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Jack of some trades


March 02, 2018

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I have mentioned before that I am not good at not being good at things. Historically, I have shied away from anything that didn’t come naturally to me the first time I tried. It’s safe this way, and there are plenty of things I already love to do. I don’t need new hobbies, I tell myself, I can hardly keep up with the projects I’ve got. Just ask me about my grilling.

 

And yet. As of the new year I challenged myself to take an adult ballet class. My mother took ballet while I was a child and some of my fondest memories are from the studio, watching her practice from beneath the bar, or finding stray sequins on the lobby carpet after performances.

 

I have always loved the ballet and saw a lot of live dance when I lived in New York and Philadelphia. I have favorite choreographers, and I frolic around like I’m on stage sometimes when I’m home alone. When people ask me, now that I’m an adult with a career, what other path I would like to have taken, I oftentimes say dance. It has just always seemed like something I’m supposed to do, and like I should be able to do it well.

 

I tried to take ballet once before, over a decade ago, while I was in grad school. In graduate school, I studied poetry, not dance, and I knew I wasn’t as graceful or trained as the people around me, so I turned my intimidation into self-mockery. I laughed at myself, made light of each step I failed to master. There were a lot of shrugs and, well, you know me looks. I stopped trying entirely. It was the only class in which I did not receive an A in graduate school. People found me entertaining; it didn’t matter if I knew what I was doing.

 

I thought then that I just wasn’t taking it seriously enough, which was undeniably a large part of the problem. I’m beginning to understand now, though, a few classes into my new tenure as ballerina, that this may not be something in which I excel. This time, I am taking it seriously, and I’m still a joke in toe shoes.

 

Knowing about myself that I tend to quit things I can’t do flawlessly, I went ahead and prepaid for a certain number of classes and bought myself official leotards, tights, and shoes. I did this to ensure that I would feel guilty if I didn’t follow through.

 

I have tried to practice outside of class, using YouTube videos to learn steps I bumbled in class. At home, I run into doorways, find myself facing the wrong direction, lose count or count to odd numbers. I get dizzy when I spin around, even though I know the trick of “spotting.” No matter how much mincing I do around the house in my spare time, come class time, my anxiety and impressive lack of muscle memory refuse my progress.

 

Sometimes in class, when things goes very wrong, I still catch myself being the silly, self-effacing 20-something, and I honestly wish, as annoying as that version of me was, that she would reappear for good.


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