Guest Post: Turnout in Your Twenties

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It was the fouettes that got me.

My ballet obsession would be nothing without the film Center Stage. There’s that moment at the end of the performance where she just spins like a carefree top, making it look so effortless and liberating…I wanted to do that.

I started learning ballet rather late in life, the ripe old age of 24. After musing about it for a few months, I’m a little embarrassed to say that a tumultuous break-up was the catalyst for my first class. I needed distraction and a way to express all I was feeling. I got that and then some.

My first time at the barre I felt like an imposter.

Before my first class, I observed dancers stretching in full splits, working their turn-out, and doing so with a calm expression, exuding a sense of confidence and experience in their motion. Not knowing anything beyond “first position,” the next hour and half proved to be one of the most physically challenging times of my life. However, it also proved to be a sincerely exhausting mental work-out.

I’ve heard many dancers say that they dance because of the moment when “it all fades away,” except for the music and their movement…there’s some sort of magical ‘zone’ they find themselves in, like a safe place to just let everything else go.

Naturally, I knew I wouldn’t find it right away, my own little zone. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of mental work it takes to get through even one ballet class, my head swimming with French terms, combinations, and of course, massive self-doubt.

Where could this alleged zone of freedom possibly exist in all the confusing thoughts buzzing around my brain?

Not to mention, when I started out I felt like an oaf.

The mirrors flanking every inch of the studio served as a constant reminder that I tower over most other women in the class, at my sky-scraping 5’10” height. But, in time, I’ve learned how to have more control over my long limbs (developing muscles I never even knew I had!) and now when I feel myself slouching to be shorter, I raise my spine up with pride. I work through my frustrations with my height and remember that though I stand out, I will have an immediate presence and I try to find strength in that length.

Dancing requires one main thing: movement. Tall, short, thin, curvy, slow, fast. The ability and love of expressing ones’ self through the body is something to be respected. No matter if you’re 5’4” or 6’0”. No matter if you’ve had a thousand ballet classes or are just rising to relevé for the first time.

In the past year, I’ve seen some beautiful glimpses of my little zone of freedom, where my brain stops thinking and my body continues moving…pushing out the stressful noises and the worries of what’s going to happen next year, in a week, in 5 minutes. I won’t hear the ring of my nagging cell phone, I won’t read a ‘catastrophic’ email, or a text saying I’ve missed a deadline. My little zone is a moment of pure elation held exclusively for me, that I can find when I stop doubting myself and let go.

 Check out Beth’s blog Trees and Toes.

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