ballet at 32 aka a blossoming dilettante

What motivates people to put themselves in humbling situations? For me—I have a sneaking suspicion—it has to do with what I missed out on in my youth, coupled with the fact that I get a masochistic joy out of it, of course. That must have been my mind-set when I dragged my friend off to the level one ballet class at the local community college.

Getting inspired—usually by a movie—and trying out new activities might be the only thing I have actually perfected over the years.

At first it was Tango, which I loved. Unfortunately, I was too young and awkward to handle close contact with men who were three times my age. I was 22; like I was really going to sashay over to a cabaret in Burbank where lecherous old men lurk for naïve women who want to practice the dance of passion. Salsa wasn’t exactly a far cry, but at least my classmates were generally in the same age range. Unfortunately, as I got better, the men got worse and shorter.

It may have been the need to escape the partner requirement that shoved me in the direction of Flamenco. Now this, I thought, was my calling. I had so much fun making loud noises with my clunky heels and finally putting my spaghetti arms to good use. But after hearing “shut the hell up” and “get a life” from my downstairs neighbor a few too many times, I thought I’d better try something a little quieter.

The following year I was captivated by capoeria, the Brazilian martial art masked as a dance and usually performed by topless, oversexed men in white pants—pointless to do if you are in a relationship, I might add. One year later it was Kung Fu. I stuck with that until I realized having knuckles o’ steel was not my aim and definitely didn’t look pretty.

The origins of this erratic behavior can be traced back to the age of 5. I was on a co-ed soccer team and had a crush on the goalie. I eventually won him over and lost the game because we were too busy talking for him to block the ball. Once I scored—with a kiss— I decided I had enough of sports and was ready to move on to bigger and better things. I tried Jazz-Tap dance next and was even in a glorious recital. Strangely enough, I wasn’t feeling that one much either and never returned.

Sometimes I wonder what type of a person I would have blossomed into had I stayed in soccer or dance or any of the other activities I dropped out of as a child. All I do know is I wouldn’t have become who I am today—my own best stage mom, tirelessly rushing from class to class as if I were trying to buttress a resume.

And as for that day at the community college, my friend and I walked out before ballet even started. We learned from our other prospective classmates that level one meant already knowing the basics, which we did not. My face ripened to a bright, burning red when upon hoping to make an inconspicuous exit, the teacher looked over and tauntingly sang “good-bye girls” while all the other college-age dancers giggled in scornful unison.

Despite the blow, I was still struck by the ballet bug and eventually found a school that taught adults beginning basics. I have been doing ballet regularly for the past four months and am not quite as goofy as I was when I started. My arms are still gangly and I can’t imagine the day when I stop feeling oafish and uncoordinated when we do our combinations. But I am having fun with the other grown-ups reliving—or in my case, recreating—our childhoods. Isn’t that what life is all about?

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