“I wonder who our teacher is.” *Excited ballerinas talking*
“Do you think it will be Mara? *More anxious discussion…*
Maybe it would be Oleg or Karen today!” *Wondering girls… Curious girls…*
“Class is at 5:30 today, right, girls?” Low voice speaking with a definite uniqueness to it. Bold and Russian. Can’t be Mara or Karen… Glancing up, we decided that our whispering had just come to a halt. Oleg was the answer. YAY!
“Yes,” all of us non-sweaty ballerinas answered his simple inquiry. Soon, that statement would be wrong! Ballet class and Oleg equals sweat! Knowing Oleg, we answered his question quickly, for we knew better that he wanted a clear answer. While rehearsing for a show at the stage a while back, Oleg spoke in his Russian voice,
“Yes, girls?” he was trying to make sure us shy ballerinas understood the critique, and he kept repeating that until an older dancer spoke up, and said,
“Yes!” Why was saying that so hard for us? I’m not quite sure, but that jiggly feeling in my stomach was what I remember when his demanding words were nagging on us.
Our actions were a mixture of giggling, shuffling, and nervous chattering as we entered the long room, lined with brown barres we would soon be resting our fingertips on. Although, “Barre Gripper” is a description that sometimes happens, too. Unintentionally, our hands will grip the barres for balance, and sometimes we are told for just pinkies on the barre! That’s when the crunches we work to accomplish before ballet comes in handy. Sometimes the barres are sticky from the class before, other times smooth like a lucky rock. Ms.Melissa, once a soloist in ballet, my regular ballet instructor, was out of town. Oleg, the ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, was going to be our guest teacher for that amazing Friday class. Little did we know, Mara, Oleg’s beautiful wife, (also artistic director of the ballet school) would be watching the class! Like a hawk… I’m telling you! Even though only the younger children had to actually audition for “The Nutcracker,” I assumed that the class was their chance to evaluate us for parts in the big production. Especially because four total hawk eyes were watching us, and casting was to be up soon, the pressure felt at 110%.
Our barre combinations were rather similar to typical sessions that day. Working as hard as I could, those simple combinations felt harder in front of Oleg’s eyes! I could tell that he was trying to be gentle, but it’s hard with his strong voice and tall figure against us young dancers.
All from starting with plie, my mind was instinctively thinking, “Head out, palms up, ribs in, no arched back, (banana back in honor of Ms.Karen) feet turned out, pointed toes! As I went into fondu about midway through barre, I imagined Ms.Melissa stating,
“Melt, melt, quick!” Melting into plié, and exploding with your leg, until it’s completely straight!
Checking off a grocery list at the store is what it sometimes feels like! All of those thoughts were rumbling in my head as I noticed Mara standing in the doorway… watching the class of less than 15 total girls. *Ca caw, ca caw!* Just…. like…. a…. hawk. A hawk with silky dark hair, and a graceful body, and beautiful eyes…. so only her eyes were like a hawk! Otherwise, with all her prettiness, the closest I can describe her to is a mermaid.
Sometimes I wonder if she grew up feeling what we were feeling then. Those alert eyes you’re trying to impress so much, those legs that just won’t turn out, she always seems to want us all to make it. Success being not for Mara, but for us!
We had almost made it through barre! I survived. Thinking that with hope, Oleg announced with a bit too much enthusiasm, “Now for torture!” Then I remembered…. Adagio… the balancing act of all those thoughts constantly being checked off, plus the strength and flexibility of raising your leg.
Legs feeling like jello, sweat trickling, our piano player hit the last note in the song, and… DONE! Apparently forgetting to breath much throughout the combination, I formed a big exhale of air.
Finally! WATER BREAK. Whatever you want to call that moment I had been pushing for all through barre…. A new kind of liquid. The water, thankfully, not being the sticky sweat that smells like the sock you forgot to wash. Imagine that dripping down your forehead!
As we worked through center engaging our core even more, I kept on striving to do my best. Just a half hour longer…. 15 of those minutes in jumps. Tiring, torturing jumps. Each jump being weighed down by Mara’s and Oleg’s eyes inspecting us… evaluating us… seeing our strengths and weaknesses. If I had gone on much longer with the jumps, I would’ve turned into an Oompa Loompa! Gladly, I had stopped myself from slurping too much water, so it I didn’t feel like a bucket shifting, full of water! That’s not a fun feeling in jumps.
All of us breathless ballerinas scurried up like little mice at the end of class.
“Thank you,” we would all say as we curtseyed.
“Thank you,” Mara and Oleg would reply. The exchanging of “Thank you” statements were all customary after our sweat sessions.
After I hustled to pull on my coat, my tired legs dragged me up to my mom.
“I’m going down the elevator!” I told her, meaning we were planning to meet downstairs. That was also a regular statement happening after ballet class. Breathing heavy, cheeks a dull pink, and mind 100% on thoughts of dance, particularly “The Nutcracker,” my body inched toward the elevator. Processing what had just happened, all of us athletic dancers excitedly talked at once.
“I think that was our audition!’
“That was awesome.”
“I am tired.” we always say we’re tired, but it’s an enjoyable kind of tired. The brand of sore tired…. where you feel like you accomplished what you came to fulfill.
Stepping into the cool air, looking out into the beautiful night, I just remembered how amazing that had been. Thoughts and corrections floated through my brain, and turned into mental notes of how to be better next class.
“Palms up.” I recalled, racking my brain for what specific way Oleg had adjusted my hands.
Joining my surroundings again, I heard Solveig saying, “See you in like 12 hours!”
“Okay, bye!” I love that feeling when I get to rest up nicely, and dance all over again! In about two weeks, that’s when the magical posting is up! Party girl, here I come!
Thanks for reading my personal narrative, the intense class a couple weeks ago! I’m currently a party girl, (Yay), and am about to excitedly post soon about Nutcracker rehearsal from the day on Halloween! Stay tuned, I look forward to sharing the process of this big production! -message from fondufondue