I was never a dance girl. I knew dance girls, I liked dance girls, but I wasn't one of their long-limbed, bun-headed number. I grew up doing straight plays (that is non-musical theatre for you non-theatre geeks). And between straight play actors and musical theatre actors, well, never the twain shall meet, really. I mean, I've never even owned a pair of character shoes. In fact outside of some swing dance lessons I took in the late 90's (remember that?) I've never take a dance lesson.
So with fascination and great trepidation I signed up for the Adult Stretch and Strengthen class at Harwood-Watson Dance Studio. Taught by the lovely and talented Miss Rachel, this class combines classic ballet stretches and barre work to help you feel like a dancer and possibly work muscles you did not know existed. I used to be quite flexible, bendy like a pretzel even so I wasn't really all that concerned about that aspect of the class. Imagine my surprise when my 9 year old took me by the hand to the dressing room and led me through her entire ballet class stretch routine while we waited for class to start. I protested, "Honey, aren't I going to do all this in my class?" and she said, "Mom, you NEED to stretch." So we did stretches in straddles, we stretched in butterfly (seated, feet together, knees out and trying to press them to the floor), we stretched out arms, necks and backs. And then she made me do it again. By this time I was feeling very warmed up and ready to go. My 3 other class mates were two girls in early high school and the a lovely woman maybe 10 years older than I am. All three of them kicked my not so ballet butt. I could actually hear things popping in my hips I attempted some of the stretches, nothing hurt actually, but it was alarming nonetheless. Bent over my butterflied legs I admired everyone else's long flat backs as they lay practically ON THE GROUND, while I was sort of hunched over like a bell-ringer looking for a dropped contact. Then we got to barre work and Miss Rachel laid some advice on me, "If it feels easy and natural, then you are doing it wrong. There is nothing natural about ballet." Then I knew I was working with an evil genius. As I stood in 1st position, readying myself to both plié and relevé I tried hard to remember every dance class my daughters had ever attended. Miss Rachel, every helpful said, "I'm going to be throwing a lot of French terms at you." and then she adjusted my position by a quarter of an inch and suddenly I was Wobbly McJellylegs trying to keep my butt tucked, chest up and out and stay up on my tippy toes. "Oh, I've got some French terms for you too lady." I growled under my breath. But by then we were onto the next step in our dance combination and I had some new tiny, horrifyingly weak muscles to use. The challenge of copying Rachel's sure smooth movement, remembering which way to point my feet in tendu, and ignoring the fact that I could see my husband had purchased 3 dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme right outside the ballet class window was sort of exhilarating. A real mind-body connection exercise!
By the end of class I was drenched in sweat, though we never did anything more aerobic than jump lightly from 1st position into 2nd position, and I was feeling tingly all over. The kids, hubby and I spent an hour wandering through the crowds at the Art Festival down the road on the advice of Rachel and Eliza the studio owner, because apparently moving around after dance helps prevent soreness and stiffness from settling in. I ate a donut (boston creme!) because A. Donuts are delicious and B. I hadn't had any breakfast yet and here it was nearly 11 a.m. and I pondered.
I may never be any type of a dancer but I am deeply appreciative of the immense work that goes into becoming one.