HOW I TOOK UP BALLET AS AN ADULT

  1. First we have to talk about my father
    I don't really want to talk about my father but he's part of the story. Problem is, when I say, "My dad has Parkinson's," people give me this look. This look of sympathy and sometimes pity and then it's awkward, mostly for me because I have a complicated relationship with my dad, which I don't want to get into with well-meaning strangers. It's just that when you see someone lose control over their body, when you see their body betray them, you think about your own.
  2. Then we have to acknowledge that birthdays make you aware of the passing of time
    35 is fairly ho hum as far as birthdays go, but if you're thinking about bodies and how they're going to eventually wear out and maybe even betray you, 35 takes on a "no time like the present" quality, especially if there's something you've always wanted to do that's going to require the use of your body.
  3. Now we layer in some exposition
    I'd been distance running for the past 7 years, which I took up after a soul crushing breakup. And running marathons has the potential to crush your soul, but when it doesn't, you win. But running was getting boring. You can always go faster, I guess, but it's really just more of the same. I wanted a new way to reverse crush my soul. I wanted to learn a new thing.
  4. Did I mention I always thought ballerinas dancing on pointe was the coolest thing?
    Consider it mentioned.
  5. So it was almost my 35th birthday, I was thinking about bodies, I was bored with running and I always thought pointe was the coolest thing
    So I went to my first class.
  6. It was rough, man
    Real rough. I'd taken some jazz/hip hop classes when I was younger and one summer of beginning ballet when I was 14. So I knew what 1st or 5th position looked like. But that's about it. I spent a lot of that first class surreptitiously watching what other people were doing and trying to copy them. Badly. It was frustrating as hell.
  7. I bounced around a couple of studios looking for the right teacher
    I needed to find one that would push me hard (a lot of adult classes are a glorified Barre Method and don't teach much classical technique) but also understand I'm not, like, auditioning for the Bolshoi (those classes with former pros and people who have done ballet since they were 6 who all have perfect turnout). I found my Goldilocks studio and teacher in Echo Park. Sometimes she lets me put on Beyonce when we're doing conditioning things.
  8. But I have always been an eyes on the prize kind of gal
    So even though I had to learn all these random French words (frappé! To strike. Plié! To bend) and my legs were constantly stiff and sore because it turns out that running muscles and ballet muscles were TOTALLY DIFFERENT, I had an end game.
  9. Insert: training montage
    There was (still is) a ton of stretching and pulling my legs into weird positions. (Please see attached before and after, 4 weeks in vs 40-something weeks.) Foot and ankle strengthening with a Theraband (which is a stretchy rubber thing you use for resistance). Class minimum twice a week (3 times if I could squeeze it into my work schedule).
  10. And then comes the day that every girl waits for, something that happens for most around age 12
    No, it's not getting your period. It's the go ahead from your teacher to get fitted for pointe shoes. This is the closest you will ever feel like Cinderella because they pull out a dozen kinds of shoes and you stand at the mini barre at the store and wonder how anyone can actually stay upright in these things. Just trying them on made my calves sore the next day.
  11. And then comes the reality check
    Much like getting your period, pointe work is not what you expect. You know the way ballerinas float and flutter across stage? How it looks like being on pointe is just a matter of delicately popping up onto your toes? Yeah, they're just making it look easy. It actually takes brute strength to get up and stay balanced up there, let alone to do any fancy tricks or turns. So when you start pointe, you've really only reached the next, harder level of ballet.
  12. Insert: next level training montage
    There's a lot of relevés. For the first couple of months I couldn't stray far from the barre. Just balancing in 1st position (i.e., standing) had me drenched in sweat. My calves and the arches of my feet were always sore.
  13. Sidebar(re) haha see what I did there
    My feet were/are fine. In six months, I've had two blisters. And one was my fault because I ran out of tape. The other was from a pair of shoes that weren't quite right for me. The ones I'm in now are 👌. A year of running left my feet in worse shape.
  14. So while it's good to acknowledge that birthdays mark the passing of time, we should also acknowledge that it's NOT TOO LATE to do the thing that you think is the coolest
    One year of ballet (six months of pointe, so ignore the form breaks if you're picky about technique in my first arabesque). FEMALES ARE STRONG AS HELL.