Revelations at the End of Week 7

It’s only been about seven or eight months since I started going like gangbusters to ballet classes, multiple classes, every week. Before that, it was sporadic at best with not a lot to show for it. Since I started working with Awesome Ballet Teacher, the changes have been just short of miraculous – I’ve learned so much so fast and the changes in my body have been incredible – I get stopped all the time by people asking me what I’m doing and they are always shocked to hear its ballet and not some kind of boot camp training or pact with the devil.

Still every couple of months or so I question what in the heck I think I’m doing taking ballet lessons. I can’t help myself, I’m overly rational and feel the need to dissect everything to death and back. What am I doing? I mean, the reality is that it makes no sense whatsoever for a grown woman to be dressing up in tights and  leotard in (sort of) public several times a week to try to learn how to spin around on one foot. It really doesn’t. When you factor in the costs of lessons, parking, and gas, along with the cost of the leotard and the tights, etc. this whole thing does get a bit pricey. Add to that the costs forgone, that is, the cost of my time for which I could be doing something else, like taking more consulting or lecturing jobs, working on my dissertation, or just sitting around watching TV and uh… doing whatever it is that people do who aren’t in ballet class three to four nights a week.

I really start to see the frivolity of the whole thing. After all, I could just go for a run, ride my bike or go to the gym for exercise like normal grown ups do. I mean, really, when you think about it what could possibly be more ridiculous than a gaggle of grown women with a lost looking guy or two thrown in there trying to pas de bourre around a dance studio looking like an overgrown, out of control romper room gone awry?!

There is always a day where I convince myself that my time would be better served doing something that has a payoff. I mean even when I ran there where marathons to complete and metals to win. Somewhere in some dusty boxes are trophies and awards for accomplishments and triumphs.  I’m never going to be a ballerina, I’m never going to perform, I’m never going to be able to do anything remotely awesome in pointe shoes and a tutu. I sometimes have myself completely convinced that when I finish my current series of ballet classes, I’m not going to renew because I need to be a better steward of my time and efforts. I’m usually in my car sitting in cross town traffic when I make this astute decision.

Then… then I finish ballet class. I grab my stuff out of the cubby and sit on the floor with my fellow not-real-ballerinas-in-training and not one of us can stop smiling. Awesome Ballet Teacher gives us updates while we thrown on jackets, cover ups, and change our shoes. I’m hot, sweaty, just starting to get post workout soreness; I’m also happy, inspired, and amazingly energized. I thank Awesome Ballet Teacher and step out into the cool evening, head down the stairs and off to my car, I know that I can’t give this up. There is nothing else like ballet class high, this is my payoff, this feeling that almost can’t be explained in words but that we acknowledge between us, we few ballet class addicts, as we walk out that door. It’s the way that ballet is challenging and somehow relaxing at the same time, the way it makes you stronger and yet limber too, its technical and creative, its painful and pleasurable. Ballet is the price and the payoff. I don’t need a spotlight or a tutu or applause. All I need is a sprung floor, a barre, an iPod loaded with beautiful music, and, of course, an Awesome Ballet Teacher. I can’t give this up. There could not possibly be a better use of my time.

15 thoughts on “Revelations at the End of Week 7

  1. So true. It’s only after I take a step back that I’m like, wow, I’m now taking ballet three times a week… I’ve probably gone to more dance performances in the past two months than I did all last year… Ballet has become my geekdom, just as other people have their own pursuits that are worth their time and money. My partner Thom encourages it. His geekdom is computer games and sci-fi, and mine is ballet. Hmm, we all do need to organize a BalletCon someday… 🙂

    • Ballet does have a wonderful universe all its own and what a wonderful place to put our time and energies! It’s wonderful when the people we love and who love us support our endeavors. Carboy encourages my ballet craziness and is happy that I’ve found something that gives me such joy.

      We SO need to organize a BalletCon!!!

  2. I love this. It does seem such a silly thing to do, dance as an adult when you’re not really going to “do” anything with it. But I feel you sistah! There is no way I could give it up at this point. It isn’t a reasonable decision, it is a soulful one. Dancing brings me to life. Nowhere else in my life am I ever so “in the moment.” I’m glad you are sticking with it, too. -Stef

  3. Why is it any sillier than jogging or taking an art class or learning to knit or something? There is absolutely no reason not to do it as a hobby & for the pure joy it brings!

    • Well, I have a tendency to look for tangible end results. When I ran, I ran marathons and won medals, when I knit, I end up with mittens or a hat. There are tangible end results of ballet to be sure – you should see my thighs! and my posture is 100% improved. The real results of ballet for adult learners are the intangible – the joy, the stress relief, the post ballet class glow.

      I know of people who have taken up ballroom dance as adults and are able to perform and compete. I also know people who have taken up flamenco late in life and were picked up by awesome companies. That isn’t going to happen to an adult ballet student. In fact, lots of people in the ballet world are very discouraging to women who take up ballet as adults (even young women).

      I’m not a person to simply do things as a hobby or without a reason that feels solid to me. I need to know that my time and energies are spent wisely. That’s a personal strength/weakness. I think the time and energy issues come into play for me because I often feel like I should be working on my dissertation or teaching more classes and taking on more consulting cases instead of trying to learn how to balance on one leg when I already know how to do things that are good for my health and take up a lot less of my already packed schedule.

      I can’t give it up though. I do love it.

  4. Amen! I fell in love with ballet much like you did…and I actually took it up while looking for something else to obsess about other than my dissertation 🙂 The dissertation is probably sitting on a dusty shelf in the library and neither I nor anyone else ever gives it a second thought, but ballet is with me every day, either in class or in music on my iPod or in stretching and thinking about what I want to improve upon.

    As far as “why do this?”, I would say “why not?” When you really think about it, there are very few hobbies or pasttimes that can be justified in terms of concrete payoff, if you’re thinking about “payoff” in a sort of work world, capitalist, financial ROI mindset. But the intangible payoffs in terms of getting in tune with your own body, creating beauty, sharing that effort and those smiles with your classmates, giving your teacher an opportunity to pass on his/her passion…it’s something invaluble to becoming a whole human being with a balanced life that is part of something greater than the individual and that cannot be captured with a price tag or a step on the path to some externally validated goal. It’s important to do some things just for YOU because you want to and because you get something from them and the practice of an art form (or yoga or a musical instrument or meditation or whatever) is in itself a reward.

    Hooray for adult ballet converts 🙂

    • Double hooray for adult ballet converts!!! 😀

      I think it’s good practice to ask “why do this?” and when things are both the price and the payoff, all the better. The interesting thing about things that we do just for ourselves is that if it is truly for our betterment, it ends up being better for everyone else as well. I have chronic and acute respiratory issues that I haven’t had to deal with in several months, I have more energy and stamina, and I’m happier – which positively affects all the people in my life both personal and professional.

      Asking “why do this?” isn’t just about payoff though. It is about clarifying what I do and do not need in my life. Which I think that people need to do. Just as we should regularly clean out our closets or what have you, to clarify and clean out all the junk that we hang onto. I have cleared out other things in a conscious choice for ballet. I’m glad to have that conversation with myself because it gives me the opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to having dance in my life.

      And thank you for your input because the dialogue about ballet is fun, yes, but it too is a great way of understanding what dance means to me and what dance means to other people and how we can share in something so amazing!

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