The Importance Of…Taking Class

“…slower is faster if you practice every day with patience and correctness, you will get there. It’s like preparing for a jump. You can’t rush. You must summon the appropriate energy with split-second timing and have an understanding of purpose to get up in the air. It requires training, confidence and mental effort. You can’t have a vocabulary without the alphabet. Balanchine used to say, “Do you want to be a poet of gesture or do you want to be a physical entity?”
 -Edward Villella,
Masters of Movement: Portraits of America’s Great Choreographers

Truer words have never been spoken. Ballet is an agonizing game, yet also strangely addictive. No matter how much time and energy you commit, there’s always more that can be done. There’s no sort of holding point or “safe zone”, no short cuts you can take…no medals for technical accomplishments. If you did four pirouettes yesterday, you may struggle to do a clean “two” tomorrow, so tread carefully. Confidence high, but chin down, and “nose to the grindstone”, so to speak. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pre-professional star or Misty Copeland-you’ve got to go to class.

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Tudor rehearsal with Amanda McKerrow. Ballet Theatre of Maryland, 2013 (P.C. – Donna L. Epstein-Cole)

Lately, I’ve felt a bit alone in my undying love and pursuit of a daily ballet class. Not shocking, since we’re about to hit that dead zone season of the dance world, when smaller, regional companies have completed their seasons and ballet schools and academies are wrapping up the semester with recitals and performances. Everyone’s ready for a break. Schools are letting out, and it’s summer time, baby. But although I’ve tried to supplement the need for endorphins with other exercise, and also unintentionally taken long bouts away from the barre (last week, for example, when an abrupt case of late flu prevented me from taking my one class I had planned), my love affair with ballet carries on.

Even if the source of my problems is ballet at times, class is my opportunity for reconciliation and a reminder as to why I still come crawling back each time. With every plié I execute and every allonge of my wrist, I can leave it all at the door and simply stick to what I know. I don’t know what’s next, or even when I’ll take the stage again, but I know what I can find at the barre (pun somewhat intended). In the words of the wise character of Juliette Simone, from the now iconic Center Stage:

“The unwise dancers blame [others]. He didn’t like me…she was unfair…I should have had that part. The smart ones know where to look…when things get rough. It isn’t there. (Walks over the the barre) It’s HERE. No matter what happened in class, performance, last week, five minutes ago…if you come back here…you’ll be home.”
Juliette Simone, Center Stage (2000)

I’m never going to stop needing class. It’s not something I can deny myself…so I surrender.

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HOME at the barre. Class with Amanda McKerrow. Ballet Theatre of Maryland, 2013 (P.C. – Donna L. Epstein-Cole)

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