photographer Mark Olic

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.

22 thoughts on “Jewels

  1. I love that photograph. And once a ballerina, always a ballerina. I had a Russian ballet teacher and OOOOF she was scary. Were they ALL scary or was it just because in order to work on our flexibility to do center splits, we would do them against the wall and she would come around our backs and PUSH us into them. GAAAHH!

    Now share some old Erin ballet pictures, pretty please?

    1. I’m pretty sure they were all scary! Unless they were American? Maybe it’s just the European teachers who were terrifying. We had the same wall-splits-horror-stories too! Damn, I miss that kind of flexibility! xo

  2. Why is it I don’t remember washing your tights in the machine? I always hand washed them and hung them to dry. Oh, and sorry about the tight buns. Ms Tonner was a stickler.
    Do you know what I miss about ballet? Two things….Overhearing compliments from an expert about your turn out which was not meant for my ears and having dinner diagonally across the street from the studio each Thursday night with your father after you finished your lesson.
    I must find the photo of you in mid air!

    1. Well I know, but you definitely slipped up one time and washed them in the normal wash. And when I say they were bright red, they were. It was embarrassing. I did love having dinner at Pete’s Pizza every Thursday night though! Or Little Pete’s. Because apparently every restaurant on Fairmount Ave was owned by someone named Pete? Just realizing how funny that is now! xo

  3. Well, first of all, that photo is stunning. My friend’s daughter is a ballerina. She’s been told that she could *be* something. She’s Cal’s age and goes to lessons every night and all day Saturday. And that was before rehearsals for the Nutcracker. This past summer she spent six weeks at an intensive camp for ballerinas that you have to audition for.

    And I groaned about having to rush to get out the door to baseball practice last night.

    At Callum’s school there’s a dance master named Mr. Watson who danced at Julliard and he teaches and choreographs all the shows. His body is stunning. And I mean that in the most objective, non-objectifying of ways. I’d love to go to the ballet too. We’ll likely see Emma in the Nutcracker and we need to get our opera tickets too (I know, they’re different.)

    But this isn’t about me. I can totally see you as a ballerina, except how you describe yourself as so clumsy. That’s funny to me.

    1. Male ballerina bodies are literally like works of art. Non-objectifying, promise. I’m so amazed at the muscles ballerinas have. I hope your friend’s daughter follows through with this and really goes for it. It’s a short career because of how much your body endures, but so, so worth it I bet. Six week intensives?? She’s on the right track!

      And I’m so clumsy. I fell down a flight of stairs carrying laundry, for god’s sake, and ended up on crutches. Apparently once you stop dancing you lose all of your grace! xo

  4. oh, lucky you. I have the grace of an overweight truck driver. I’d love to be able to dance. why don’t you pick it up again?

    1. Hahaha, oh Petra I’m sure that’s not true. I’ve thought about picking it up again just for the workout benefits alone, but right now I’m focused on French class. It’s a little less exposing than donning a leotard in front of strangers ;) xo

  5. my little ballerina! i concur that photo is gorgeous. i was never a ballerina. in fact i was never anything but i won’t make this about all that (issues). i have seen all the ballet movies and i have to say i am glad you are not a ballerina anymore. that is a brutal existence. i can hardly wear high heels i don’t know how ballerinas do it.

    when i got m&l into ballet it was not with the intention of becoming a dance mom, but just to teach a little grace and discipline, and also how to be alone in their space. as you may know with your nieces (if they are the same) twins are always touching each other. so for so many reasons i think it’s wonderful, and it’s just gorgeous. funny i almost bought tickets to the ballet a couple weeks ago! it must be ballet season. xoxo

    1. You’re something! You creative genius, you. And I do love that you enrolled M+L in ballet. It’s such a good thing for them, and there aren’t enough boys in ballet classes! It will give them a lot of confidence and grace in their movements, which I think more boys could use honestly! I’m so annoyed that there tends to be a stigma around boys in ballet. But the ones that are enrolled that I’ve seen in my nieces performances are just so, so darling. I’m so happy for your boys! xo

  6. Yet something else we have in common, although I swapped out ballet at around 8 for latin and ballroom dancing. I too get reflective and weepy when I any sort of dance but ballerinas are especially beautiful. I have a signed copy of Darcey Bussell’s biography and I often flick through it admiring her poise and strength and delicateness. I’ve wanted to go to see a ballet for years, Den’s clearly not so keen but Jamal, well he is wonderful isn’t he? Good man!
    I must book myself some tickets before the year is out xx

    1. Whoa! Latin and ballroom dancing sound soo much more elegant and interesting! Do you still keep up with either? I think I remember seeing either a post or Instagram of that book of yours. Must be such a gorgeous read. I can’t say Jamal is too excited about going, but he’s still a prince for getting me the tickets because he knew I wanted them. (Though I did get him NFL tickets last year so I guess I was owed one, haha) xo

        1. Yay yay yay yay!! Get your best Christmas jumper ready! You’re going to have such a fun time! xo

  7. I thought you looked like a ballet dancer in your engagement photos but I thought it would be naff to mention it. HUR! Spot on, me.

    I envy you and anyone who is able to do anything remotely graceful. Sadly at 6’2 (and scary tall when compared to others in my age group all throughout growing up) I wasn’t the ballet type, but gerddamn would I have loved to try. I played clarinet in band instead. LAME! I wanted to play double bass, but they wouldn’t let me take it home to practice with! CRUSHED DREAMS PART II, much?

    When we all are in Paris at the same time we’ll hit the ballet together. Deal?

    1. Ha! Really?? That’s so funny, I can’t see it in photos of myself, but that’s awesome to hear! Thanks, girl. I’m envious that you played an instrument though! I played violin for the majority of my elementary school years, but I was never all that talented at it! My cousins played clarinet, too!

      I like your plan. I’m heavily invested in that idea. xo

  8. The Sunday show is only Diamons and included two other peices, but I forget the names.

    So once you see the show let’s discuss! I’m curious to know what you think!

    1. I haven’t been to the ballet in years so I’m sure I’ll love it. Our performance is Saturday night so we’ll get all three segments. I’m excited! xo

  9. i adore seeing ballet performances this time of the year! i hope you enjoy next saturdays :) sounds like it will be lovely. i used to take ballet too, but i quit right before i got my first trophy :( i still really enjoy watching magnificent ballet dancers though. the balance is incredible!

    1. I think it’s ballet season! Leading up to the Nutcracker, which I’m sure is a big production in a lot of cities. It is here every year. xo

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