This week, I took a ballet class for the first time in 35 years. Why did I wait so long?
Believing I couldn’t dance
The last time I took a ballet class I was 11 years old. My teacher had told me I wasn’t any good, after getting a mediocre grade in my exam and I never saw myself as a dancer from that point on. I learned basic tap as a teen and was part of the dancing team in one show, but I couldn’t keep up with the girls who still attended dance classes. With hindsight, I should have found a different teacher and a different type of dance. Soon I was pigeonholed as a singer and actress who could move but not dance.
How it held me back
As a musical theatre performer, this obviously held me back. There were parts I didn’t audition for because I would need to dance and parts I didn’t get because others could dance better than me. There were bitter disappointments, like the time a director called to say they rated my talent but my dancing wasn’t strong enough for this particular show. My breaking point was a show in which I had to sing in the wings with the old people, because I didn’t pass the dance audition. That was the last musical theatre production I appeared in.
In my 20’s I tried a few dance classes. Adult tap was fun, until I moved to a different town and the new class made my brain hurt because it was faster paced. I tried a contemporary class but had to travel on the train, which became a pain. Another class was full of teenagers who had been dancing all their lives and I was completely out of my depth. I really wanted to learn musical theatre dance, but I wasn’t sure what that type of dance was called. Eventually I gave up trying and resigned myself to never being a dancer.
Perhaps I’ve lived my dance ambition through my kids. They are all wonderful dancers. I don’t feel like I have pushed them to dance, but perhaps on a subconscious level, I was living my dreams through them.
Now it’s my turn – I’m 46 and I’m trying again.
What changed my mind?
Strangely, it was taking up taekwondo.
I took up taekwondo three years ago because my whole family attended and I needed a regular activity to make me workout. I really enjoyed the fitness element, as it forced me to push myself to do things I wouldn’t otherwise try. When I started I couldn’t do a sit up or a press up. Three years later I could do fifty of each, my weak wrists strengthened and didn’t hurt anymore and hip pain I had been struggling with since my first pregnancy disappeared.
Learning the moves was challenging and sometimes I felt I would never be able to learn the forms or kicks. Over time I began to realise that I was improving, very gradually. I became more flexible, my technique improved and I could remember more complicated poomse. That’s when it dawned on me.
If I could learn taekwondo in three years, I could apply myself to something I really wanted to learn and in three years time, I could be a dancer.
Finding the Right Class
As I had discovered in my 20’s, finding the right class as an adult isn’t easy. It was difficult to find a class during the daytime, when my kids are at school and I have most flexibility. At least this time I knew what kind of class I was looking for. After watching my daughter at a trial jazz class, it was clear that jazz was the class I had been looking for all these years.
I was so excited when I found a studio that appeared to fit my requirements perfectly. The Studio, Issaquah, is a dance and yoga studio exclusively for adults. They have a huge variety of classes and class times to suit everybody. Fear, led to procrastination, but my desire to learn overcame and I booked my first jazz class.
Within minutes, I felt like my 6-year-old self, excited to be at ballet class for the first time. The studio has a warm, friendly ambience and the people in the class reflect that and were really welcoming. The teacher Megan, is brimming with enthusiasm and energy, which is totally infectious. It was everything I could have asked for and more. A good core workout, a brain workout as I learn new routines and a mixture of fun and technique; exactly what I was looking for. It isn’t an easy class and some of the routines tax my brain, but experience has taught me not to give up. I don’t look at my awkward self in the mirror and lose hope anymore, because I know, soon it will become easier. My body and my brain will learn to do new things, step by step.
I loved it so much I decided to try the beginners ballet class, to help with dance steps, technique and posture. My children found it highly amusing but I think they pictured me strutting around in a leotard or tutu.
Ballet was a busier class but I didn’t feel lost. Again the teacher was friendly and encouraging and everyone in the class was either new to ballet or hadn’t danced since a child. For years I’d felt like the useless one in the group; here I fitted in. I liked the slower pace of ballet, as it helped me keep up with the routines. Many of the exercises and terms were familiar from my childhood, even if I couldn’t quite remember them properly. I thought I would feel like an idiot in a ballet class in my 40’s, but somehow it felt like coming home.
I keep seeing new classes I’d like to try, like the daytime tap class starting in June. Anyone buying me a gift in the future shouldn’t struggle for ideas – keep fueling my dance account and I’ll be happy. I’m so excited to see how I will improve over time; maybe I’ll even dance in a show again someday?
Disclaimer: All recommendations are personal – no financial incentive was given for writing this post.