April 5, 2011

First Ballet Class

"Did you know that there are ballet classes for adult beginners?"
There it was. The question that launched a thousand+ tendus and a love-affair with ballet which is growing stronger still.. Looking back, it is almost funny. I had always been into dance in a big way, ever since I saw my first musicals on TV. And when I was about 12, my grandpa took me to see Giselle. The vision of wilis entering the stage from both sides, all under the same veil - I was thrilled beyond! My best friend at the time had taken ballet classes but already stopped, and I never thought I could still have a go at it. How could I possibly be that special? Surely you had to be chosen to dance ballet. Instead I read every Dance Magazine at our local (and very impressive) library, looking at pictures of ballerinas until the images were burned onto my brain permanently. This was before The Internet, and long before youtube. If lucky, you either danced yourself or saw dance performed live.
"You´ve got big dreams? You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying.. in sweat." 
Lydia Grant, as portrayed by Debbie Allen
That old 80s TV show Fame was a huge hit with us. Despite that the actors were twice our age, and as such not really convincing high-school students. But the singing! And most of all, the dancing! The character of Lydia Grant, the school´s vivacious, talented, tough yet caring dance teacher, was my favorite the moment those famous opening lines were spoken. I loved the drive behind that statement, the passion it evoked and the promise of something larger than life. To be able to dance like that! My friends and I were crazy enough to buy the soundtracks (on tape, no less) so we could sing and dance along. We copied all the moves, right down to that jumping split - which we called the "Fame-jump"! It was great, but I still had not figured out that there where actual dance classes waiting to be taken..
"I´m not too old for ballet? Really?"
Some seven years later.. I had finally made it to a dance studio, enticed by a friend´s plea for moral support. Not that I really needed much convincing.  It was a sweaty and fun jazzy work-out class, but I was not yet feeling The Dance. Some moves we did seemed silly to me, others just arbitrary.. That is until our teacher told us about ballet. As in Ballet for Adult Beginners. Cue the curtain opening, and orchestral music swelling.. Me: "What? There´s ballet for adults? I can learn ballet? I´m not too old/average/whatever? Really? Where do I sign up?" Seriously, it felt like the last-day-of-school-before-summer and xmas rolled into one tingling anticipation. I just knew that something good was coming.. 
"Toe, ball, heel. Heel, ball, toe."
First ballet class, we sat down on the floor, backs straight.. My new teacher was giving out commands from the corner.  She was an ex-pat New Yorker, with an authoritative presence not unlike that of Lydia Grant. And a stance that was unmistakably all dancer. She was friendly, yet assertive, with a resonating voice that carried easily to the back of the room. "Toe, ball, heel. Heel, ball, toe." This I could do, point and flex my feet to the music. It was a simple beginning, but it made sense to me. We moved from the floor to the barre, to first plies and plies in first, seconde, third and sixth. Concepts of turn-out and tendu were introduced. Every new thing we did was exciting, like turning the pages of a newly-discovered first volume! I knew right then.. that I would be in it for the long run!


  1. Amazing post. I love it how you remember the details. (And I do to, even though I was only five. I know exactly what my ballet teacher told me, what I was wearing, etc.) It's beautiful how we remember everything about those moments that changed our lives. :)

  2. Love this. I still remember my first "ballet" class (well, it was ballet/tap/jazz) when I was 8 years old. I soaked up the positions of the feet and the steps like a sponge. Now, all these years later I get to experience the joy of teaching adults the basics and watch them grow and fall in love with ballet. Truly amazing from both sides!

  3. Hi Lady Charmed!

    Thank you :) Yes, some moments leave such impressions in our memory that we can always remember them as clear as the day they happened..

    You were only 5 years old? Now, that is amazing! Please share.. What did your teacher tell you?

  4. Hi Rori Roars!

    I can imagine the joy you feel :) I have plenty of friends who are still new to ballet - I almost get to vicariously start all over again! Sometimes they ask me for advice, and as long as I know what I´m doing (or how it´s supposed to be done), I love to help and share what I have learned so far.

    Best of all, with ballet you are never done. Each time I take my place at the barre, I start from a fresh plate, never taking anything for granted, never giving up on improving myself.

    I wrote about ballet being like "a newly-discovered first volume", but there´s a big difference. Even if you know the chapters inside out, ballet never reads the same!

  5. Fame! I start taking an absolute beginner ballet workshop next month (after a decade-plus long hiatus from dance), and have been devouring everything dance- and ballet-related I can find on Netflix streaming... including the TV series Fame! And every time it comes to the "fame costs" part in the opening credits, I have to giggle. So deep and so cheesy. LOVE it.

  6. Hi Jeff!

    Thumbs up on getting back to ballet! It´s not quite like riding a bike, your brain remembers stuff before your legs do, but it will all come back to you!

    Fame.. Yeah. I have season 1 on DVD, and it´s hard to keep a straight face throughout. But I love it anyway! ;)

  7. I just realizes I haven't answered your post. This is what happens when you get caught up in procrastination.
    Well, I mostly remember how my teacher told me how I had good legs for ballet. I guess that's important, mostly just a memory that my sentimental side likes to look back at.
    Who knows, maybe some day I'll write about it? :)

  8. Hey again Lady Charmed!

    I know, happens to me all the time. Procrastination is like my middle name!

    That´s wonderful what your teacher told you. Really important to know that you´ve come to the right place.. Even something like that can make all the difference!


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...