I walked into an empty foyer, the heavy fluorescents washed out the looming Swan Lake poster that greeted us in the entryway. The smell of cigarette smoke wafted through the air as an old bespectacled man peeked his head out of an adjacent room; he blinked at us for a moment before asking in his thick, Russian accent “may I help you?” His appearance – the worn out button down tucked into high-waisted jeans and old sneakers – suggested he was the maintenance man.
“I’m here for the adult ballet class?”
“Okay. Come into office for paperwork.”
He ushered me into the office, and I quickly scribbled my name and information, handed it in, and settled into one of the benches outside the studios. I pulled out my ballet shoes from the bag draped across my shoulders, and changed into the worn out pink flats. From my seat on the bench I could see through a window into the studio; the silhouette of a dancer stretching gracefully over the barre stood out against the muted sunshine streaming through the dusty blinds. I left my things on the bench and slowly wandered through the open door of Studio A. The only person there was the figure I had seen through the window, a tall lanky woman, dressed entirely in a slim black ensemble, arched eyebrows, dark thick eyeliner, hair pulled back tightly into a bun. She introduced herself – she was not the teacher as I anticipated, simply another student. Several more students drifted in, and at 5 minutes past the hour, the maintenance man walked in and closed the door. The air about him changed he stood in the front of the room. With feet crossed in perfect turnout, arm raised high, he lowered into a bow… Class had begun.
The first day of ballet class, I mistook the instructor for a maintenance man. The first week there, I learned I was nowhere as good as I thought I was, and within the first month, I went from being slightly terrified of my very Russian instructor to having the utmost admiration and respect for him. Ballet has quickly become the focal point of my gap year, and it's unexpectedly become a learning experience unlike any other.
If someone were to ask why I like ballet so much, there's no quick answer. I like some of the jumps and twirls and combinations, but it's so much more than that. It's determination, focus, flow, joy, elation, disappointment, and hard work. It's meeting new people, becoming inspired, and having your ego knocked down and built back up again, and constantly striving for improvement.