Here’s something you might not know about me: I danced ballet for 11 years. I stopped when I was a freshman in high school (I promptly gained my weekends back and about 15lbs, finally breaking 100). I had just started en pointe, and yes my feet are a little worse of for it even today. My parents enrolled me at 2 (3?) at the urging of my pediatrician, who was polite in his concern over my knock-kneed-ness, but forceful in his suggestion to straighten that out. Literally. I danced for 7 years under a teacher who graduated from the Royal Academy of Dance, in London, and who once worked with Margot Fonteyn. She was the most terrifying English woman I’ve ever met (Ms. Tonner, not Margot Fonteyn), but damn if she didn’t turn out some fantastic dancers.
Partially traumatizing story: my mother washed my tights with a regular load of wash once, which you’re never supposed to do, and they turned an angry shade of dark pink. Ms. Tonner called me “lobster legs” for months in her alarming accent.
I still miss ballet even 13 years later. I miss darting to the corner to crunch your slippers into the rosin box. I miss buns bobby-pinned and sprayed into a shellacked rock at the back of my head so tightly that not even the fastest pirouette could disturb it. I miss the controlled breathing, the posture, the grace, and that classic ballerina figure. I miss all the French! I miss late Friday evenings and early Saturday mornings spent in the studio, at the barre, classical music filling the large space. I still listen to Shostakovich ballet suites on repeat. This one, performed by the Russian Philharmonic gives me goosebumps:
Also, If I had continued I probably could have crushed someone to death with my thigh muscles. Also also, I know every line of “Center Stage” and don’t you try to tell me that’s not awesome.
So at every ballet recital my nieces have been in the last few years, I get a little weepy and emotional. The studio they attend brings in two professional dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet Company to perform one piece during the recital. Professional ballerinas are a thing of beauty. Unless you’ve seen them in person there’s just no describing it. Immediately after they’d finished at the recital this past June, I said to Jamal, “God, I miss ballet. Why don’t we go to the ballet?!” To which he responded, a few weeks later, with tickets to a George Balanchine production called Jewels for our anniversary. We thought it was tonight, but when we dug the tickets out this morning and checked the date, we realized it’s next Saturday. Oops.
In the meantime I’ll be practicing my arabesque.