“Point and flex, girls. Point and flex.” My daughter’s ballet teacher bent down to correct the angle of one little ballerina’s foot. Then she continued, “Point and flex, girls. Point and flex.”
The girls line up along a line of tape. No talking, no laughing. These girls are disciplined. They wear identical lilac leotards, pink tights, and tight hair buns. Their posture is extraordinary — no adult I know can stand as tall and straight as a seven-year-old ballerina in Miss N’s class.
Finally it is time to push aside the bars and practice their leaps. They start with grand jetes. They fly, graceful and fearless, and land with little thumps and big curtsies. My daughter peeks at me and grins. She doesn’t doubt herself for a second.
I have a sudden wild hope that she will always be like this. That the inevitable thumps she’ll encounter growing up won’t rattle her so much so that she leaves her joy at the door and starts worrying about falling on her face and what other people think of her.
When I was seven and living in New York City, I was a ballerina too. I remember my teacher and her thick Russian accent and her walking stick. We thought she was ancient, but she was probably no older than fifty. I remember the grand jete and the joy in advancing from black leotards to pink. Back then, we drew pictures of ourselves getting married in big white puffy dresses. I would have two children, a boy and a girl. We would live in a brick house.
I achieved all of that. But I never imagined anything like the last several years of my 16-year-marriage. I never imagined a divorce. Absolutely never with children involved. And I never imagined how much my spark would flicker and fade.
A wise friend warned me not to project my life onto my daughter. There is no way to predict her future, or her thumps along the way. My thumps are completely irrelevant when thinking about my daughter’s future.
Besides, my friend reminded me, I seem to be landing better again.
We could all learn something from my daughter’s vision of ballet: You start with the basics and practice and practice. Every detail counts. Later you get to fly. The thumps don’t matter — it’s the trip through the air that counts. You hurl yourself forward into the air, poised, head held high, and willing to bend.
I hope that my beautiful girl always sails through the air, with that grin and abandon.
- Let’s Practice the Grand Jeté! (millicentmouse.wordpress.com)