Who would have thought that after these 101 days away from home I would step out of my usual habits and ideas and hobbies and interests and attend my first ever ballet class? As a child I remember walking past the ballet school door in the Shambles, Stroud, and seeing the ballet girls in their pink and ridiculous tutus on my way to feet-on-the-ground-and-only-ever-sensible Girl Guides and thinking superiorly and haughtily that I would absolutely Never Ever Do That: silly things they were, those la-de-da girls, prancing about to fancy music and couldn’t climb a tree or light a fire or anything to save their lives.
And, underneath this if truth be told consciously learned and practiced arrogant attitude, a tiny little hiding-inside-Anna self was wishing I didn’t have to be so sensible and tomboyish and could have at least had a choice …
So over 40 years later here I am, having just made that choice: a pair of leggings and a 10 dollar bill, a self-conscious and everso slightly timorous step up one flight of stairs, a “Hello, I’m Anna, is this the Absolute Beginners Class?”; and I am warmly welcomed into this modest little dance studio, at the American Liberty Ballet School, New York City.
First position, arms en avant, right foot en arriere, plie, don’t look at the floor, any questions, 1-2-3-4, that’s lovely; and, to my surprise, “Miss Anna, you have good feet for ballet”! I am of course old enough to be everyone’s mother, and that helps us all, it seems to me: I can’t help laughing at my inability to jump just like that and they all can relax in their undoubtedly more agile and more accurate attempts at whatever balletic leap or turned out leg contortion we are attempting. It is fun, and it is doable, and I like trying out being a ballerina, and I ache happily as I leave.
The little 11 year old had to defend her sense of inadequacy and girlish inferiority with disdain; I am glad to say that the grown up woman today can treat herself with more gentleness … it is, I find after all, not in the least unsafe to reveal my wish to express myself with grace - both physical and emotional – in the sweetness and simplicity of dancing.
I still doubt I am a tutu type though, I have to confess.