by Lindsay Gallagher on 01/25/2013
In December I took my first ballet class in 25 years. I know, it’s a shocking number. Mind boggling, really, but true. A couple of months before that, I started getting into ballet-shape in Marat’s Stretch and Conditioning class. Marat Daukeyev is the director of Tess’s ballet school. He was a principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet. The class is so hard for me that I always think at least one time during the hour and a half that I will pass-out, throw-up or never walk again. But if Marat tells me to keep stretching, I stretch. “It’s good,” he says as he pulls my leg over my head. “You do it. See.”
All that toe pointing and turning out and knee straightening feels delicious after fighting the impulse for so many years. Sports just don’t call for straight knees or an arched back. “There are no plies in tennis,” I have often been scolded by tennis pros. Not to mention: “Bend your knees!” And: “No lunging.”
After several stretch classes I started daring myself to attempt a real ballet class. I’ve been watching Tess and the other girls for years – could I tendu? Could I jete? In December, my curiosity–and masochism–got me into a pair of ballet slippers.
“I’m going to take Vartan’s barre while you’re in class,” I told Tess one day. “Is that okay?”
“I think it’s awesome. Now I won’t just have a dance mom, I’ll have a dance mom.”
Awe. So nice. But what will she think when she sees me struggling at the barre??
And struggle I did. It was alarmingly hard and terrifying too, like a snowboarding down a double black diamond. Kicking and pointing and turning and balancing — wild ride.
“I didn’t embarrass you?” I asked Tess. I’m sure I embarrassed several of the girls who looked in on me — what is Tess’s mom doing in tights??? I was mortified for Tess.
“No,” she said, “I thought you looked good.”
God bless her!
It’s been over a month, and I’m soldiering on. Not sure why really. I’m compelled to keep trying, no matter how silly I look, right there in the middle of Tess’s dance studio, with a messy pony tail – God forbid – and a goof ball smile on my exhausted face. Tess showed up mid-class again today.
“You can learn a lot from watching all of my mistakes,” I said to her after I bowed to beloved Miss Hasmik who has been teaching Tess since she was five and teaches the Thursday night adult class.
“Yes, I sure can,” she said, “No offense.”