Thursday, January 25, 2007

I've started swing dance club, and I'm really enjoying it. I don't know what I'm doing, but I feel like it's something I could really be good at and have a lot of fun, too. And I miss dancing. Oh, I miss dancing.

I started dance when I was two- almost three- years old. Mom enrolled me in a class at the YWCA, and she said she was pretty sure I'd be good because I was really graceful as a kid. I don't even remember starting dance, I was so young. I do remember some lessons in the room of the YWCA, watching myself in the mirror while I danced, holding the barre-on-wheels in my leotard, tights, and tiny black ballet shoes (only beginners generally wear black shoes). I loved dance. At one point I tried a session of gymnastics, and I liked it, but my parents tried to limit each kid to one major activity when we were little, and I decided to stick with dance. I learned ballet and tap from a lady named Heather for a few years, until her student clientèle got so small (me and one other student) that she quit teaching.

Heather recommended two studios in town- one owned by her former teacher, and one owned by a lady she had studied with under the first teacher. Both were strong proponents of proper technique, and she knew both to be very good teachers. I went to the first studio for a lesson, but the class was terrible. The other girls were talking and misbehaving, and the dance teacher got so mad that she screamed at them and cracked her clipboard in half. I think I was about six at the time, and I was terrified of the old lady.

I visited the second studio with caution, but liked it much better. The teacher was younger, but obviously very experienced, and had a nice studio. She seemed like a good teacher, and very nice, and I started to take lessons there, from Kristie. (If you visit her website, which I just found, I'm in the second picture in the slideshow! So are a million other girls, but I'm still happy.)

I continued to take lessons from Kristie for about ten years, and during that time I met lots of friends from both my school and others. One, in particular, later joined my class in school, and is one of my best friends today despite living across the country (yay for Dominique!). I saw most of the same girls, who were about my level, at least twice a week for rehearsals. My honorary grandmother had always promised to buy my first pair of pointe shoes; apparently she'd danced when she was young and then quit, and had always regretted it. Finally, my dance teacher said I was ready to move up on pointe, and I was thrilled. Grandma Fran sent a check, and I was off to get fitted for my first pair of pointe shoes. After learning just the basics, my parents filmed a short video clip of me dancing on pointe to send to my grandma, and shortly thereafter, she died of cancer. Maybe not in person, but she did get to see me dance on pointe before she died, and that makes me happy. I danced on pointe as well as flat from then on.

One year I was in Stage Struck, the performing group. Quite a few of my dances were taken to the Indiana State Dance Championships (less of a competition, more of a place to get feedback from judges). We had recitals every two years. For about a year, I helped with a dance class for 3-year-olds. At one point, I started taking jazz (fast-paced, more modern dance... usually to pop music)... at one point, I stopped taking tap (it met on another night, and I couldn't drive yet, and Mom said three nights a week was just too much). I took a class in Cecchetti (a specific method and technique) and passed the grade 1 exam.

This isn't to brag; I honestly wasn't especially great at dance. Sure, I had some idea what I was doing and I wasn't bad, but... I took lessons for 13 years. If I completely sucked after that long, it'd be pretty sad. I had very few things in which I really excelled-- my back was very flexible, though, and my arabesques were occasionally used as an example (and, believe me, it was a high compliment to even be complimented, much less used as an example for others). Pretty much, though, I was the average to low-ability dance student in the oldest class, and I was okay with that.

Slowly, some of my friends left dance for one reason or another. The class mainly had older people I didn't know as well, and younger people who I got along with, but... probably one of my best friends in dance around the time I quit was 3 or 4 years younger than me. It wasn't an ideal situation, and as I added more and more activities to my schedule in high school, I started to dread dance rather than look forward to it. Eventually, I joined winterguard (where, ironically, my dance skills were praised to high heaven and I was utilized- my first year, at least- almost exclusively for dance parts, including a massive solo). Winterguard practices ended up meaning a lot of missed dance classes during a year where we were learning dances for an upcoming recital.

Finally, my dance teacher pulled me aside and told me that she didn't think I'd been there enough to be in the dances in the recital, despite coming sometimes and having already purchased costumes (which are usually about $50 each). She had a point; I'd missed a lot, and it would take a lot of time to learn the dances and get good enough to perform them. Still, it was a tough decision- like I said, as long as I could remember, I'd been in dance. But between having less friends in dance and not as much time and not enjoying it as much anymore and this... I decided to quit.

I don't really regret it-- I think it was best for me. But that doesn't mean I don't miss it sometimes.

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