Thinking back to kindergarten, it’s hard for most of us to remember all those kids names and faces, but we ALL remember “the biter,” “the paste eater,” “the nose picker,” “the mouth breather,” and, of course, every kindergarten class has “the smelly kid.” I was “the does not play well with others” kid. But really who could blame me! surrounded by the illiterate and unwashed. God forbide any of these kids got near me after lunch. I mean, using a spoon and a napkin is not quatum mechanics! I spent most of my one month in kindergarten in the corner by myself reading. There was this giant box that contained small readers, supposedly they progressed in difficulty and you could identify the levels by colors: green = illiterate, red = recognizes letters from numbers and other scrawl, yellow = less entertaining that reading a cereal box, blue = get a library card. I read through the whole bin and started bringing my own reading material to school as I was insanely bored.
I didn’t really like “those kids.” At that point I was still an only child, the following year would bring on the deluge of siblings but I was still singular at four and perfectly content with the arrangement. I’ve always been very attracted to being independent. I never needed nor wanted lots of friends. Too much socialization wore me out and more than a couple of friends at a time was more interaction than I could handle.
Certainly my “I am a rock, I am an island” mentality has colored my pasttimes as well. Despite playing in the orchestra, I was attracted to the violin because I believe it to be most precious when solo. (A single violin is the voice of God in each of us which mankind is allowed to speak and permitted to hear.) I ran cross-country and played tennis because even on a “team” these were things practiced alone. And when I began ballet, I very much appreciated that no one really talks in class except the teacher, we all have our own private space at the barre and in center. We don’t touch, we work independently, our source of information comes from a single other person.
Ballet teacher: “Ladies, you need to become more aware of each other in center. On the stage, we do not stand in straight lines with equal space. You need to start becoming aware of your space in relation to other people space. I’ve told you at the barre, don’t pay attention to what other people are doing, you have your business to take care of. But in center, we are going to start working together because that is how ballet works. Unless you are the principle and everyone moves out of your way, you will need to know not only how to address the audience but how to address each other.”
Let me tell you, those were words I was not interested in hearing. But as we begin to do our center exercises more in moving groups and bunches, I began to think wouldn’t it be nice in life to have a teacher who could direct where everyone stands, show you how to carve out your own space while being aware of the people around you, to teach you how to present yourself so that you look good to onlookers, and to ensure that everyone had a place to work! As much as this was initially unsettling to me, I have to admit that the jump to learning how to perform has peaked my interest and through the interaction, I have made a couple of new ballet friends. Although stage performance is not on my list of life goals, I do believe that the experience is enhancing my dancing and making me stronger overall. And I appreciate my dancer teacher’s approach to teaching adults, he teaches people to become actual dancers. And on a final positive note, most thankfully, no one eats paste.