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Pearls of Wisdom: Facing the Mirror at 50 - The Ballet Blog



Joined: 5/13/2015
Posts: 7
liz pearl
Week 1
For months M has been nagging me to attend ballet classes with her. I have a plethora of valid excuses: it’s dinner time, it’s carpool time, it’s TV time, it’s snack time, etc. The truth is; I really don’t have a single legit excuse. So with substantial ambivalence, I anxiously agree to give it a try. Actually, I have pretty much convinced myself I am doing M a friendly favour. After an extended nearly 30 year hiatus, I find myself surrounded by mirrors, standing at the barre next to M at the Martha Hicks Ballet School. Furthermore, my trusted ballet buddy has tricked me into a 90 minute intermediate level adult class. It has taken me months to agree to attend a beginner class; I have been duped. Here I am, sweating at the barre just from the grand plié. I’m wearing a classic mom leisure outfit ‒ black leggings and tank top and basic work-out socks. It has been suggested that if I attend classes three consecutive weeks I should (possibly) invest in new ballet slippers. Until that time, I will slide along and hope for the best. Fortunately, Dr. M is dancing by my side in case I slip and herniate a disc. Honestly, it’s not that far-fetched.

The first class was overwhelming. Apparently, the old ballet brain circuits are fried. I awake the next morning, achy and stiff, take a Celebrex and pronounce that my mid-life crisis ballet career remains on hold, indefinitely. It seems my body cannot make the expected leap to a mature ballerina. The expression “The mind is willing but the body is not” takes on a whole new meaning. M insists ballet is good for the middle-aged brain. My 50th birthday is fast approaching and I’m stressed to the max about my failing mind and aging body. That’s without hearing a dissertation on gravity and the middle-aged woman. No visual required.
Week 2
Monday evening rolls around and I’m back at the ballet barre wearing my mom black leggings and all. Tights and leotards are never happening again. Ever. I’m shvitzing already. Tonight I come prepared: empty bladder, sport bra, chilled water bottle, and a better attitude. (No pun intended.) My hair is scrunched up in a neat bun. We are joined by another fast-approaching-50 friend, a seasoned former National Ballet School ballerina. Now we are a waltzing trio. Pas de trois? And one-two-three, two-two-three…

Week 3
It’s a big night; I have pink ballet slippers (on loan). I’m wondering, will this essential footwear addition make or break my long lost pirouette? Take two Celebrex and call me in the morning.

Week 4
I turned 50 and get the night off ballet. Stay home and eat birthday cake. Hooray!

Week 5
Thanksgiving, we all stay home and eat holiday leftovers. Another night off ballet.
s#$%, I’m losing my turn-out. But the night off is such a relief from my irritating sciatica.

Week 6
I survived my milestone birthday; it’s time to face the mirror again. The middle-aged ballet crew is back in business. Let’s dance like no one is watching.

When we were little girls we longed to be graceful ballerinas in pretty pink tutus. When we were teenagers we thought we were cool jazz stars. As young moms we relived those magical dance dreams through our princess daughters. Now we hope not to twist an ankle as we pas de bourree.

Allegro. Please have the local paramedics on standby. Middle-aged women are really not suitably fit for glissade ‒ pas de chat ‒ changement ‒ soubresaut…

Adagio. As we stand poised in the corner of the studio and wait for our turn to balancé across the dance floor, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and delight in the lyrical Classical waltz played by the talented accompanist. Dreamlike ‒ is this really happening?

Apparently, our cynical husbands are eagerly planning for the end-of-year recital. #Ballet Husbands. M has a busy dance schedule; on other weeknights she is attending couples yoga and Nia Technique. Not to be confused with Capoeira. Perhaps she is creating a spin-off blog. Please stay tuned. This newsflash just reported from M’s household: “We are no longer attending Nia because it is too older-adult-womany. I have switched to Jazz!”

Jazz Class
Everyone likes a bargain. The eager middle-aged ballet crew returns to the dance studio for a second night this week. All adult classes are free! We meet in the fully mirrored Jazz studio; joined by several other younger adult dancers. To me, they all look like svelte Lululemon models. The iPod is charged and we are ready to try jazz walks. Ooh là là.

The last time I took a jazz class I was 16-years-old. Apparently, I missed the entire hip hop era.
Challenge number one: what should I wear? Leg warmers? Metallic unitard? Sequin crop-top?
Challenge number two: what is the required footwear? Hairdo? OMG ‒ So much to think about.
Challenge number three: am I really up for All that Jazz? Flashdance? Footloose? Fame? M is into the jazz hands, she really likes the whole flashy Broadway ‒ Bob Fosse dance style. She’s super keen and admittedly, practices the jazz routine on her day off from work. Possibly she is preparing to audition for the Bedazzled Dance Championship of Canada. Me, not so much, I just wanna have fun; I can skip the whole glitzy Chorus Line choreography and theatrics. I’m retired from razzle-dazzle. And I certainly don’t want to invest in jazz shoes.

Furthermore, it seems my body cannot manage two dances classes per week; at least not on this dosage of Celebrex. For now, I will stick to the elliptical and Monday night ballet.

I am officially registered ‒ now part of the weekly corps de ballet.

Pique turns. For the record, at my age, sequential turns across the dance floor are sure cause for Gravol. The revised middle-age ballet repertoire certainly should not include any vigorous jumping or elaborate turning sequences. Let’s keep in mind; we are not rehearsing for Swan Lake or Cinderella.

Another Monday at the dance studio, we are joined by several additional middle-aged moms ‒ aka retired ballet dancer wannabes. Apparently, classical ballet is a popular evening activity for middle-aged women in the neighbourhood. Of course everyone has their own personal ballet saga, list of injuries sustained and lame excuses for not properly landing a perfect pirouette turn. But it seems we are hooked; indeed we all have the ballet bug.

For the record, in fact I have an undergraduate degree in Dance Therapy (circa 1980 something ‒really!) We have discovered that ballet is therapeutic in more ways than initially believed. If only temporarily, we are entirely detached from our clients, colleagues, family, marital and adolescent crises. Ballet demands our complete concentration; our middle-aged bodies and brains are operating in overdrive. The ballerina brain is hard at work on positioning and sequencing; the mom brain is temporarily shut down. The show must go on.

The injury list. Due to an irritating chronic sacroiliac injury I cannot perform any vigorous jumps. Furthermore, I recently sustained a minor calf muscle injury in ballet class. Ouch. Frankly, by any reasonable standard, I should be excused from ballet class and stay home and play on Facebook. Nevertheless, each week I ambitiously attend ballet with surplus chronic and acute injuries. By these criteria alone, I am now deemed a ballet addict. On the flip side, I have a terrific excuse not to attempt a double pirouette or any other bravura grand allegro sequence.

Reverence. We are infinitely grateful our tired bodies have performed the routine ballet barre warm-up exercises and carefully choreographed lyrical enchaînements sequences in the centre. We are thankful for the delightful piano accompanist playing entertaining classical music. And most definitely, we are truly grateful for a night out to indulge our nostalgia and passion for dance. Bravo! Looking forward to next week ‒ back at the ballet barre.

Liz Pearl © 2015
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