Today I Tried Ballet

Feel free to start imagining a bull in a china shop, or an elephant dancing.

I have absolutely no rhythm and no sense of body movement. I have taken a multi-week hip-hip/jazz class (and yes, was the person who actually crashed into everyone else because I went right when they went left). I have tried Zumba (really not my scene, and also I can’t do it because I have no sense of rhythm).

Here’s what I can do, before you think I’m totally lame: I can run an ultra with training. I can run 25 miles of technical trail without training (yeah, that shocked me, too, and my Achilles are still kind of pissed about it). I can do an hour-long HIIT or Tabata or boot camp workout without breaking much of a sweat or hurting the next day.

But I cannot dance.

Because I am unemployed right now (and can only apply for so many jobs per day, because there are only so many jobs out there), and because I’m sick with a cold,* today I decided to go to the gym. There was a Burn class followed by a ballet class (the suburban branch of my gym has classes all day long to meet the needs of a big stay-at-home population, which is awesome). The Burn class was great. Very familiar stuff: weights, core work, some cardio and Tabata thrown in.

I had read that the ballet class was open to everyone. I saw people in ballet slippers and skirts lining up at the door. I ran down to the locker room to get my barre socks (I once did a barre class and was given the grippy socks). I got into ballet after class started.

The people were very kind. They had lots of pointers for me. There was no space for me on the bars in the middle of the floor, so I had to go to the front of the room. The teacher demo’ed each warmup thing. The very nice (and amused) woman behind me cued me in a whisper throughout each routine.

People, ballet is complicated! And fussy! And the instructions are all in French!! And your arms aren’t just waving mindlessly; there’s actually some sort of protocol for arm movement, and your eyes are supposed to follow your hand (did you even know that??), and anyway even if your feet are doing silly things your arms are also supposed to be doing something that coordinates, and your head/eyes should follow, making it a lot more complicated than it should be.

Plus, the teacher kept saying “Fondue!” but there was no cheese. But I think I kicked ass (no pun intended) at arabesque.

So we did half an hour at the bar, following her routines. Please note I was the youngest person in the class by far.

Then the bars were pushed aside and we moved into the middle of the room. And then all the friendly wonderful nice people kept coming up to me to say, “You should stay at the back of the room” and “Watch the woman in the gray tie-dyed tights; she keeps it simple” and “We’ve been building on this choreography all month and today is the 30th, which is why everyone knows the routines but you” and “We’ve all been dancing together for 20 years; this is our second teacher!” and “You should try the beginner’s class on Monday” and “When you plie, keep your back upright; don’t lean forward” and “It’s so brave of you to be here!”

Yes. I’m the bravest ballet motherf*cker on the planet. The name is Bond. Ballet Bond.

So they were all doing parts of this choreography they’ve been working on all month and everyone already knew the routine.

I tried. I tried hard. And then I gave up. I couldn’t handle the tinkly piano music and constrained movements anymore. My movements are big. I carry too much. I can do mind over matter like nobody’s business. I can push myself to the edge when no one else gives a shit. I can carry a bundle of asphalt shingles to the roof (or, used to be able to; it’s been a while since I’ve had to). I can run. But I cannot dance at all.

I am not a ballerina. (Note: I deeply respect ballerinas. They’re super-strong and work incredibly hard and obviously can handle mind over matter. But we are different.)

So I sort of tried to follow the routines but just needed to move my body. I stepped. I kicked. I pirouetted. I leaped. I flapped my arms.

Everyone encouraged me to come to the Monday beginner class.

Honestly, I’d rather do boot camp.

*I have this theory that if I have a bad cold, I’m better off getting out there and moving and working rather than just sitting around sipping tea. I mean, I do that, too (and also drink tons of hot garlicky lemony broth spiked with cayenne), but I can’t do that all day. Exercise is good, too.

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