16 July 2013

Ballet Days

The Rehearsal by Edgar Degas, 1873

When I first signed up for ballet lessons, I was as eager to buy my ballet apparel as Harry Potter was to pick up his first cauldron in Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone. I had already owned several pairs of soft, dull pink leather ballet slippers for playing dress-up at home, but I had never had a proper leotard or dance skirt. The teacher required our leotards to be plain black with short sleeves and our tights to be pale pink, but gave us the option of adding a chiffon skirt in the color of our choice. I chose a pink one with an elastic waist and a bow for my first fall-spring session, a wrap skirt in a blue and green watercolor pattern for my second, and finally a pink and lavender ombré wrap skirt for my third. I remember getting a lot of compliments for the blue and green skirt, since it was an unusual color combination for ballet.
Each class followed a set routine. We started out stretching on the floor, then took to the barre to practice pliés, relevés, and ronds de jambe. Finally, we'd move to the center of the room for leaps and pirouettes. I took instruction well and made good progress early on, despite starting my lessons at a relatively late age. However, I had some definite weaknesses: my ankles had a tendency to quiver, and I wasn't particularly flexible. These issues became more significant as I progressed in level, so I stopped taking lessons when I could no longer compensate for them.

Funnily enough, my memories of my actual classes don't stand out nearly so much as other things connected with them. I remember how, on the first class after Daylight Savings Time ended, I would go into the windowless studio in daylight and be caught off guard by the sudden darkness when class ended. I remember walking to the studio with my mother from our home in the next town over when my father worked too late to drive me, and that I wore just a coat over my dance ensemble so I wouldn't have to change upon arriving. I particularly remember how we had to walk back home as well one spooky, pitch-black night close Halloween, and how we seemed to be the only two people out and about.

I can't say that ballet was ever my life, but for a while it was a part of the rhythm of my life, and is intrinsically connected with these memories of the changing seasons.

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