This week at The Ajennda (www.theajennda.com) , a dance-related blog run by Jenn Romano, I was invited to contribute to the site’s “What I Learned From Ballet” section. I wrote a ruminative little piece about discovering beauty, grace, within ballet, during my adolescent years in Kansas that seemed otherwise devoid of those things. I also shared lessons learned during my performance years, most of which involved toughening up, not weeping after an onstage gaffe or a lost role, but working, ever working, toward a coveted goal. And what essay wouldn’t be complete without a few words on what ballet teaches the middle-aged adult who has returned to the studio? Here’s the link: http://www.theajennda.com/2014/01/what-i-learned-from-ballet-beauty-and.html
Since I don’t want to duplicate the essay here, I’ll use the same subject and add some quirk. Because the quirk stuff is just as interesting as the beauty & grace stuff, don’t you find? And so, without further ado, here’s rumination #2…
Five other things I learned from ballet
• How to prolong the life of your pointe shoes: by pouring shellac into the inside toe section, once it has gone too soft for comfort. Incidentally, if you’re in a hurry to use the shoes, you can bake them in the oven to set the not-quite-dry shellac more quickly. A low oven temperature (maybe 225 degrees) so it doesn’t scorch the satin. Baked filet of sole. Bon appetit.
• How to count. Or was I irresistibly drawn to ballet because I’ve always counted out things—footsteps, breaths, patterns, songs, meditation techniques, pieces of candy—in fours and eights? I count everything that way. Granted, if it’s a waltz we’re doing in ballet class, that’s 3/4 time and not 4/4, and that’s cool, too. Point is, I count, constantly. When I’m doing a class at the gym, especially. It keeps away the boredom from all the too-easy repetition. In aerobics or kick-boxing, it bothers the hell out of me when others get off count, drop a count and do the steps that 1/8th count too soon . And if they’re in front, the others follow suit, except I refuse to, because the music is telling us the counts, dammit, and the music has changed not one damned bit. I will argue that this is a ballet dancer thing. That ballet dancers are soothed by that trustworthy 4/4 count or 3/4 waltz count. By counting. And no one in ballet class ever drops a count and moves the combination a notch faster. Thank God, thank God. Oh, ballet dancers and their concise counting—how I love them.
• How to give old tights new life. Once the holes and/or runs render the pair unusable, cut off the feet and cut out the crotch, put it on like a shirt, waistband first. Voila, you’ve got a sheer ¾ sleeve undershirt of sorts for use under spaghetti-strap leotards, that adds extra support, or over the leotard, for that bit of warmth you might be seeking. Gives a cute, retro look to your ballet attire.
• How to walk like a princess, or like Audrey Hepburn. Face it, all that emphasis on perfect posture, year after year, works. You walk with majesty, dignity. Age doesn’t take it away, nor does weight gain. Remain mindful of that ballet dancer’s posture (I can feel my ballet dancer readers straightening their spines and tucking in their tummies as I speak), make it yours, and you are regal. Strut your stuff and be proud of this heritage you created for yourself. You and Audrey.
• How to spot another ballet dancer. For starters, they’re doing that “regal like a princess” walk, too. And, in kickboxing class, they’re the only other one in the class beside you who’s stretching. (Okay, maybe a yogi is in the class, too. Yogis are okay. Almost as acceptable as ballet dancers.) And the way he/she points their toes, oh, yes. And the graceful arm placement, oh, yes. Most of all, both of you share a joy of movement, a delicious sense of making so much more out of it all than the slouching, smiling slobs all around you. You are indeed of the same tribe, you and that other. Ahhh. Makes a gym class all the more fun when you can share it with that kindred soul.
All right, now that you’ve been nourished with quirk, go check out the beauty & grace stuff in the other essay I wrote. Jenn and I would both love that, and blow cyber-kisses your way. http://www.theajennda.com/2014/01/what-i-learned-from-ballet-beauty-and.html
And, as always, I’d LOVE to hear your own comments and reflections. What have you learned from ballet?
© 2014 Terez Rose