Children typically start ballet training between the ages of five and eight, and though I began at an early age and took for three years, I wasn't able to continue. Students were expected to take tap before continuing to the next level of ballet.
Even at the age of eight I knew tap dancing was not for me. I put my foot down. I would not take tap. I would not take tap. I WOULD NOT TAKE TAP. And so, unwilling to take a class I had no interest in, I had to give up something that I dearly loved.
I would never be a ballerina.
Even if I had gone on to learn tap, ballet classes would have been too expensive. My father worked two jobs. He had five mouths to feed. He only had to look at my overbite to know the future foretold the footing of orthodontic bills. Paying for lessons would have been a huge financial strain.
I would never be a ballerina.
I would never have the opportunity to learn pointe and partnering. That's just the way it was. Instead, I was fortunate to do a little horseback riding and play softball and basketball.
And then much, much later in life, in my mid-twenties, I wanted to find a way to stay in shape, so I decided to try some adult ballet classes. Once I learned the French vocabulary, I felt more confident to continue.
Over the years I tried different dance studios, trying to find the balance between a serious class and a class that would be fun. Through persistence and luck, I found the place that I love—Dancers' Studio in Lexington, Kentucky.
We begin each class at the barre. This is where we perform exercises to stretch the entire body. We might do this combination: tondue, coupe de pied, relevé.
That means begin in a ballet first position, extend a straight leg with pointed toes, return to first position, slide a curved foot to the ankle, and balance on the other leg. The exercise is performed in first, second and fifth position. Then the entire exercise switches sides so both the right foot and the left foot are used. After eight different barre exercises, we're ready for center work.
Center work is composed of adagio and allegro movements. We begin with adagio where combinations of ballet steps are pieced together and danced slowly in order to develop balance, control and extension without the use of the barre. Then we move on to allegro—the faster, livelier steps which include jumps and turns. Class ends with a révérence, a bow to thank the teacher.
I've been doing ballet for many years now and I still can't get enough of the pink tights, black leotard and leather slippers. It is a good workout for the mind and the body. Dancers must remember all of the steps of a combination and perform them correctly.
As I conclude this blog post, I am reminded about the similarities between ballet and writing. Both require practice and discipline. Even marketing a book is like ballet. It takes an incredible amount of time and effort to be successful.
However, even with practice, discipline, time, and effort chances are I will never be a best-selling author.
But, still I write.
And I will never dance a pas de deux or wear a dancer's tutu. I don't have physical stamina and impeccable balance. I'm not as flexible and coordinated like a professional dancer.
I will never be a ballerina.
But still I dance.