Once again, I’d like to thank Stef for the inspiration behind this post. It would seem that, no matter what genre, dancing really brings people together. Before you read mine, I’d like you to read Stef’s post, as it essentially deals with the important subject of being comfortable with oneself. As writers, cue cliché, we all have our unique ethos. What I appreciate about Stef is her courage in confronting her insecurities concerning her body.
The most common words concerning my physical appearance were tiny, skinny, and short. Compliments? Mostly. Overused and annoying when heard ad infinitum? Oh, yeah. Regardless of my physical proportions, I, too, have some issues being comfortable in my own skin. Where it occurs most is during ballet. There really is no better method when it comes to exposing one’s physical flaws like squeezing into powder-pink tights and a black leotard. Of course, that is the reason for the tights and leotard. However, whenever I view myself in the numerous mirrors during class, I can’t help but feel really gangly, gawky, graceful, and occasionally, ugly. I am a beginner so my lines aren’t going to be absolutely wonderful, but it’s more of a I-didn’t-think-I-looked-that-way reaction. This is especially true when I consider that I’m in a class full of highly experienced dancers that can fling their legs up extremely high. It’s a highly spoken sentiment that one shouldn’t compare oneself to others because it only brings one down. Yet, we’ve all done it at one time or another. The logical side of me always gives me a swift kick in the posterior for thinking so (As if ballet isn’t doing that enough already!), but it’s quite hard, personally speaking.
I deal with this plus the additional late starter’s doubts every time I go to class on Wednesday. Unfortunately, all those insecurities were exacerbated by today’s class. For starters, the class was more crowded than usual (I don’t like crowds, of any kind), and one of the students took the last available parking space in front to the studio. So, I spent a minute driving in circles until I spied a lot right across the street where I could park. I’m not superstitious, but in retrospect, it was almost like a bad omen. Did I mention it was crowded? I’m already uncomfortable enough when it’s just four people, but that number was doubled to eight, myself included. I feel as if I’m shrinking because it means that there are seven people in the class, and all of them blow me out of the water. I was extremely intimidated.
It didn’t help that Adrian wasn’t teaching today. Instead, the class was taught by a man named Alex. I’d met Alex before during smaller classes, but I had no idea that he also was a teacher. This was just his first time teaching the adult class on Wednesdays. He’s also younger than Adrian, so that meant even more rigor. It’s a bit uncomfortable adjusting to a new teacher of any kind due to unfamiliarity. It’s even more uncomfortable when you’ve just gotten the hang of how one teacher works, only to move to another right after. But, I’m no quitter. I silently went into my personal zen mode, which consists of a genuine air of cool detachment, blank mind, and zipped mouth. In previous classes, I had weaned myself off of standing in between two people during barre work. I really wanted to incorporate these exercises into my muscle memory, so I opted for a tail position despite the fact that I always seemed to mess up. I did the same today. Luckily, Adrian had positioned himself to the barre adjacent to me, so I could watch him. Between the new teacher’s combination, watching Adrian for following purposes (and trying to keep my admiration under control), and acting graceful, barre was the hardest it’s been. It was an uncomfortable flashback to my very first adult class, that was also large and quite rigorous.
Then came the what I had been dreading all class: center. Center is like riding a bicycle and the barre is like the training wheels on the bicycle. Well, this dancer wasn’t quite ready for the training wheels to come off. But, what could I do about it? Be a chicken and go the farthest you can to the back, of course! I’m always at the back, always. It’ll be a blog-worthy day when I finally decide to go to the middle. Long story short, center was also the hardest its been. We ended up going overtime. And, at the end of it all, I was fighting to keep the tears of emotion back. Luckily, I did. It was definitely one of those classes where I felt like I was stuck and going nowhere. Sometimes, I looked at Adrian for reassurance, which he gave whenever he caught me looking at him. It’s odd that I actually sought out eye contact with him, but, like Nick, he’s one of the few people I actually seek out with my eyes. Here’s a confession: I don’t even feel that comfortable with my own mother.
In the end, I felt a little broken-down and physically tired, but I’m reminded of Stef’s words in her post, and some in my own as well: you just got to act. Act like you’re the best ballet dancer in the whole world, and that’s what other people, including your classmates, will see. I’m not saying it’s easy. Heck, this is something I’ll be working on for a while, but it’s the truth. As a ballet dancer, I have to act as if I’m not a fish out of water. I have to act as if my body is lithe and graceful, not gangly and gawky. I have to act as is I belong. Therein lies the problem. I feel as if I’m the odd one out. Ironically, I feel old because of my late start. I feel clumsy and just generally out of it. Telling mother about this just prompted a don’t-give-in-to-your-feelings response. Easier said than done. I guess that’s why I’m writing this. I’m writing to reassure myself that it’ll get better–that I’ll get better. I’m writing because a little box where you type in words will not spew back the true, but painful facts. I’m writing because it’s cathartic.
But, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up. No way. I’m taking ballet to reach my highest potential as a dancer, whatever it may be. Someday, I want to be the dancer where people stare, and say “Wow, she’s good!” Going en pointe is just a part of that dream. I’d be lying if I told I haven’t thought about giving up, but quitting would only hurt me. So, despite the ample number of bruises to my buttocks that ballet gives me, this woman isn’t going to quit.