Growing up, I wanted to be a professional figure skater — wait, who didn’t? I would watch the likes of Oksana Baiul, Nancy Kerrigan and Kurt Browning (whom I loved because he has my same birthday) and my heart would soar with dreams of becoming an elite athlete.
There was something about their confidence, the beauty of their talent and elegance that drew me in. In 7th grade, I decided to get serious. I told my mom I wanted to be homeschooled in order to take figure skating lessons every morning at 6am and ballet lessons in the evening so I could become a competitive skater.
Compete I did. Make it to the Olympics? Not really … but it’ still a secret skill that I can bust out around the holidays on the local skating rink [smile].
I feel like as a child, my heart carried me, never my mind. There was a call to greatness inside of me to become a master at something, to change something, to be someone, to make a mark. But, as I grew older, I felt that vigor for life and that desire to conquer a skill or hobby fade.
Maybe you don’t relate, but I feel like it’s the intense work schedules, the kids needing to be picked up from school, household duties, grocery shopping, errands (and the list goes on) that cut out any time for fun, for hobbies, for mastery in our lives. We don’t exactly have the leisure of going to soccer or dance or softball practice every day at 3pm or working out for four hours after our last college class anymore. Any college athletes out there get what I’m saying?
In our 30s, myself and my friends try and workout, but we often complain about a lack of consistency — although there are all-stars that I know who run five days a week! Regardless, I know that all of us have something that we really enjoyed as a child, something that just maybe we should pick up again.
… I know that all of us have something that we really enjoyed as a child, something that just maybe we should pick up again.
For me, this happened six months ago when I found an old journal with an entry that said, “Sarah’s Life Goals for 2013” and on that list was: “Take ballet again.” For two years that’s been in my subconscious as something I wanted to do so badly — it brought back nostalgia for the dirty worn leather ballet slippers, the ripped pale pink or black tights and nubby legwarmers, the sound of classical music and the balance of “free yet disciplined” that is required of the art.
So, this past May I found a dance studio, bought new shoes, found a bin full of old tights in my basement and showed up at the “Adult Ballet” evening class in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood. There was never any mention of it being “intermediate” online, so I found myself knowing the moves but my body unable to accomplish them due to being really out of shape and practice. I left a bit discouraged, but gained some gumption again the following week and went to two easier classes where I found myself learning again, getting stronger — my legs taking on forgotten muscles — and my body tightening up all over (especially my abs). Best of all, I felt my posture improving.
I’ve been going for months now and haven’t been happier. Through it I have actively debunked all my previous reasons for not going:
- I’m too old: Actually, everyone in the class is my age—there are even women in their 60s who are incredible dancers. My teacher is in her 40s and said she only picked dance up again three years ago and now she’s teaching and performing locally.
- My knees and ankles hurt: Ballet is so good for your flexibility and strength that it actually hasn’t hurt me at all. My knees are getting stronger and my ankles haven’t rolled once! Yes, sometimes my knees pop doing a move but I’ve decided not to care because I know I’m strengthening all the support muscles around them.
- I’m embarrassed to dance: With routines, it’s hard to get in front of the class and dance, especially since I’m not the best in the class. But I can do it, and I’m growing. I’ve also decided to stop caring and just laugh it off, to let myself be free and expressive with my body.
The best part about learning to dance again is seeing real progress — in your body, in your mind, in your confidence. Every week when you go you have improved from the last. Most of all, it helps you appreciate the arts again.
Since I’ve been learning to re-appreciate ballet, I couldn’t wait to see a live performance. This past weekend, the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra — Alexei Ratmansky’s “Cinderella” — came to The Music Center in downtown Los Angeles. Honestly, it was one of the most inspiring performances I’ve ever seen.
Ratmansky is famed for his gem-like “grand style,” ballets and this three-act performance was more than grand. With modern sets designed by architects Ilya Utkin and Yevgeny, the stage was simple and modern yet graced with a giant steel-looking skeletal clock that turned on its side to become a chandelier in some scenes; in others it turned upright to represent a clock and the sad race against time that Cinderella experiences.
The “palace” was a simple backdrop of an architectural sketch of a long, beautiful colonnade. Creative liberties were taken to replace characters such as the mice with The Four Seasons — men in colorful suits that represented the passage of time in the story. Most impressive to me was the simplicity and modern aspect of the costumes.
Dancers wore simple red, orange, grey and plum colored flowy gowns, while others wore black cropped turtlenecks with skinny black pants, or bright colored bodysuits. It almost felt like a nod to the 60s mod style. Nadezhda Bateova played Cinderella and she was incredibly graceful, expressive and skilled at very complicated sequences —especially in the ending scene where she dances with the prince right before midnight.
… celebrate people who have given their life to be the best, that put in so many hours of time and dedication to their craft.
All in all, the show made me realize that I need to be more of a patron of the arts, to more celebrate people who have given their life to be the best, that put in so many hours of time and dedication to their craft. Last year around this time I saw a ballet, but this time was a whole new story. Because I’ve picked up dance again, I literally knew every move they were doing on stage! Not that it’s the same as the ones I’m doing, but it’s just all of them combined. I have hope that one day I’ll get to a level to perform, despite my age, my body or my circumstances. Don’t let another day pass without taking up that one thing you’ve been dreaming about trying again.
Do you have a craft that you’ve been thinking of taking up again?
For more ballet-themed stories, check out our previous “Two Left Feet” series.
Image Courtesy of The Music Center