So I have had twelve ballet classes and now I have a choice. Do I repeat Align 1 or Align 2 or do I leap into an Open Class where the assumption is that you have a pretty solid basis what a ballet bar is and and can take some challenges.
Even though it had been thirty years since I’d struggled through a class my excitement and perhaps hope/delusion led me to take the leap into an open Align 2 class. I knew it would be fast and more challenging but hey I’d had twelve classes over twelve weeks, bring it.
Michael Cornell had hired a new teacher and had sung his praises. His name was Bjarn Hecht and had been the principal dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet for ten years. Apparently he was all about the arms and head.
Bjarn is in his 50’s with a perfect dancers body. I believe I remember hearing that at first he thought it was a ridiculous idea to teach ballet to adults but has since been won over. He has been dancing since he was a little boy and it all came easily to him. He moves like a dream. When he hits a perfect postion it’s as if the lights in the room have been turned up a notch. It makes you understand what physical geometry is about. And he wants the arm and head working in the classical way right from the first plie.
By the third exercise my brain was tired from trying to keep up and I felt that horrid feeling in the centre of my chest, thobbing confusion followed by shame leaving me overwhelmed and lagging behind, I felt like crying. I scrambled to keep up but it was too late as I had slipped off the calm and clear perch I had walked in with and was swimming around in a panic.
My hand, sweaty with fear clung harder to the bar, my vision blurred as I looked around for someone to follow so I wouldn’t look like a fraud. But I wasn’t a fraud, I was a student, and I was in the process of learning. Bjarne wasn’t criticizing me, no one was judging me (not 100% certain of that) they were busy with their own concerns. Sure I was overwhelmed but I was doing what Michael believes in, making the shapes as best I could, focusing on how I get from position to position, knowing that my brain would wire them in. Not today but someday the language of ballet would come easier.
Neuro Plasticity is now a thing, even though the brain was capable of doing it for years before it was ‘discovered.’ What we are told about how are bodies work informs us so much vs. what it actually is. A nod to those outliers who live beyond cultural expectations. How much can the aging body respond? How much can I persist? Yet to be known.
Bjarne, asks us to focus on ‘the dance’. Reach, extend, have a story. And I am touched by how truly he delights in moments of grace we manage to exude. He is a Master teacher.
Next week will have dancers come to our class that are fresh out of an Align 2 workshop. I have seen them, they are a bouquet of wild flowers who are thrilled beyond to be doing ballet. They have the outfits, they have the awe, the laughter and an amazing camaraderie. They even presented Michael with a bouquet when they finished their workshop. Come to us ladies, you will be in good hands.