Back to Ballet

At the time that I was singing the likes of Queen of the Night, Ophelia and Philine in concert in NYC, I had serrendipidously moved from four years of Horten at Alvin Ailey (an incredible place to study modern dance) to ballet at Steps with a great Russian dancer and teacher  who I will refer to as Mr. F.  This man is a genius technically. 

And for six months I managed to keep up with the advanced intermediate class with him as teacher.   I had found the beginning ballet class too slow.  During that time I studied in his class I found the sheer attention to posture and how the body works mechanically a revelation in terms of how much better I supported when I sang – not to mention how much more free my vocal production was.

So needless to say as I am reconstructing my new voice, I went back to his class, and Mr. F  is just as wonderful a teacher as before and the class is an inspiration for me on all counts.

So to celebrate my rebirth, I thought it time to ditch my modern dance togs and buy some new ballet togs, so I went to the one hosiery store in Astoria on Steinway Street that sells all sorts of incredible undergarments  AND ballet togs and shoes.  Granted, I didn’t look like much in my heavy winter puff coat – complete with a funky wool hat and mittens.  When the sixty-ish sales woman greated me, she said, “Leotards for your daughter or you?”  The look on her face telegraphed that she thought I just emerged from the ooz of Jurrasic Park.  I said “for me” and was met with a withering glance – and we made our way to the leotards – and then had to work through my sizing issues.  She could not have realized under my coat that I had a very trim body  so I have to forgive her nettlesome tone of  voice. 

Once we got past the togs, we then went to the shoes.  I have three pair of ballet shoes at home (my old pink ones are about ready to fall apart) – all three pair say 8M.  She pulled out a stool and I began to try on ballet shoes.  Clearly the new shoes she had in stock ran very small.  Through a process of laborious trying on, we arrived at a 9-1/2 M – at the rate we were going, I had fully expected to walk out of the shop with a pair of ballet shoes that would fit one of the stars of the Ballet Trocadero de Montecarlo – they looked that big.  The saleswoman said, “But you are wearing heavy socks – the young girls want them tight and they don’t wear socks.”  And I countered, “Well I do wear socks and always have.”

When I got home, I held them against the old shoes – and soles matched the old 8 M, but there was all this extra soft leather over the top of the foot to pull up with the adjustable strings at the toe of the shoe.  I managed to tighten them to my foot.

What I had not anticipated is that the extra shoe leather – not to mention the soft sueded sole – was going to give me grief in class on Saturday.   The barre was fine, but trying to land an easy pirouette was a very literally sticky deal, so I ended up hopping at times rather than wrenching my knees trying to spin on the floor with what felt like a big wad of bubble gum under the balls of my feet.  Of course my ineptitude was noticed.

After class, another younger girl and I were talking to two incredible male dancers who danced like Greek gods and left the rest of us in the dust in our class.  I asked them how to break in a very sticky pair of new ballet slippers.  And the dark haired one said, “Just wear them around the house all the time twist the ball of your foot with the shoes on.  They will get slick and fast in time.”

I have taken his advice, but I am bringing my old shoes to class next Saturday just in case my shoes aren’t slick enough by then.

I had a great rehearsal this morning – and the ballet is certainly helping me and I love Mr. F’s class.  Onward and upward… sh


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