They were already lining up at the barre in the middle of the room. I’d gotten turned around in the maze of corridors leading to the dance room and had had to run back down to the reception desk and ask for help.
I quickly shed my long pants, tied my little wrap skirt over my leotard and slipped into my new ballet slippers. The instructor asked my name, handed me a name tag and I added myself to the row of ladies at the barre.
I looked at my reflection in the mirror, one of ten women my age dressed in black, and liked what I saw. I almost looked like a dancer. I was trying to. I’d been told I have the build for it. Long neck and waist, small boobs and head. The only thing that didn’t quite fit was the larger-than-I-liked derriere. But, hey.
We started out easy. Pliés, piqués, grande battements and ronde de jammes, adding arms once we got the hang of the legs. Then we pranced slowly across the room like a bunch of Lippizanners, legs lifted high, with graceful arms outstretched. The music was as elegant as we were trying to be.
An hour later we’d gone through a lot of toe-pointing, standing on tippy toes, extending of limbs and the first lesson had come to an end. I felt good.
But there was more to come. The ballet ladies left and a new group arrived for the jazz class. Younger, fitter, more experienced-looking.
I changed from my ballet slippers to my jazz shoes and threw a crop top over my leotard. I was starting to feel a little nervous. I like to be a big fish in a little pond. The jazz promo class had been fun and I’d felt like I could handle it even without any previous experience. Now I wasn’t so sure.
Everyone slapped their name tags on, claimed a space on the dance floor and the instructor started the music. Arms up, hips left-right-left, and off we went! The sinking feeling that I was more like a fish out of water than a big fish in a little pond intensified as I tried to master the steps, not even worrying about the arms for now. She whirled us, twirled us, put us through our paces. The tempo was fast, upbeat. The others seemed to be keeping up pretty good, as far as I could tell.
When the hour was up, I felt like I had when I was 8 years old, at the end of my first swimming lesson; everyone else had learned the dead man’s float but me. Why had I signed up for jazz?? What hubris! I should’ve been satisfied with ballet, where I could shine a little. I was having drop-out thoughts.
This went on for a while. Finally, I shook it off. I’m going to do the best I can in that jazz class–stay on my feet, have fun, and learn as much as I can–in that order. I’ll let the instructor know I’m struggling (as if she doesn’t?) and get my money’s worth. And maybe even take the class again until I get it.
After all, I did eventually learn to do the dead man’s float.