For most of us the new year comes on the 1st of January but if you stop to think about it September brings about it’s own brand of newness. The French call it la rentrée, when we return from summer vacation to work, to school, to a new season. We’ve enjoyed the final hurrahs of summer with the close of August and now it’s time to sharpen our pencils, put on our new school clothes, and pack our backpacks, even if only metaphorically! Fall offers us an opportunity to have an early new year cleanse – fresh starts and reforms without the official holiday resolutions, and the guilt that almost always rears its ugly head in February. There is that saying “turning over a new leaf” which basically translates to making a change and as the leaves change color and begin to fall all around us, perhaps that saying takes on an even more poignant meaning. With every red and gold leaf, I am reminded of a new beginning and the excitement of a new year, all bright and shiny and waiting to be filled with new projects, new and improved habits, and lots of hot, sweet drinks that revolve around apple cider with sticks of cinnamon or creamy chocolate topped with cool whipped cream. Fall is warm, crackling, and cozy and I’m ready to break out the warmies, get to ballet class early so that I can enjoy the layers of sweater and fleece, and dance to the strains of Tchaikovsky and dreams of The Nutcracker that will be here sooner than you know it!
Ballet class has a wonderful way of teaching me important life lessons, each and every class. But I haven’t been going to class for quite a long time and I’ve missed not only the dancing but the wisdom that seemed to come out of every session. The other day I realized that I have learned a very essential lesson in regular life that will lead me back to ballet class. How is that for a reversal of wisdom! I sometimes teach a university course in management. In this class I like to give a writing exercise where I ask students to challenge their definition, thoughts, and ideologies about success. It can be a really difficult exercise because as much as some vague idea of success surrounds so much of our lives and as much as we use the word, we so rarely spend any time at all trying to understand what we mean. Since it’s my exercise, it’s one that I’ve done and thought through quite often – except when it comes to ballet. I’ve never really considered how I define being successful in ballet. I want to learn well and I practice hard and carefully. But what does it mean to me to be successful? There have been several reasons why I’ve been reluctant to go back to class. Lingering issues with my injury is what I usually tell people but it’s definitely more than that. Self-image, feelings of starting over yet again and the inadequacy that brings about, a lack of direction and goals, have all been eating away at the passion that I’ve had since the very first class I had with my awesome ballet teacher. It occurred to me as I was grading “success” papers that I did not have an idea of what kind of success I wanted with ballet, if at all. Did I really want to go back? What did I want out of going to class? What did I want from me? What does success look like in ballet class, not just for an adult ballet student, but specifically for me? Here was a chance for my regular life to influence my ballet life and I was a bit amazed that I still feel like I have a ballet life even though at this point, I really have not been going to class regularly in two years. TWO YEARS!! I do want success in dance – I want to return to the pure pleasure of working hard, sweating a lot, and smiling from ear to ear at the end of class. I want to dance with my head and my heart. Success is had, day-to-day, class to class, in each tendu, plie, and glissade. Yes, success in dance is for me.
Sometimes when you least expect it, amazing things happen.