Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rough Start

To make things more difficult than they already were, I happened to be in the class that Maxine had high hopes for.  She was always saying how it was the smartest ballet III class she had taught in a long time. I'm sure I wasn't considered one of the smart ones as I fumbled around trying to make sense of everything.  I didn't even know how to count to music!
There were many times I was sure Maxine would move me down a level.  I almost wished she would.  Now looking back, I realize it was a good thing she never did.  It forced me to be better.  Although the being better part took longer than I wanted.  
 During the last class before Christmas break I let my mind wander. I was thinking how relieved I was that I would be on break soon.  Then I imagined the dread of coming back when the break ended.   I started to think about the possibility
 of never coming back.  I had stuck with it a good six months, my pride could take a well deserved break right?  Hadn't I stayed long enough to at least show I tried?  My wandering mind got me in trouble when Maxine asked me to repeat what she had just said.  I couldn't tell her, and was mortified. That's when I made up my mind that I was never going to set foot in that place again.  
I told my mom this.  She wisely looked ahead, saying she was afraid I would regret it for the rest of my life.  I was so sure I wouldn't.  My mom managed to convince me to stay until after the recital.  
Two things happened that made me change my mind about leaving after the recital.  The first was my meeting with Maxine.  Everyone was supposed to have one and my mom scheduled mine the week I walked through poison ivy and had an allergic reaction.  Those reactions had an annoying way of happening at the worst times.  We were escorted upstairs to her office, while I held
 my wrapped arm.  Not only was Maxine there, but the other teacher who always helped me in class was seated beside her.  She was sewing a beautiful tutu for the upcoming production of Sleeping Beauty.  I had never seen a tutu up close and I tried not to stare at it in fascination the whole time.
Uncomfortable only begins to describe how I felt during that meeting.  Maxine had no problem pointing out my nervousness
, when she told me my eyes were all over the place.  She wanted me to hold eye contact with her, making myself appear more confident.  She said I had the same nerves when people watched me dance in class.  That was true.  She also said ballet dancers are performers and people are supposed to watch you. Can't argue with her there.  So what was I doing here again?
She was also encouraging.  She told me I was blessed with the body of a ballet dancer.  She asked me if I really wanted to be a ballerina.  I still feel like dying when I think back to this, it's very hard to relive.  I didn't say anything.  I still wanted to quit, so if I said yes I would be lying.  If I said no then.......well you can figure it out.  I really wished I could have just told a white lie, because it eventually turned out to be true.  But I didn't answer. After enough awkward
 silence went by she decided to forget about the question and move on.  
When she began to wrap up the meeting she told me I was behind and needed extra work.  But she thought I was worth it.  Why didn't she say that before she asked me if I wanted to be a ballerina?  I am horribly embarrassed recalling that memory, and think of the whole meeting as a failure on my part.  But something good did come out of it.  I knew they wanted me there.  A small part to me started to believe again, that maybe I could be a dancer.  I still saw it as a long shot, but it was a step in the right direction.
The other thing that turned me around was the Sleeping Beauty show that California ballet was putting on, which took place not long after the meeting.   Polina Semionova was a Russian ballerina making her debut in the U.S. with our company.  It was a huge deal but I hadn't grasped that back then.  All I knew was that she was some soon-to-be superstar Russian.  I almost missed her entrance when my dad jumped out of his seat as soon as lights went out between the prologue and act 1, in a mad rush to get to the snack bar before the crowd.  Luckily they had  TVs
 in the lobby to show what was happening on stage.  “Look!” I said as I pointed to one.  There was dancers performing!  My dad and I had to race back to our seats and crawl over people in the dark.  I guess he thought It was intermission.  
It was a good thing I didn't miss her entrance.  I became a fan and never looked back.  I was completely captivated by her.  She had only taken her first few steps when my dad leaned over and said, “She's good.”  It was then that I realized what ballet really, truly was.  I couldn't stop now.  
I did the recital, which was actually referred to as the All School Concert.  I loved it, because unlike the other two shows I performed in there was a story line.  It felt more professional.  I got an unexpected, surprise that same week.  A letter came in the mail saying I had been promoted to ballet IV, and I could start pointe work.  During my meeting with Maxine she warned me that I probably wouldn't get promoted that year, but it turned out my dancing improved enough.  The two events that I just mentioned helped me a lot, and I was giddy with delight at the thought of wearing those coveted satin shoes with the pretty ribbons. Things were starting to look up.

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