Back to the Barre

On Back to the Barre: Embarrassment

Ballet requires me to step out of my comfort-zone. Quite a few comfort-zones, actually.

To start with, there’s the clothing issue. The standard ‘uniform’ for dancing is made up of tights or leggings and a leotard; an outfit that doesn’t do a brilliant job of covering up the wobbly or lumpy or curvy bits that every other piece of clothing that I own is specially designed to cover up.

For another, my experience is that ballet teachers have a tendency towards grabbing hold of one’s hips, or knees, or feet, or arms, without a lot of warning, and with not a small amount of force. Those who know me well (or at all) will attest to the fact that I am not the most tactile person in the world. I’m also kind of ticklish. This is not a great combination.

Photo credit | Tainara |

Photo credit | Tainara |

And lastly, in ballet one is expected to try new things; to force one’s body to attempt a step or position that it has never made before. But it’s not possible to tentatively make those attempts. If you’re trying a grande jeté en tournant (a step that involves running, kicking your legs up one at a time and turning 180 degrees whilst in mid-air) you have to throw yourself into it, if you’re half-hearted or tentative then you will more than likely end up sprawled across the floor. However, it doesn’t always work out that well, and unfortunately I’m required to throw myself into a step in front of eight teenagers; girls who are skinnier and more flexible and, well, younger than I am.

But today, as we tried fouetté rond de jambe en tournant (for the first time for them, and for the first time in ten years for me) I had a couple of light-bulb moments:

  1. I am going to look stupid doing this.
  2. I don’t really care.

Of course I do care a little bit, I know that, but it’s interesting thinking about how I would have felt in the same sort of situation about 10 years ago. I would have been so much more self-concious, so much more afraid, so much more reluctant to make a fool of myself.

Occasionally I wish I could go back in time, knowing all that I know now (and caring to the same degree that I do now), but reliving my life of a decade ago. I would throw myself into new steps, and friendships, and experiences so much more than I did, I wouldn’t be so afraid of finding myself sprawled across the floor and looking like a fool.

I wish I could explain it those girls in the class, and encourage them to throw themselves into all of the things that they’ll get to try over the next few years, but of course it would never work. This is the kind of stuff we all have to learn for ourselves.

In summary: having a go.

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