Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dancing Days

As a child I took several years of ballet and tap dancing.  I wasn't the kind of girl who begged her mother to let her take dance lessons, though I did love wearing all the tulle and sequins for the recital.   And I don't remember being distraught when the lessons ended.  I was in school, both parents worked, we were all busy and tired.  
    Flash forward to my grownup years and it was my little dancers turn to take ballet.  Watching them twirl and tip-toe reignited my desire to dance.  I signed up for the adult class one evening per week.  At first it was just the instructor and myself and more than the dancing I loved the conversations we had while dancing.  I enjoyed taking breaks from my day throughout the week to practice the turns and the steps.  It was a high point in an otherwise very lonely and stressful time in my life.  
    Eventually we were joined by a adorably clumsy young teen with a lovely shyness about her and a sweet disposition and we were a merry dancing troupe of three.  The teen faded in and out of class, her life was busy, but it was always nice to see her there.  And to tell her how proud we were of her for trying to better her life.  

 And then came the Shrew.  

    A stunningly beautiful and musically talented, but hopelessly sour young woman about eight years my junior.  I recognized her from a local live music hub and told her so and how much I enjoyed her singing and guitar playing.  She was uncomfortable.  From then on, she rigorously avoided eye contact with me at said hub.  It was odd to say the least.  Our dance time was no better.  She snipped at the instructor and me because, "I can't concentrate with all your talking!"  She then proceeded to speak and make eye contact only with the instructor and  to blame every unwieldy turn, and missed step either vocally or with a sharp glance in my direction.  Oh, dear.  
    I was baffled as to why Madame Shrew was so serious about perfecting each move.   At 25, and with her sweet, but disproportionately sizable bottom, she was never going to be a professional ballerina or dancer of any kind for that matter.  Even if that were her goal, it would take a heck of a lot more than one hour per week to get her there.  So why not un-clench and enjoy the class a little more?  Whatever her reasons were for sucking the joy out of ballet, one thing was certain,  I dreaded class instead of looking forward to it each week now that I had to dance in silence.
    After a few months, I took the studio owner aside, while she was wrapping up teaching my daughters' classes and told her I loved my class and the instructor, but I wouldn't be returning to the adult class.  The owner looked at me, paused and blinked blankly and then said, "Is is because of that one lady who comes?"  I nodded.  "I know!"  She said, "what is her problem?"  We both laughed and I felt better that it wasn't just me feeling insecure or crazy.  

    Months went by.  Then a year.  In that time my former instructor had her baby, the baby she had fought so hard to conceive and carry to term, and then was preparing to move away.  I had to see her again.  I signed up for her class for one last month of chatting and plies.  Yes, Madame Shrew was still there, and yes, just as sour and controlling as ever.  But, this wonderful time needed closure.  I was able to meet my friend/instructor's sweet blue-eyed boy, with all his oodles of blond curls, and when moving day arrived, I brought her family dinner so they wouldn't have to think about cooking after such a long, tiring day.  We hugged tightly on that evening and parted well.
    Not long after that, I was thinking ahead to my own impending moving day and wondering if I'd be able to take ballet classes in the next town.  I was relaxing on the couch and when I stood to stretch lightning shot through my leg.  That year of weekly tippy-toes training had over taxed the tendon in my leg and for the next two years I was in constant pain.  While I wish it had all come about because of some epic dance-off or epic feat of strength that required my amazing coordination and flexibility to save the First Lady, it was just a lame accident that brought my dancing days to an end.  The pain is only occasional now, but likely to last the rest of my life.  And while I wish I'd attained my injury in a more awe inspiring way, I wouldn't take those dancing days back for anything.

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