July 19. The word is ballet.

Nutcracker. Mikhail Baryshnikov. White Nights. These are things I think of when I hear the word ballet. I picture ranks and swirls of people moving in concert so fluidly and so gracefully they might well be a flock of birds or a school of fish. Speed and power, discipline and a severe, stripped down beauty in unison. The floofy costumes and the extremes of it have never appealed, but I confess I do love me some glitter hair gel.

I wanted to do ballet with a terrible fierce want when I was little, like oh, sixish. I didn’t want to be a dancer, exactly. Perform? NONONONONO. Did Not Want.  I especially didn’t like tutus. (Scratchy!)

But the spinning and stretching and being allowed to move? Getting to wear soft shoes and tight, smooth unitards like the people on Star Trek wore? A special place to belong, with gleaming slick floors and spicy smells, and mirrors everywhere?! (I have a fascination with reflections) All that AND the opportunity to be praised for doing things right?

Oh, how I wanted that.

Later roller skating, martial arts and gymnastics were added to the list of “things lucky other kids get to do.” Why did I never do them? I knew from Adult Talk around me that they were Expensive Distractions From School, and also (I was told later) my parents “never knew I had any interest.”

As it turns out, avoiding those activities was likely a good thing for my health. Given my body’s invisible limitations and the lack of knowledge/caution in those long-ago days before genetic testing and studies on the ways exercise affects young, developing bodies….I would have ended up  bent like a pretzel with joint injuries by college.

Still and all, when I see dancers their beauty has an added magic for me: the fantasies of a road not taken.



Word provided by Cathy Torgerson