During this past wednesday evening’s class, a curious phenomena occured – (fully grown) spectators peering in at us through the enormous studio windows. I specify “fully grown” because children observing us, their little faces pressed against the glass, are neither rare nor unwelcome. All the spectating children I’ve seen have always looked so awed, even by our beginner-level barre exercises, and it’s super adorable when they then try to mimic us. But as for the adults, I have mixed feelings.
The first set of spectators were a middle aged man and woman. They were walking along the sidewalk in the busy downtown district where the studio is located, and stopped at one of our windows (the studio where I take evening class has wall to ceiling windows that face out to the sidewalk). While they are by no means the first people I’ve ever noticed slow down or stop, they stayed at the window for an unusually long time – about 3 or 4 barre combinations (yes, both sides). At some point the man made detailed hand motions to the woman which made it obvious that they were discussing the dancer’s legs. Then the woman started trying to copy some of the movements. Eventually, they came into the studio’s lobby, possibly to ask for information about how to join the class. So, hopefully we were inspirational and got some new people hooked on ballet.
The second set of spectators was a trio of skateboard-riding teenagers or young adults. They sat on a nearby bench and gawked, also for an unusually long time. It was a bit awkward, and it felt a bit like there should have been a tip jar or donation box or something. I considered asking E Teacher if we could let down the blinds, but ultimately decided not to, as I figured the reason they were open in the first place was to promote the studio. The difference between this past class and all the other preceeding weeks is the time of the sunset, I think, and while before it was bright both in and outdoors now the studio’s lighting obviously stands out in the dark of the evening, drawing them in like moths to a flame.
As luck was on my side, it was the day of the easy class and I’m glad – while they may have been staring at our bodies, at least they weren’t watching me making a fool of myself. That sounds like I may have my proirities of of whack, but it’s the way I feel. If I can’t tell the truth on my blog, where can I?
And as it turns out, I do have something to compare to, so I know how it feels.
During the first semester of ballet, I was in class one day and my First Teacher suddenly announced that we would be having visitors – an entire dance appreciation class! With no prior knowledge of this, I was in a state of numb shock as I took my place at the barre. While F(irst) Teacher gave us the option to stand at a barre in the furthest corner from our guests, I was too new to be in a “leading” position at the barre and stuck to the middle. That and I was still too surprised to move.
It was at around the midway point of the semester – my first ever – so we were doing some things at the barre that were getting to be too advanced for my very beginner self. While someone without prior ballet training may not be able to recognize correct form (like completely pointed toes, a correct passe or coupe, or the correct shape of an a la seconde arm), things like not balancing, tenduing a la seconde when everyone else tendues front, or having the wrong hand at the barre are obvious signs that you are lost.
However, in the relative safety of the barre, it was not as terrifying as my mind would have made it, had I known about this previously.to be honest, I would have probably ditched class that day.
But the real fun came in center. During barre, possibly part of the reason I sucked so much – because by that point you’d think that I would at least have known what hand to put on the barre to start with – was because rather than focusing on what I was doing or F Teacher’s instructions I was obsessing over the horror that was to come in center. I prayed that we would have easy combinations, hopefully nothing involving running and jumping. Or balancing. Or developpes. Or pretty much anything other than demi plies and tendues either devant or a la seconde, since that was about the extent of my center ballet abilities without tipping over at that point.
I don’t remember the details; either I have repressed them or simply time has taken a toll on my memory, this being my pre-blogging days. So while I would love to tell a humiliating tale of public embarassment, I can’t. However, since I know that right down to the last day of my first semester I couldn’t balance on anything than two flat feet or do any ballet moves at all without the barre, I know it must have been some of the clumsiest attempts at ballet ever witnessed.
In a way though, I’m so glad I went through that. If I could get through that disastrous first semester of ballet, with it’s multiple visits by dance appreciation classes – yes, it happened again, more than once – I could get through anything.
By last semester I was feeling more confident when our dance-appreciating visitors came by as I have improved quite a bit. Still, it did not help that at time the students act like they don’t want to be there appreciating us, at times texting or passing notes. I remember Strict Teacher even kicked out a couple people that had been snickering during one of our center routines.
This semester, so far, we’ve had no visitors. I’m glad. I still prefer if there are no adult spectators in ballet class.