Yesterday I took a trial ballet class at Ninth Street Dance.
It was my first ballet class in exactly twenty years, and I was a little bit terrified. I’m not sure what was the scariest thing about it. It may have been that the last time I took ballet, I did an “attitude,” and felt something give in my back, and ended up having surgery for a slipped disc. It may also have been that I’ve had two knee surgeries in the not-so-distant past, and that my left knee is held together entirely by duct tape and optimism. Mostly, I think it was that I was afraid that I’d be one of the Dancing Hippos from Fantasia, once I pulled on a leotard and started clunking around in ballet shoes again. I didn’t think I’d look like a dancing hippo. But feeling like a dancing hippo would have been just as bad.
I shouldn’t have worried. I love Ninth Street Dance. It’s absolutely worth the drive from Raleigh. I’d been there for a flamenco class a couple of years back (see if that doesn’t put you in touch with your inner drama queen) and knew that as a studio, it’s welcoming, and laid-back, and fun. So I showed up yesterday with big eyes and my old ballet shoes and made friends with a couple of other people who looked terrified. The teacher is all ballet: strict and precise, and no-nonsense. But she has a little bit of a sense of humor about it.
We started at the barre. As soon as we made it through the first exercise, with the teacher counting out beats to classical music in the background, I felt like I was home. Muscle memory is a crazy thing. Things came back to me automatically which I haven’t thought about since I was a kid. Which is not to say I was any good at it; but then, that’s never been the point for me. Ballet is about strength, and precision, and grace under duress. A ballet class perfectly suits the part of my personality which craves order and to-do lists and control. The part of me who is a wee bit rigid. The part of me who wishes she were poised and graceful at all times.
I figured after twenty years I’d need to start with the basics. It was a beginning class, which turned out to be just right. There was nothing supremely difficult about the steps, but I knew I’d done some work by the end of class. I got home and bent over to pick something up, and almost toppled over because my legs had turned all wobbly on the drive home.
I can’t wait for next week.