No Tutu Required

ballerina

ballerina

When I was in kindergarten, my friend asked me to join her ballet class. By the time I was convinced to join, she decided to quit. To my parents’ surprise, I was determined to still do the class, despite the fact that I knew no one in it. Every Monday afternoon, I’d walk three houses down from school to Mrs. Stamus’ basement studio where I was introduced to the grace of ballet and beauty of classical music that, to this day, reminds me to stand up straighter and improve my posture. When the June recital came around, my parents were astonished that their ultra-shy daughter was actually on the stage, and I might have even cracked a smile, which I rarely did. That evening, my mom found me in tears. “I want to do it again!” I bawled. I was hooked. For the next 7 years, I took classes in that same basement. Each year, the ceiling seemed to lower as I grew, and eventually I could not fully extend my arms above my head in fifth position. Each June, I’d take the stage in the beautiful costumes lovingly handmade by my teacher, the same tutus and graceful skirts my daughter now wears as dress-up clothes whenever we visit my parents’ house.

When my daughter was 2, she and my husband took a parent-child ballet class together every Saturday morning at the Madison Area YMCA. As I’d sign them up each session, I’d reminisce about my own years of dance while I scanned the adult dance class offerings. I’d contemplate the Adult Ballet class, but it just never seemed the right time to start again.

As I approached my big 4-0 birthday a few years ago, I was determined to rekindle some of my joys of childhood that had been lost in the day-to-day scramble of life. Just as I had when I was 5, I decided to join a ballet class even though I knew no one. This time, the leotards, tights, and tutus were replaced by yoga pants and workout shirts. I was warmly welcomed by a group of dancers – beginners through classically trained – who all just wanted to experience the grace and joy of ballet. Like myself, most of them had children in the local schools. Even the teacher, Dina Latoff, had kids at MJS, TJS, and CAS. Though she seriously danced ballet in high school, majored in dance in college, and danced professionally with the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company in NYC, she patiently worked with me as my body slowly remembered the positions, and with other students who were brand new to ballet. Beginners and long-time dancers, stood side by side at the barre each Wednesday morning, stretching, laughing, and dancing. I’ve now enjoyed the class for almost three years, but, to me, the class isn’t just one hour, once a week. I find myself practicing my pliés while picking up my kids’ socks from the floor, doing relevés while washing dishes, and, occasionally, even pirouetting across the kitchen floor.

Recently, we got some new hardwood floors in our house. The day before we moved our furniture into the empty room, I put on my ballet slippers, called my eight-year-old daughter upstairs, and handed her ballet shoes to her. For the next half hour, we held our own private class, leaping and pirouetting across the open floor. After we tired ourselves out, we both agreed that we wanted to do that again!

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Registration for the Madison Area YMCA fall session programs began on Tuesday, August 23 at 7:30PM for members both online and in person. Open registration begins on Tuesday, August 30 at 7:30PM in person only. All fall session programs begin on Monday, September 12, 2016. Ten-week sessions of Adult Ballet classes are held Tuesday evenings (9/13-11/15/16) from 7-8PM, or Wednesday mornings (9/14-11/16/16) from 9:15-10:15AM. Sessions are $100 for members; $236 from non-members. For more information, visit www.madisonareaymca.org