Two (Dance) Steps Back


It must happen on all pilgrimages. People start walking, then something stands in their way.

Last June, as part of my ongoing art pilgrimage, I began taking ballet. I wasn't great at it, but I was making progress. I was strong and flexible and having fun. It even amused me to think about someone at my age aspiring to tutu-hood. :)

Then in the Fall I became very ill and was completely immobile for three weeks, then barely mobile for another three. I figured that when it was over, I'd go back to business as usual. So I returned to the ballet barre sometime in the late Fall.

By Christmas, I began to get discouraged. I hadn't realized what a setback I'd suffered from immobility, and had tried to keep on as if nothing had happened.

It had.

I was no longer strong and flexible, and I started to injure myself. I couldn't even sit cross legged on the floor anymore. Well, I may not be a spring chicken as they say, but I've always been able to sit any which way I like. When you can't sit according to your whims anymore, something's got to give.

So I've stopped dancing.

in the wings

Well, at least I've stopped ballet.

There is some sadness in this, and I'm not sure I'll go back. I've also realized just what a non-dancer brain I possess. It's not about grace in movement, it's about the way I can't seem to speak back with my body when I see the teacher speak with hers. I think it might be a proximity/visual thing, because I sure enjoy mirror-dancing with my Littlest (boy do we have fun).

Anyway, right now I'm contenting myself with reading books about ballet. Yesterday I read one about Martha Graham's Appalachian Spring. Somewhere in it, they noted that Graham said the body always tells the truth, and that's what she was aiming for in her dances. I'm aiming for that too. And I don't want my truth to be injury.


We'll see where this new road goes. If nothing else, I have an after-dinner dance date with my Littlest a few nights a week. That girl can twirl. And I'm happy to lend her a steadying hand.

Photos of the book In the Wings: Behind the Scenes at the New York City Ballet.

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Anonymous Alex Marestaing said...

Injuries, illness and passing years can be frustrating at times, but it's always good to keep dancing, in one way or another :)

Blogger Maureen said...

The body speaks wisdom in its own way; we just have to listen and follow. To follow is a kind of dance, too.

Ballet is about being in the air; modern dance, like Graham's, puts you back on the ground.

Be sure to read Agnes de Mille, too, and Yvonne Rainer (Feelings Are Facts).

Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Alex, yes. I'm learning that roadblocks are often invitations to a different part of the path.

Maureen, how rich my life is with you! I just ordered books from both women, from my library. Looking forward to this unexpected trail. :)

Blogger S. Etole said...

Our bodies don't always represent our self truthfully.

Blogger Unknown said...

I was really sad for you when you said you stopped ballet, but then you said this at the end:

'If nothing else, I have an after-dinner dance date with my Littlest a few nights a week. That girl can twirl. And I'm happy to lend her a steadying hand.'

and I wasn't sad any more. If letting go of the formal classes saves you for this, well, this is very good. These times will last a lifetime and beyond:)

p.s. thanks for your blog clarification...it really did help! I guess I have to say 'Love notes' is my favorite...it's the only place I feel equipped to interact and comment intelligently...I don't ever feel like I can say anything to do your poetry justice...so that's my 'always comment' for Seedlings:/

Blogger Kelly Sauer said...

Do you know anything about choreography? It seems that it might not be so demanding as dance...

Anonymous Monica Sharman said...

I will learn much from this.

Back in October, when your words "Yesterday I danced" stopped me in my tracks, I knew that would be the beginning of a poem. I didn't know until I read this here:

"So I've stopped dancing."

that the poem was ready to be written:



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