I would rise from sleep at about 9 AM every Saturday morning with eyes as wide as saucers. I was already running out of time. I had to sneak around in the basement to get my tights, leotard, and tutu clean. I would wash and dry 3 items alone, a tremendous waste of water and energy that enraged my bill juggling father. He begged me to think of these things before the weekend. Somehow, however, every Saturday I managed to get it all together in enough time to warm up and stretch on the barre by 11AM. Sometimes I skipped the laundry session and wore my red leotard. My ballet teacher might make a small mention of my violation. The uniform was black leotard, pink tights, and black tutu.
The verbal warning about my rule breaking was nothing compared to what was in store for those girls that arrived late. The disciplinary action depended upon the teacher. Terry was a red-headed fire storm often heard before seen. If our plié wasn’t deep enough, or we wrenched our shoulders up in fifth position she would scream to the top of her lungs.
“Noooooooooooooooooo! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
Late girls were met with, “WHY ARE YOU LAAAAATE!”
It was more of a statement than a question that could be followed up with any reasonable explanation. The rise of her voice would still the piano player pressing out the slow melody for our beginning stretch. He would look towards Terry asking with his eyes if he should continue. Tino, on the other hand, was a Latino, dramatic, skinny dance teacher. He made flouncy references to his imaginary watch for every tardy ballerina. He followed up his performance by cueing the piano player. While we all leaned on the barre the offender would respond to Tino’s snaps, and the quick music, by jumping 100 times in first, second and fifth positions.
I thought about all of these memories while I sailed up route 395. One of the only dance studios that offers adult classes is many miles away in Bethesda. I was going to be late for class. How late is too late? It was already 15 minutes past the 10 AM start time. Disgusted with my own inept abilities with time management I turned back towards Virginia. I was really upset I had missed my class. I realized why when I finally made it to class on time the next weekend. I didn’t have dance slippers, or a leotard. I looked like I was on my way to do some aerobics but I didn’t care. I didn’t need to show off like the guy stretching with his legs up against the wall and his back on the floor, like he was giving birth. Seriously? We are all washed up dancers. The last time any of us could kick up to our head was 1992. Who are you faking for dude? This is a beginner class. I ignored the showboat and took a sigh of relief with every bended knee and pointed foot. I was back to basics. Back when I was young I ate, sweat, and lived for ballet. That was my only concern. I didn’t have bills, a job, or adult worries. The dance teacher came to observe the new student taking her class and nodded her head in approval.