I’m all hyped up. I’m starting a ballet class this week. For “mature” ladies. Ballet for Joy and Vitality it’s called. As a frustrated ballerina, whose career ended before it began 58 years ago when I wimped out before my first dance recital, I’m really excited about getting another crack at it.
Last week I finally went shopping for my ballet slippers. I’d been trying to get to the dance store ever since signing up for the class, but life got in the way and I was chomping at the bit. I found the bright yellow building, off by itself, nestled into the corner of a big parking lot, looking like a cross between a warehouse and a temple. I walked inside; it was still and quiet–all the little dance princesses were still in school and I was the only customer.
I looked around at the racks of dance gear hanging everywhere, then my eyes landed on a stage backed by a wall of mirrors, with a ballet barre in front. This was the real deal. I imagined future ballerinas trying on pink satin pointe shoes up there and twirling around for effect.
Just then, a young, tall, black woman with theatrical eyes walked up and and asked how she could help. I told her and she led me to the back of the store next to the stage, where the dance shoes were waiting.
I had some choices to make. Black? Pink? Canvas? Leather? The young woman brought out a pair of classic soft pink leather ones first. I slipped them on, then hopped up on the stage and tried them out. After trying on a few more I decided on the first pair. Pink leather it was.
During all this shoe-trying-on I asked the young woman if she was a dancer. She explained that she’d just graduated from college and was moving to New York City to perform with a dance company. “That is so exciting!” I said, wishing I was her. “If it doesn’t work out, I can always come back,” she said.
Next, she showed me the sleek black leotards, all kinds. High backs, low backs, long sleeves, short sleeves, no sleeves. Some real glitzy ones. I took half a dozen into the dressing room, peeled them on and off one by one, settling on two. One with sleeves, one without. I got a wispy little black wrap skirt, too. The whole package. A dancer-in-the-making!
I followed the young woman to the register and checked out. I wished her well in the Big Apple and meant it with all my heart, then walked out of the dance temple into the bright Florida sunshine. I so hoped she would make it in New York. Be one of the lucky ones.
I’d already ordered a cool dance shoe bag from New York City, with my name embroidered on it in big gold letters. It had arrived. As soon as I got home from the dance store, I placed my new ballet slippers into the beautiful bag, reverently, and pulled the drawstring tight. I hung up my little skirt and put away the leotards.
Next week I’ll get into my ballet gear for my first class, have someone take my picture, post it on Facebook and the adventure will begin. At the age of 68 I’ll be having the time of my life, with other ageless ballerinas, going for joy and vitality for all we’re worth, and probably cracking each other up.
I’ve promised myself not to feel self-conscious, not to worry about getting it perfect, just to enjoy the heck out of it, grateful that I’m getting a second chance to seize the day. And if, by chance, there’s ever a dance recital in my future I’ll be up on that stage this time!