What’s my summer fitness project this year? (FYI, last year I tasked myself to get conditioned on the bicycle so as not to die every time I went on a “fun and breezy” bike ride with G. I have yet to take my bike out for longer than a 5 km ride this year, BAHAHAHA.)
Ballet! Hey, why not? I have 4 years of experience over 30 years ago, and I’m relatively flexible, thanks to yoga, right?
Um, no. Wrong-o.
Well, let’s just say that the first week was humbling, to say the least. I very quickly had to learn how to undo everything my body felt natural doing in order to hold a proper ballet standing posture and stand in one spot (first position). My “flexible (lower) back” was causing me to arch too much, preventing me from standing up straighter and taller.
Damn all those years of hip-hop booty popping and stiletto high heel wearing!
In order help us learn how to pull our lower backs in and draw our tailbones down, our teacher gave us a visualization: pretend you are holding a loonie (or toonie, depending on how much money you need to save up to register for the full ballet program in the fall) in between our butt cheeks and squeeze, squeeze, SQUEEZE!!!
In addition to the toonie squeezing, there are just a few other things to remember while standing in first position (and yes, this is only the first position!): feet at a 45 degree angle, inner thighs pulling outward, knees pulled in, quads tight, ribs down, collarbone wide, shoulders back, chin lifted (pretend you are looking up at your audience on the first balcony), corners of our mouths turned up and eyebrows lifted. (She calls these our “Bogosian” eyebrows, for the Jets fans out there.) We have to remember all of that on top of the actual exercises she’s teaching us at the barre – exercises with French names. Mais oui, mon chérie!
After a few classes, I found it a bit difficult to remember all of this plus the exercises we’d been taught from class to class, and really started to feel down on myself about my stubborn arching back and tailbone. I thought, maybe my body just isn’t built for ballet? Then started to ponder other dance forms I could pursue in future summer sessions…
But then I took a step back and remembered that I didn’t wait all these years to sign up for this intro class just to give up after the second week! I remembered how proud I was of everything I’d accomplished over the years in my yoga practice (physically, mentally, and emotionally), and that I didn’t learn any of it overnight. I pulled my
boot straps up split sole shoes on and was determined to work harder on my posture, review the French terms, and do some of the exercises our teacher encouraged us to practice at home.
Once my next class started, I was more able to find my posture quicker (and get as straight as I could!), squeezed the F out of that toonie, and got through the class with more mental ease. I was finally starting to really enjoy it, feeling the difference in my body after just a couple of weeks, and started to get excited about how much more I’ll learn before the end of this session.
Bring on even more graceful, good times!