Glissade, Jete, Glissade, Jete

May 30, 2009

I went to ballet last night for the first time in over a year, and I came home wincing and angry.  I’ve attended Ballet Arizona’s adult classes off and on since moving back to Phoenix, and my most beloved teacher, Joe, got fired for some unknown reason when I was pregnant.  (Too funny?  Too freckled?) After I got too big to bourrée, I took a break from ballet until last year, when I started attending regularly for awhile.  But they just haven’t been able to find that Joe magic again.

The last class I attended was taught by a member of the Ballet Arizona company who clearly thought it was far, far below him to teach a bunch of hopeless adults.  He lazed around the studio, trying to keep from rolling his eyes at us and every so often showing off his incredible extension, remarking, “You know, like that.”  That last day, I was unable to make it through class because my inner thighs were completely destroyed from doing the Mommy Crab Walk while helping Moo learn to walk.  When I gave up just a few combinations into the barre, Monsieur Snob saw me limping out and drawled, “Remember to stretch…”  I couldn’t figure out if it was an admonition or a helpful suggestion for rehabilitation.  Either way, I couldn’t stand the guy and stayed clear of ballet, nursing my sore muscles, which improved as Moo got her sea legs working.  With my two shows, I got some great exercise, but as soon as The World Goes Round ended, I fell victim to that familiar self-delusion: I’m in great shape!  I can eat anything I want!  Weee, I’m going to bake banana bread and blackberry turnovers every week!  Then, suddenly:  big ol’ tummy, flappy arms.

So I returned to ballet last night, hoping for a new teacher, and happily I discovered a long-limbed, elegant, grey-haired fellow, let’s call him Pierre.  Unfortunately, I arrived a few minutes late, so I didn’t have to warm up, and I got stuck at the front of the barre, which meant there was nobody in front of me to follow.

Normally that wouldn’t be such a problem, except that it turns out I was way out of shape, and way out of practice.  Also, Pierre seemed to be teaching the class to the two advanced students poaching the beginning/intermediate class.  Ballet has never been my strongest suit in dance, and I have never been able to remember all those damn épaulement positions – effacè, croisè, ecartè – even though I’ve been tested on them many times.  Pierre had us do complicated combinations at the barre, constantly changing directions and adding in lots of  port de bras and blah de blah.  I struggled to keep up, and at the end of one combination, in which I was supposed to have released the barre and balanced in arabesque but sort of forgot what the heck I was doing, and OH GOD my aching muscles, Pierre came up to me.

“I need to see you release so I can tell where you stand technically,” he said.

“Oh – okay, sorry!” I said.

And then I thought: “????”  What the heck is going on?  Why does this feel like an audition, and why am I so concerned with impressing Pierre, when I am here for me, because I love dancing, and I need to exercise?

I wrestled with that question for the rest of the class.  I pushed my body far beyond it’s out of shape limits, at the same time reprimanding myself, “Just do what’s right for your body! You’re here to have fun!”

But there was no fun in that room, no joy of dancing.  Just Pierre quizzing us, “Where does the line of the arabesque end?”  Apparently, it ends with an alien eating out your intestines, since that is the gesture Pierre provided as an answer.

When class finally ended, I stalked out, convinced I’d have to resort to Jazzercise.  But today, my muscles are delightfully sore, especially my booty – and you know you’ve had a good workout when both booty cheeks ache.  So I guess I’ll give it another try, do my best to remember why I’m there, and perhaps just review those épaulment positions.  (And yes, I did have to look up how to spell all those ballet terms.)

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4 Responses to “Glissade, Jete, Glissade, Jete”

  1. Beth H. Says:

    i didn’t understand half of this, having no ballet experience, but it was still really funny. especially the line about “both booty cheeks.”

  2. Leslie Says:

    Did you go to beginning?
    Oh I need to go with you.
    I need to look up the schedule and avoid Pierre!

  3. Katy Says:

    Ohhh, that pisses me off to no end. Seriously. I wish I knew of a better studio in town with decent adult classes so you wouldn’t have to put up with that crap.
    And I ALWAYS mess up Épaulement. Even if I get the arms right, I mess up head placement. Or some similar detail. I hate Épaulement. Hate it hate it hate it.

  4. Cat Says:

    I am so jealous – I would love to take class with you, even though I think I would be crawling out every time.


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