Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes has probably seen me trip over a crack in the sidewalk, fall up the stairs, or knock over a full glass. Thus, anyone who has known me for more than five minutes will understand the hilarity of Blair in a Russian ballet class. In order to not sell myself short, I have to say that I have, in fact, studied ballet before… when I was in kindergarten. So, it’s not super surprising that I was initially a little clueless about certain things, like what kind of underwear dancers wear under their leotards… or if they wear any at all. Or what part of my ballet shoes I was supposed to sew. Or how to hold my hands while dancing. I have since been clued in about the undergarments and the shoes. But the hands…
The first things we learned in ballet were the five positions (which I was already familiar with, thanks to some eight-year-old girls I taught this summer) and the proper position of the hands. Our teacher, Renaud, explained it, and it sounded easy. He demonstrated, and it looked easy. I tried to do it myself, and it was NOT easy. One month later, I have yet to master the fine art of holding my hands like a ballerina. Apparently I have a great turn-out, and I’m getting fairly decent [read: less awful] at things like frappes, rond de jambes, passes, and grand battement. Some of the time, I even remember what all of those words mean. And–the most shocking thing of all–I’m finding that I actually kind of enjoy ballet. It’s hard, and it makes me hurt in places I didn’t know I had; but, at the same time, it’s almost impossible to do some of this stuff without tapping into some little-girl prima ballerina fantasy that’s still somewhere inside me. And let’s face it, ballet makes you feel pretty.
And yet, I still can’t make it ten minutes without Renaud adjusting my hands. On the bright side, contrary to what I had been led to believe about Russian dance instructors–I came into this fully prepared to have things thrown at me–Renaud at least has a sense of humor about the thing. It’s become sort of an inside joke that he’s going to have to fix my hands several times per class, and we’ve both reached the point where we can have a little laugh at my incompetence.
I can at least be proud of the fact that the number of times he has to adjust me is steadily… sometimes I wonder it it’s because I’m getting better, or because Renaud is giving up hope that my hands will ever look more like ballerina hands than velociraptor claws. But every time I start to worry I’m been deemed a lost cause, there comes Renaud with a little smirk on his face, showing what I hope to God is an exaggerated version of what’s wrong about my hands this time. It’s nice to know that no matter how much I feel like I might never get this right, Renaud still at least considers me worth his time. I’m choosing to believe that means there’s hope for my ungraceful self after all.