Last month, I learned that Point Park University was offering reasonably priced dance classes. As you my remember, my first try was a jazz-contemporary class in which I proved that I am good at neither dancing or hiding in large open spaces. Regardless, I found myself headed to my first ballet class one Saturday last month.
I have had aspirations of learning ballet since I was younger but I never had the chance to actually add it to my list of extracurriculars. In college, I had my first glimpse of the stage when I tried out for Orchesis – a student produced dance show at the college each spring. I danced in the show for two years: both times in a character dance (the dance anyone can do) – once, to a medley of James Bond songs and second, to the theme from Footloose.
When I found out about the ballet classes at Point Park. I petitioned a few friends, but ended up signing up for Foundations of Ballet solo.
I showed up for the first class 10 minutes late having gotten lost on the way to the office to sign up. When I opened the door of the studio I was greeted by 40-50 heads all swiveled in my direction (the rest of their bodies were draped in complicated positions across ballet barres). All the dancers appeared to be moving in unison to some silent and obvious instruction. The teacher (seemingly unneeded due to the fact that everyone seemed to already know what they were doing) barked at me from the front to grab a place on the barre and begin. I moved towards the comfortable back of the room and began to search for a place to hide. I quickly deduced that this was not a beginners class and looked for the optimal moment to discreetly grab the teacher’s attention and ask for directions to the correct studio. Several minutes passed and my visual gymnastics had done nothing to catch her attention. Finally, she yelled again from the front (and entirely opposite side) of the studio for me to just make room and begin.
She left me with no hope of subtlety and forced me to yell back a reply. “Excuse me, can you tell me where the beginners class is meeting?”
The heads swiveled back and forth.
“This is the beginners class. We are combined with another group. Please begin.”
She left me with no choice. I joined the swiveling heads.
I grabbed a place on the barre along the back wall, placed my right hand on the barre, and promptly realized that I was the front of a long line of ballerinas. Since the invisible instructor (and not the barking human one) still seemed to be commanding all of them, I had no choice but to crane my neck around to see what in the world they were hearing from the phantom. I spent the majority of the class mirroring unknown 8 counts from behind me.
At one point in the class, the girl next to me leaned over and said, “We’re the sock people” and gestured to my footwear. She, like me, was wearing socks, as well as a few other dancers hiding along the back wall. The rest of the class was wearing tights and proper ballet shoes. Despite my public humiliation and abject failure, I looked forward to my next class of all “Sock People”.
For my second class, I picked out my most ballet-esque outfit the night before, woke up 2 hours early, and arrived 20 minutes ahead of schedule. I parked on the street outside the classroom and hurried upstairs so as not to be late again. To my dismay, the woman in the office told me that not only was the class going to be combined for a second time, but the studio location was changed. I followed the direction of her hand down a set of stairs – a set of stairs that led only to the school cafeteria. Flustered, I asked the help of two maintenance men who helped me onto an elevator that led nowhere. I promptly found my way back up to the office, asked for more clear directions than a wave of the hand, and again arrived 10 minutes late to the correct studio.
This was a new instructor who had no regard for any skill level lower than intermediate. She led us through 8 count after 8 count in a flurry and stretches that left me sore for a number of days afterward. I danced on the barre next to a man closely resembling John Locke from Lost. When I returned to my car after this class, I was greeted by a parking ticket on my dashboard. The second class left me slightly more discouraged than the first class, but even more interested in learning to dance with the poise of my instructor. Despite the difficulty of the first two classes, I was hooked.
My third class was last weekend, and !HOORAY! the class was not combined. The first teacher was there and she slowly explained french terms, leg positions, and 8 counts at a pace I could manage. I learned a lot and was actually on time for the class (although it was in a third studio). I am now officially the only sock person left, as even John Locke has managed to get some slippers of his own. I am hoping to get a pair of my own before class tomorrow morning.
It is vastly intimidating to try something new, but recently I am many steps closer to embracing the process. New things are challenging and require patience and prayer. They are stretching and uncomfortable, unknown, and at times, largely frustrating.
But the new things I am trying are growing me each and every day. They are increasing my joy and increasing my knowledge that God is good and that this life He has given me is to be used for His glory.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13