My first official stint as a ballerina was at age 6. It went really well until I realized that the older girls in the class didn’t appreciate my fine self-choreographed dances. I decided it would be more fun to just dance around the house for the next few years, so I stuck with swimming and tennis lessons instead.
Then in college, a friend and I signed up for a ballet class together. It seemed like a brilliant way to avoid an extra class like German Lit in Translation and see each other more often. It was a mostly brilliant idea. We felt graceful, feminine, and all-around good for a few hours a week. And when we didn’t feel graceful or feminine, we laughed about it together.
The things that got the most laughs were the clothing requirements and spins. First, imagine a self-conscious nineteen-year-old who is told that she has to wear a black leotard and pink tights to class two days a week for an entire semester. Yeah, not fun. Second, imagine that nineteen-year-old trying to spin across a large room on her tip-toes without crashing loudly to the floor. The loud crashing only happened once, so I counted it in the success column.
Yesterday, I attended the ballet recital of a friend in town. The little kids were adorable (and great at ignoring the teacher while cutely looking out into the crowd), the older kids were good dancers, and there was even a self-esteem boost in there for me.
I feel bad about reveling in other people’s mistakes, but I loved every second of the older students’ spins across the stage. There were a few legitimate tumbles to the floor and more than a few dizzy, confused looks at the end of spins. I couldn’t help smiling, since an entire class of college students watched me do the same thing.
My secret about all of this? I still practice ballet sometimes. I’ve never been good at it, but it has this incredible power to make me feel graceful even if I just killed a roach while burping or something equally lovely. Sometimes I catch myself attempting a ballet leap over a puddle or trying a spin when no one is looking. And every Sunday, sometime during the hymns and prayers at church, my feet slip into fifth position for just a few seconds.