I started my ballet classes today. I woke up at 8am for the occasion. If you know my sleeping habits, that is no small sacrifice. I found a dance school in the Marais that offers drop-in classes in adult, classical ballet. It’s the beginner’s class, and they call it debutante, which I love. It makes me feel fancy, as though I’m preparing for some type of societal debut like in Gossip Girl.
I took ballet as a girl, but I started too late to be great at it. As I got older, I realized I didn’t have the technique or the body type to be in my town’s company. I just had the passion.
I’ve always been in love with everything about it: the graceful movements, the beautiful music, the dramatic stories, and of course – the costumes: crowns, tulle, sparkles, and tutus! I found a way to work these things into my day to day outfits, but it’s not the same without a spotlight and a stage.
So I gave it up in order to have the time to pursue other passions in high school: choir, theatre, football games, model UN, boyfriends. Occasionally I’d take out my pointe shoes and pirouette around the kitchen. Since I knew I’d never become a prima ballerina, or even have a decent role in a local production, I never really regretted quitting. But I did miss it.
So I began a tradition of going to the ballet every year on my birthday. I’d splurge to sit up close marveling and leave saying how desperately I wanted to take ballet again. But life always got in the way.
This year for my birthday, instead of getting tickets, I got classes. I decided this month of love and passion should be about self-love, and pursuing passion for me. And with gyms being a scarcity in France, it would be the perfect form of exercise.
So this morning, I sat on the edge of my bed putting on my pink tights and felt fifteen again. I walked to school with my new ballet slippers in my bag, my hair in a bun, and a ridiculous smile plastered on my face. I arrived at the school and walked up two flights of white, marble stairs to la salle Bethoveen. Each room is named after a famous composer. The class is taught entirely in French, and something about taking class in the language the art form was founded in makes it extra special. The studio looked right out of a Degas painting with scuffed floors and ancient, painted, wooden beams above. As I stood at the barre for the first time in fifteen years, my heart fluttered in a way that it never has for any man, and I remembered what real passion feels like.
It was crazy to me that my body just knew what to do. The music started and my arm and head moved with it instinctively into a port de bras. Phillipe, the pianist, began to play and we moved through our stretches, plies, tendus, jetés, and finally grand battement. I listened to her explain each combination in French and took in my reflection in the mirror. I was euphoric. Why had it taken me so long to do this?
In this quest to create the life that I want, to create the version of myself I that I should have become long ago, I am fearlessly pursuing what brings me joy. Sometimes that means trying new things, and sometimes it means going back to your roots.
When I got home, I wasn’t ready to take off my leotard just yet, so I put on Tchaikovsky and danced around my living room – balancé and développé and arabesque – pretending I was Odette in Swan Lake, and then Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and then Kitri in Don Quixote.
I never had the body for ballet. I never had the technique. But I had the passion. Today I remembered that sometimes passion is all that really counts.