WC Ballet Is No Easy ‘A’

By Sarah Keating
Elm Staff Writer

I embody mediocre athletics. I go running to burn off last night’s beer consumption and I ride my bike to Dunkin’ Donuts. I keep my stomach flat but don’t push myself with grueling medicine ball crunch routines because I leave the job of abdominal definition up to the airbrush artists on the set of my photo shoots. For the past three years, I have been losing the annual family 5K race and blaming it on a non-existent injury.

My athletic work ethic (or lack thereof) is one of the reasons I took a swing at high school golf. (My boarding school required a spring sport.) In choosing an after school activity, I followed the motto of an underachiever: “Glory with limited to no guts.” I wanted to be decent at a spring sport without having to exert too much effort. I sought to find a balanced ratio of minimum labor intensity and maximum natural skill. Golf not only offered better outfit choices than crew’s unisuits, but there was also less of a physical requirement. St. Margaret’s School golfers do not have to participate in daily warm up runs or a timed mile; music to my pearl earring-adorned ears.

I applied the same slacker mentality in fulfilling my requirements at WC. During transfer student orientation, I sat in the dean’s office as we toyed with my schedule. In the checklist of fine arts requirements, I surmised that Studio Ballet 101 was the obvious alternative to Art History. Plus I was seduced by the opportunity to wear a leotard and a billowing tutu.

While the dean was mentioning the suggested prerequisites such as previous ballet experience, I was envisioning the standing ovation I would receive at my final recital. The dean asked me if I had experience and I impulsively blurted “Yes.” Mentally, I was referencing my ability to do a handstand and yoga as the qualifying qualities of a ballerina–and boy, was I wrong. My dance “experience” consists of night clubs and reenacting music videos in my basement. However, I did not let the details of utter inexperience tamper my overconfidence for what I thought would be an easy A.

On the first day of class, I was rudely awakened from my pipe dreams of ballet superstardom. I was belittled, seeing that my classmates were obviously accomplished in the hairspray-dependent world of tap, jazz, and lyrical. As we took our places at the bar, I have never felt like such a protruding sore thumb. Not only were my abilities below the class level, but the other girls’ black wardrobes were contrasted by my metallic, Tin Man Halloween costume-like leotard (my sparkling leotard can be equated to a B-team benchwarmer trying out for the varsity soccer team wearing a Pele jersey).

My disadvantages in the dance studio were compounded by my general lack of the French language. Every time the professor demonstrated the choreography routine, I immediately jumbled the steps in my mind and pranced around like a schizophrenic wildebeest on hot coals. While the rest of the class effortlessly performed the routine, my teacher coaxed me along.

I never took ballet seriously, quietly mocking the girls who pranced across the stage with their twinkling toes. But do not let their smiles fool you. Ballet is grueling.

I left class with my feet blistered, my arms aching, and my calves clenching to the point that I looked like a waddling penguin. I thought the class would boost my GPA, but my interim grades demonstrate otherwise. According to my advisor, I can raise my lowest grade by accentuating my arm movements and consciously pointing my toes each time they leave the floor. In recognition for this labor intensive class, I deserve more than four credits on my transcript.

My ballet crisis could have easily been avoided if I had taken the six seconds to read the class description instead of being charmed by the possibility of a textbook-less class. But with my anticipated improvement, I am on the way to earning the stripes of my leotard.

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