I’ve been taking adult basic ballet lessons with the Jo Emery Ballet School this summer (and tried a modern dance class thrown in for good measure). I’ve been documenting my foibles, dramas, and comedy as I work through the learning process. Throughout my experiences, I’ve fallen in love with dance for a lot of reasons, but one of big ideas is that dance is MORE than just dancing.
I’ve been studying my comprehensive guidebook, “Ballet for Dummies.” Yeah, the title of the book is silly and eye-rolling (even though it fairly accurately describes my beginner-ness), but I must say it’s a well written, easy to use guide, full of good humor to boot. The French history roots of ballet along with the French terms for the dance steps, has brought my French college language lessons back to life. By studying the glossary and looking at the pictures, I am much better able to understand what I am doing at lessons. And as ballet has evolved, the deep traditions remain (the ever present French words, ideas, and concepts of ballet, along with classic ballet choreography layout).
And along with the deep roots of the art, is the STUFF. Like the dance clothes, the hairstyles, and the shoes. I am particularly fascinated by those gloriously beautiful and beguiling pointe shoes worn by the advanced dancers. In fact, last night at class, one of my favorite fellow dancers (a pretty sweet-natured young dancer with gorgeous long hair, who is just a delight to watch and who I attempt to follow along with when Teacher Jo isn’t demonstrating steps) wore pointe shoes and danced on her toes. It was really beautiful. I learned from my book what pointe shoes are made of and I desperately wanted to touch her feet. She’s kind enough that she’d probably let me, but I am weird enough as it is, and I suspect I don’t need to be any weirder.
But what certainly isn’t weird is what dancers do with their dancing in their lives. Jo Emery has nurtured many dancers over the years; some have gone on to amazing professional dancing careers and others have pursued other passions, but keep dance as another love to do for fun. Whatever, her dancers decide to do, you are one of Jo’s dancers forever and she’s proud of all of them. That pride showed through on my Wednesday night class when Jo, the grand dame lioness, welcomed one of her lion cubs back home. I met Mark Nelson, local boy, a Jo Emery dancer, and Wilson High graduate, who is now the pilates director for the acrobatic, artistic, and dazzling Cirque Du Soleil productions in Las Vegas. He’s also critical in rehabilitating injured performers, like an aerialist that took at 20 foot fall (YIKES!). He works specifically with the Cirque productions “Zumanity” and another upcoming show, “Believe.” To train these performers, you must be the best of the best and fit as a fiddle. Mark, looking DECADES younger than his actual age, dancer lean, and muscular, was jovial and clearly enthused about his interesting job.
And in the short time I’ve been taking classes, I’ve met interesting people and enjoy delving into the overall world of dance. I’ve danced alongside marathoners, nurses, biologists, ballroom dancers, and dentists. I’ve also danced next to local principal dancers and up and coming younger dancers. And despite it all, I have been welcomed into their world.