Friday, September 12, 2008


Last week, all the kiddies were at last back at school I could return to my weekly exercise –an art form certain to rapidly grind out my prearthritic hips and shorten the lifespan of my Achilles tendon. This addiction to this exercise form is crazy, and delicious. You see, after three months, I am back in

ballet class.

Two mornings a week, I walk out on my husband.

Yup, I leave him, and the children and our veritable zoo. I pack everybody’s lunch, find my son a weather appropriate outfit and spend 20 minutes finding his glasses, then grab my coffee and walk out the door.

I ABANDON them all.

I am going to ballet class.

At 8 bloody am.

Real ballerinas do NOT go to 8 am class. They go to class every day they can, but at a civilized hour like 10am. Of course, I am not a ballerina.

Now I am a former professional dancer. MODERN dancer. Avant garde modern dancer, the kind that rolls around on the floor clad only in corn starch for an art installation. I never took ballet twice a week during the dozen years I had my own company. I studied with Hanya Holm, one of the founders of American modern dance. I took class five days a week at the Nikolais studio in New York. Ballet was not my cup of tea—the only Nutcracker I was ever involved had me backstage calling cues, and I still don’t know or really care about the difference between Ecartee and Effacee.

But now that I am way over 40, with a desk job, I no longer see the hard lines dividing movement forms. I don’t see the difference between schlepping loads of laundry up and down three flights of stairs in my ramshackle Victorian and doing Stairmaster. So when I found out that a real dance teacher gets up to my health club twice a week at the crack of dawn to teach real dance to a bunch of middle aged women, that was good enough for me. In fact, it’s better than good. It’s my religion.

A few of the women doll up in chiffon skirts or artfully cut tee shirts. Me, I wear Yoga Wear, the black cotton knit stuff that goes from Ballet to office by throwing a sweater on top. I need to do ballet class between carpool set up and a 9:15 standing weekly staff meeting, so everything better multi-task.

We are a motley lot, the Ballet Babes of the early am. The middle aged regulars, and the steady crop of young professionals with an ever evolving bevy of students sprinkled in. This is a ballet class at a health club. There is no dress code. There are jazz shoes and sox and my signature bare feet with wildly colored toenails. I always get there late and have to do plies in the corner and jump in. The combinations are long and complicated. They prevent Alzheimers, dammit. Our abs are soft from baby bearing and office gigs, our minds are slow from humdrum ordinary concerns like grocery lists, but for an hour twice a week, we sweat like prima ballerinas and we strive, oh god we strive, for better turn-out. We know, because the teacher tells us, that Ballet is the new Black. That everyone should and will be doing this.

I check my overcomplicated life at the door and go back to a time in my life where I measured success in how high I could kick my leg. I face my aging self in floor to ceiling mirrors, all the places I have fallen short of ideals exposed. I move forward (and sideward and backward) I try to retain my flexibility. I try to fight gravity and get better. And really, isn’t that what we all should do.

So get moving. Find a ballet class and rediscover what you knew at 7—that everything, including you, is beauty-full at the ballet. It is WAY cheaper than HRT or therapy…….

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