Once a week I take a ballet class. It’s for grown ups. It’s hard to find dance classes for grown ups. There are so many of us that “used” to dance. As young girls it was almost expected that we dance, but as grown women it is expected that we stop. It is generally assumed that we are no longer able or that we are just not worthy of watching anymore.
When you are a young girl, youth, beauty and grace are almost synonymous with donning a tutu and taking to the stage. As a grown woman, unless you are a professional, not so much. When I started dancing again a few years ago after about a 15 year break, I got rolled eyes and sniggers from more than a few less-than-understanding friends.
The class is lead by a small, surprisingly limber, older woman. I don’t know her age. Her grace and passion for what she teaches make it difficult to tell just how old she is. (And really — what does that matter anyway?)
As the classes begin each week, our bodies creak and crack and moan. Our legs, which once raised above our waists now hover at 45 degrees on a good day. Our feet, which once turned out so easily are encumbered by rickety hips that complain a lot more than they used to. Our shoulders catch and our backs aren’t as strong, but each week we come to class and we work and we sweat. Each week we stretch and we strengthen and we move.
On the surface, maybe it seems silly. I have certainly gotten that reaction from people. Why would middle aged moms and grandmoms want to don leotards and prance around in front of the mirror every week? Maybe people think we are trying to recapture a lost chapter of our lives that just doesn’t exist anymore.
But in that room, even though our legs don’t go as high, even though our backs don’t curve like they used to, there is a strength and beauty and grace that didn’t exist when we were young girls. We are women now. We have seen things. We have done things. We’ve birthed children. We’ve cared for elderly parents. We’ve lost people. We’ve experienced life — the good and the bad.
Today’s world is so uber focused on the beauty of being young. Being physically beautiful when you are young is easy. It is so difficult to maintain a sense of beauty about yourself as you age. Your legs aren’t as smooth as they used to be. Your face is weathered and your belly is soft from having babies. In today’s world, physical beauty is valued above all else. As you age and these things slip away, it is too easy to feel that your place in the world no longer has any worth. It’s too easy to stop trying because society thinks that you are invisible or that what you have to offer doesn’t matter.
And so each week we show up. Each week we persist. Each week we come back, and we stretch, and as the music starts, it’s not about recapturing our lost youth. It’s not about staving off inevitable old age. It’s about moving, and feeling, and dancing. It’s about celebrating the women we are and becoming the women we will one day be.
So we dance. We dance for ourselves, we dance for each other, we dance for our children and our families and our lives. We dance for the past we once knew, for the now, and the future we are creating.
And it’s a beautiful thing.
©2016 Krysta Bernhardt. All Rights Reserved.