Below, a special treat for you on a terrible ballet Monday. This is the load of crap that I turned in as 2 ballet journals. It totals six pages typed and doubled spaced. It’s a rather, uh, suppressed look at my reaction to ballet.
Also, it would be helpful to remember that on the first day of class, I asked her to call me Katie. I signed the email that I sent this with as Katie Barry. Notice the response, printed below the story.
Ah, well I’m off to go buy new ballet shoes because I’m a space cadet and lost mine. Thank god they’re only $25. Now I will have two pairs, hopefully.
(And trust me, the only reason ballet ever comes into my head is when I’m cursing it. It’s not the terrible contagious disease she wishes it was.)
Ballet: By Katie Barry
She’d been skeptical at first.
The idea of a performance at the end of the semester hadn’t thrilled her. What are we going to do? She wondered. We’ll look like three-year-olds dancing at the big-girl dance show. She remember all too well the littlest of the girls, dressed in their little pink tutus and tights, led out in a line onto the stage, some pointing their feet, others looking around, trying to see through the spotlights into the audience to find their mothers, one usually facing the back wall, confused. She remembered waiting in the wings, anxious, stretching her toes inside her shoes and realizing that no matter what happened, at least she knew more than them. She had been older then, ten, maybe, dancing with a set of high school girls who had come to love her. She didn’t understand their discussions, but she loved that they’d pick her up and swing her around before practice.
The first note of music snapped her out of her memories. She jumped a little, hesitating, and then thrust her legs out and began to run. She stopped on her mark, a straight line on the floor running vertical to bisect the mirror at the ground.
She’d told her friends. “Guys, we’re doing some sort of performance in ballet at the end of the semester. You down to come?”
It hadn’t gone over well. “Seriously? You want us to sit there and watch a bunch of girls dance?”
“Yeah, you should. Besides, you went to Emily’s play.”
“For the record, only one of us went.”
“Think about it, please.”
Laughter. She’d realized then that maybe she should stop hanging out with boys. Her roommate understood, would come and sit in the back and probably laugh at her afterward, but she’d still be there and be supportive. Ugh, I’m never going to one of their things ever again, she says to herself. But she knows that they’ll be there. They’ll all take the train up to Loyola on the Red Line from their house and they’ll all clap and be polite. At the end of the show, they’ll hug and tell her she was wonderful. They’re actors, they do this all the time. They’ll all talk about it on the train home, one of them will hate it, one of them will love it and life will go on.
She sighed as the boys kept on laughing about the idea of ballet.
She had been wiggling, fidgeting around, doing a fake dance to get into the zone, or something like it, and consequently, missed her cue to begin the preparation that her arms would require to actually begin the dance.
“Again!” The cry came from the corner.
She retreated, retracing her steps until she was edged up against the piano. The music sounded and she followed the girl in front of her out in front of the mirror.
This time, she looked as serene as possible. All wiggling was on the inside as she forced her body to stay still. She didn’t miss the preparation this time, moving her arms from en bas into 2nd position, down to en bas again then through 1st to 2nd and down again.
First. One, two, she counted silently in her head. Shift. Second. Shift the weight, too. Three, four. Third. Where does my head go? Five, six. Fourth. Don’t forget to move the arm. Seven, eight. Fifth. Arms. Really look like you have great arms. Fingers, don’t forget the fingers. Thumb in. One, two. Arms into second, tendu, close first. Three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Repeat, left side.
Look like you’re smiling, sort of. Not too much, but a little. Look like you love it.
She laughs to herself then.
Balance. Slow down, she cautions herself. It’s a full four counts. One, two, three, four. And then shift. She looks up. The rest of the group is mostly with her, minus perhaps a second or two. She counts out another four and another and then does her soutenu, closing fifth, and then begins again on the first count. Left, right, left, run run run.
And she goes to the wall, stopping before she runs out the door, although she won’t lie, the thought has crossed her mind. It’s like Logic class, where the big windows look out into the rest of the busy city. She spends three hours a week there, usually writing in her journal or doodling as the concepts of the theorems fail to gain entrance to her mind. On one of the windows there, it says, in strange dripping red pen, like blood written somewhere in a horror movie, “Window of Opportunity.” And she’s never understood why, but that fascinates her.
Should it be to get out of the class? She wondered. Jump! It seemed to be saying. (It is only the second floor. Changes of walking away unscathed are rather high.) Or was it a warning? Don’t jump. This really isn’t a window of opportunity. It’s all fake. And that brings her to what it looks out on. Cudahy Science. Is college the fake window of opportunity, or did whoever write out the letters neglect to catch the drip marks? Either way. It’s saved her from having to concentrate on Logic for at least fifteen minutes, maybe more, this semester, and that may indeed make it a Window of Opportunity.
Switching places so that she’s in the back, she runs out again, this time, not so far. Tendu with the right foot. Slow yourself, she thinks. It’s slower than you think. Left arm up, right arm out. Arms drop as you face the mirror/audience and open to 2nd to tendu again. Twice. Now left arm is the one that’s up and we’re still tendu-ing.
Now, sort of fourth position, plie, open the arms, finish in fifth with the left foot forward and run off. Go, go!
Another group breezes past her.
The windows were open. They were driving down Lake Shore Dr. He was too late to take the train to work, so she’d offered to drive him. Music was on; it was a rather chilly day, but the allure of the windows was too much for her. Nothing made the windows go up except bitter cold. Give it a week, she thought, and I won’t be able to roll my windows down until April.
“Hey, didn’t you say something about a dance thing?” he said, grabbing her non-driving hand.
“When is it?”
“Let me know a couple weeks in advance. I’d like to go.”
She laughed at him.
“No seriously. You came down for my comedy show.”
“I’ll be there, I promise.”
She smiled a little and squeezed his hand.
Now it’ll really have to be good. I can’t be the girlfriend who can’t dance, she thought.
And so she stands, even when they’re standing in the kitchen cooking, or watching a movie, or talking, or waiting for the train, shifting her feet through the positions. Sometimes the arms get thrown in, if they’re not so much in public. Her friends have grown used to seeing it, it doesn’t bother them so much anymore.
She hums the song absentmindedly, letting it carry her through homework or through the long walk to campus.
It’s not all bad, she’s realized. This dance thing won’t be terrible. Scary, maybe, but not as scary as horror movies in the dark. Well, she laughs to herself, we’ll have to wait and see about that. The only thing she can do is get all of her steps down, memorized, put into her bones, so that the only thing she’ll have to worry about is who’s in audience. And that shouldn’t be too hard.
“That’s all for today,” she hears from the corner. The girls gather around and hear the closing remarks and then clap.
“Did you get my email,” she asks the teacher.
“No, did you get mine?” the teacher responds.
“No, let’s do this through gmail.com instead,” she says laughing.
She heads back to the dressing room to throw on some sweats.
“I really hope we don’t get graded too heavily on our pushups,” she says to the girls there. “Because no matter how much I try, I always end up on my knees trying to push half of my body up and down.”
“I hear you,” another girl responds. “It is not something I can do well at all.”
“It’s helped though,” says another girl. “My lacrosse coach makes us do five pushups every five minutes and I have no problem doing it at all.”
She flexes and they all laugh a little bit. Her muscles are far from Arnold Schwarzenegger bulge status, but they’re not bad for a college student. She keeps meaning to let this inspire a workout, something she hasn’t done in years. Sometimes she’ll walk down the lake, or walk somewhere after class, just letting her mind wander, and that counts as exercise, sort of. How about today? she thinks. I’ll just walk until I’m halfway downtown.
She smiles and grabs her bag, heading out the door. Off to go home. Don’t forget this stuff, she cautions herself. Work on the waltz step.
WONDERFUL!!! What a great description of your experiences in and outside of class..Ballet is truly getting to you-whether you like it or not. It’s one of those things that sort of creeps up and you find yourself on the el platform going over exercises from class.
The great part of being your teacher is that I get to see your growth and evolution over time. I can honestly say that you have improved so much!!!! And it’s only been a few short months. Keep up the great work and thank you so much for your creative journal entry. It was wonderful and a pleasure to read!! More, please!
Hey, do you think I’ll at least get a B?