I’ve been told all my life by my parents, and other authority figures about the importance of teachers. They said, “Teachers are of the utmost importance because they educate our future [that is, our children].” It’s a character flaw on my part when I tell you that I didn’t fully realize the importance of this statement until some recent reflections on my dance teachers. I suppose it’s because my dance teachers are more comfortable to be around. As a student, I feel a slight twinge of fear when it comes to my professors. Yes, I love almost all of them, but this thought never strays far from my mind: “These are my professors. They’ll play a factor in my future, they’re more educated than me, and they have the power over my grades.” It’s that bit of healthy fear that keeps me on my toes, and out of the doghouse. With dance teachers, such as Nick, the fear vanishes completely. I still respect them greatly, and know I’ll become a great dancer under their guidance provided I put my best (right) foot forward and listen to them. However, with my dance teachers, I just feel more at home. It’s hard to explain.
But, that’s not what this post is about. This is about my ballet teacher, Adrian. I go to a weekly ballet class for adults every Wednesday. The starting time has been juggled around a bit, but it seems to have settled at 9:15 am. This is pretty early for a college student, but I’m an early riser, as I tend to get up at around 8:30 am without an alarm clock. But, I must say, getting vigorous exercise in the morning starts the day off right. And man, do you sweat in ballet!
Ballet is the most disciplined of all the dances. There are strict parameters for everything done. To sum up ballet in four words (if that’s possible): straight as a board. Your back, legs, and arms all have to be straight a good majority of the time. I could go on, but really, I think the terms alone qualify ballet as rigorous, which is also an understatement.
I started ballet when I was eighteen, and my very first classes were full of little kids that loved poking fun at my more advanced age. Needless to say, that was an experience I didn’t want to repeat. I was elated when I found that there were going to be adults in these weekly classes. I was still scared out of my wits, but I figured anything would be better than those little kids. My very first class was utterly terrifying. A result of poor timing, I had not been to a ballet class for two summers, and I’d lost what little practice I had. It was August, and the advanced dancers were getting ready for performances of The Nutcracker, which was coming up that December. It’s a wonder I kept the tears back when I saw Adrian walking over to me as I was sitting in the corner after class trying to calm myself down. He told me, “Not bad” and that I clearly retained the basics. He asked me if I could stay after class an extra five minutes so I could play catch-up. Thinking back on his offer now, I’m floored. He could tell that I wanted to learn and was willing to use a little of his already scarce spare time to teach me. That speaks volumes. He doesn’t stay after with me anymore, but that’s okay. He’s the professional artist-in-residence, and I’m a busy college student. Who knows, maybe I’ve played all the catch-up I can for now?
While my fiery passion for ballet has yet to be ignited, with a teacher like Adrian, I’m sure it won’t be much longer. Right now, I do ballet because it’s enjoyable and it’ll make me a better dancer. My classmates are all older adults, and they’re all very experienced. All of them are kind and acknowledge my presence as their classmate. Still, the best thing about weekly ballet has to Adrian. He’s very kind, patient, and knowledgeable. One of my favorite things to do is watch him demonstrate our moves to us. And, while it is a group class, he takes the time to address individual concerns. He’s not uptight in the slightest and while he makes our class difficult, his relaxed nature eases the physical burden.
I’d like to share a personal story from last week’s class. I’ve been taking ballet consistently for six months now, and to my frustration, I felt I wasn’t really progressing or doing anything worthwhile. Yeah, it was one of those days. I walked over to Adrian to pay the fee (fifteen dollars), and he told me I did a good job. That made me feel a little better, and I started to chat with him. He had been coughing all during class, and I asked him if he was okay. Turns out, he’d been sick recently, but he was doing better. That’s when I saw something. I looked into his eyes, and I saw a compassionate, warm, kindness in them. It’s the very same kindness that I saw in Nick’s eyes. In fact, I think it’s a kindness teachers express when they truly care for their students and wish for them to succeed. We’re all teachers in some respect. As an older sibling, I’ve taught my younger sibling some things, such as how to bathe herself when we were younger. I’m sure Mom and Dad teach and learn from each other all the time. So, such a kindness really is universal phenomenon, but sometimes, it can be hard for me to see. Maybe that’s why I developed my problem when it came to looking into people’s eyes. Perhaps the expression I saw in their eyes just intimidated me to where I had to look away. Now, it’s become a habit which I am currently trying to break. But, Adrian has become the second person, aside from my family, where I don’t mind looking into his eyes. For me, that says more than this post and beyond. To Adrian, you have my sincerest thanks and blessings. It’s a privilege to be a student under you, and I hope to continue being just that, your student.