My 14-year old begun attending the open-floor ballet classes the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre school. Both of us had learned there before. It’s a feeder school for the PBT corps de ballet, and only the serious, and seriously talented, need apply to the pre-professional program. But to get a dance foundation for Broadway, the open-floor community classes will suffice.
I used to take those when she was in the preschool ballet program. I’ve already spent the time on the gas to get there, and waiting in the lobby is painfully boring. Thus, I bought a 10-class dance card (attend as often as you wish), and joined all those slender, talented people while my daughter was dancing with the kids. Ballet is a great workout, and after several months I’ve improved enough to attempt the wildly popular intermediate/advanced class with Master Bob.
I was only a 2nd dan in karate back then. Certain muscle memory will transfer from one activity to another. Movement is a habit, and so is success. Ten years ago I’d thought I could do anything. When Master Bob told our very full class to travel across the floor in groups of four, diamond formation, glide glide jump-and-turn repeat, I studied other dancers and took notes. “Power from the ground!” he shouted, trying to make us soar.
My turn came, and as we were about to jump and turn in the air and he yelled “Get power from the ground!” My mind flipped to the familiar karate mindset, where sensei was after us, in a much quieter way, to get “power from the ground.” For punches that can rupture the spleen.
I bent my knees and leaned over like a great ape poised for a fight, butt out. (Try jumping from that! HA!) I didn’t fall. I repeated with the group. Glide glide jump-and-turn- The biomechanics of breaking a person differ from the ones necessary to soar like a swan. Master Bob stopped the piano accompanist and walked up to me. “Where did you study before this?” My 45 classmates craned their necks, wanting to know. I was mortified with embarrasement. “North Hills Academy of Shorin Ryu,” I replied truthfully. “it’s a karate school.” He gave me a long look. It wasn’t a mean look and, although it assessed, it held no judgment. “I suggest you pick one or the other,” he said finally. “The two don’t seem to mix very well.”
My fling with the beauty of ballet was over almost ten years ago. But now, since my daughter can attend the open-floor classes for adults, I got to peek in. Imagine a 90-minute workout of music and sweat and stretches, postural alignment, core activation, and fun! It’s been ten long years. Karate will always be deep in my bones. If I attend only the beginner’s class… if I join all those women (and a handful of men) of all ages, shapes and sizes and skill levels… if I avoid Master Bob’s more advanced rigors – maybe could get away with it. Maybe, instead of trying to write while distracted my the strains of several pianos at once and the chatter of kids in the changing room, I could join in, and move.
If I find my old ballet slippers, I’ll do it. I’ll see their presence in the back of my closet as a nod from the universe.