No, not the fancy-pants drink you buy at coffee shops. I am talking about the ballet term, a word that means "to strike" in French, and involves hitting the floor with one's foot. Intentionally.
I started taking ballet when I was in second grade. It was my extra-curricular activity all through elementary, middle, and high school, the way many people played soccer and softball. It's hard to tell how good I was; for the studio I danced at, I suppose I was in the top tier. I briefly switched studios my sophomore year, where I fell the back of the class in soft shoes, but got to move up when it came to pointe. Go figure. (I had to take six months off after I sprained my ankle walking down a flight of stairs. The doctor asked me not to dance many more. Ever. I went back to my former studio after that, to finish off my high school career.)
After high school, I stopped for many years. I was a broke college student, and then there weren't really any adult classes in the area. I wasn't such a beginner that I needed to be taught the positions and how to plie, but I was out of practice in a pretty deep and fundamental way.
Four years ago, I found the studio I am at through the friend-of-a-friend. Talk about your learning curves. It quickly became clear that I did not remember nearly as much as I thought I had. Also, the seventeen-year-old ballet mind could not really get the twenty-seven-year-old's body to cooperate. Still, I was dancing again, so I made the best of it, cried occasionally when I felt like a failure, but was glad to get out of the house.
Year Two saw me taking the leap I didn't think I ever would again--I put on pointe shoes. Two years after that, I still can't do anything without holding onto the barre (well, except walking), but I do look damn good up on those shoes.
I am not very good, I have decided. I can't spot during turns; I really have trouble breathing, smiling, and dancing all at the same time. Also, I can't get my arms and feet to move simultaneously. (This has always been a problem for me, but being out of practice, and older, has made the discrepancy more pronounced.) My instructor takes this all very seriously, and can be more than a little intimidating on a show year. I respect her as a teacher, though, because I know what she goes through with her classes, and I just hope I only mildly disappoint her on any given Wednesday.
I will continue dancing until there's a real reason that I have to stop. I'm thinking ACL surgery or really bad arthritis in my ankle, both of which are distinct possibilities, given my joint health. Tonight I will go and make a fool out of myself trying to do assembles, turns, and bizarre arm movements. My instructor will look at me and shake her head in disapproval; I will come home and probably have a Charlie Horse in the middle of the night. And I will do it all again the following week.
I am a pretty, pretty ballerina, damn it.