schedule to help get me in shape. I need to build my strength and endurance if I want to be good at this.
Yeah, I don’t do anything half-heartedly.
Did I mention that I have no tap or ballet experience? Three years ago, I did some belly dancing, and twelve years ago, I learned some swing dancing. Other than that, I am clueless.
Walking into my first tap dance and lyrical ballet classes was awkward. I’m twice the height of any of the other students. I thought ages 8+ meant there’d be a wide variety of students, maybe some teenagers, but no, they are all 8-year-olds.
10 eight year olds and ME. I felt like an awkward giant among Lilliputians.
But once we got to learning, my focus changed. I have a challenge to face, and so the awkwardness faded. I caught on pretty easily to both Tap and Lyrical Ballet. Tap dancing is rhythmical, and since I am mathematically and musically inclined and analytical, my brain caught on with two lessons. I’m loving doing this with Makani. She is also inclined to patterns, and I’m impressed with how easily she’s following the instructions.
Rowena does Lyrical Ballet with me. She’s such a little sweetheart, and I like the way she smiles at me as we stand side by side at the barre. She’s one of the most tender-hearted children I’ve ever known, and one word of correction sends her into fits of depression. This is my chance to build her up and encourage her.
My Lyrical Ballet teacher is a beautiful black man. (Strangely, he is embarrassed that his knees are so dark. I don't quite understand that.) I love the mop of braids he has for hair and his goatee. Excitable, a little effeminate, and pleased as apple pie to have me and Rowena in the class. Did I mention excitable? He’d make a vivid character in a book.
I am so thankful that he takes the class so slowly. He stops everything to correct a student who has a toe in the wrong direction. I am good at copying and I’m learning quickly, but Rowena struggled with form at first. My mommy’s heart thrilled to watch him take the time to gently help her out. She’s improving, and I’m so proud of her. I can hear him now as he helps her adjust her feet, “Yes. Yes. Yes!” Did I mention excitable?
Now here’s where my challenge really begins: Adult Ballet Class.
Our teacher is a white man with curly hair and a quirky sense of humor, but there’s nothing effeminate about this one. Not very excitable either. Where the black teacher takes things slow, this one moves us quickly from one set of exercises to the next. And believe me, the difficulty of this class is tenfold compared to the Lyrical Ballet.
I am the only student who has no prior ballet experience. In fact, one of my fellow students is a teacher at the dance studio. When he calls out those French words, I struggle to figure out what they mean. He says fifth position with arms in first. Huh? I look around at my classmates and try to follow along.
He gave us this exercise that goes something like this: First position, tendu left foot in out in, step out plié down and up. Then you repeat it backwards to return to your original position. Then repeat to the right, then to the left. Then to the back and the front. Then you do it all again in the exact opposite rotation. Pivot toward the bar so that you are facing the opposite direction and do it all on the right foot. Pivot again, this time away from the bar. Start from the beginning—only this time in fifth position.
And don’t forget the appropriate arm movements! Not that I had any clue what those arm positions should be. Oh, and when you tendu to the side, switch between returning your foot to the front and to the back.
That’s only one out of 10 patterns he had for us. The other exercises are just as complicated.
Week one, he took it slow, and he stood at the front of the class, going through the steps with us. I can copy anything, and I stuck pretty well to the moves, following along as he did them. Week two, he demonstrated, but when it came time for us to do it, he only called the moves. I was utterly lost.
Lost and embarrassed, especially when even the new people kept up with him without a problem.
Maybe I bit off more than I could chew. Maybe I should focus on the beginner classes. Maybe I could try again next year after a year with the Lilliputians.
But when have I ever given up before? It’s not that I think I can’t handle the challenge. For Pete's sake, I have written 4 novels, one of which is published, and have several short stories in anthologies. I'm sure that a few more weeks, and I’ll be fine. Well, maybe not fine, but passable. By the end of the year, I’ll be fine. My real problem was everyone watching me flounder as I work to get my bearings.
Suck it up and get over yourself, I scolded.
Week three. I was almost passable, and Lyrical Ballet is now too easy. Furthermore, I can do the buffalo and the Irish step in Tap Dance.
Maybe next week, I’ll actually hold the fifth position relevé for 32 counts without wobbling.