back to ballet class

IMG_1819I’ve always been a visual artist. From an early age, I’ve always drawn and painted. However, I would say my connection with dance was even earlier than my budding interest in visual art. You see, my mom was a professional ballet dancer. She danced with Yvonne Chouteau, one of Oklahomas’ ‘Five Famous Indian Ballerinas’, as an adolescent and then again at the University of Oklahoma. She was one of two dancers in the state to receive a full scholarship to the San Fransisco Ballet and also danced with the Philadelphia Ballet Company, as well as other companies in New York. After graduating college, she was an artist in residence, teaching hearing impaired children to dance. She was a teacher for a long time. However, her residency through the Arts Council of Oklahoma City transitioned into a full time position as Director of Public Relations. So, her early career as a dancer morphed into a lifetime career in non-profit.

But, what I remember most is her dancing. I wanted to be just like her, dancing in pointe shoes, and wearing tutus. So she enrolled me in class. I adored it. I took all kinds of dance, but ballet was my favorite. As I grew older, I got more serious about my classes. Again, I took all kinds of dance, but ballet remained my true passion. I loved the nature of the movement. It’s very controlled, yet graceful. You’re contorting your body in dramatic movement, but holding all of your muscles in place at the same time. It’s like controlled chaos. I also loved the discipline. You’re never allowed to talk during class. You can’t slouch, or lean on the bar. You’re expected to remember combinations. You have to be there physically, and mentally. I actually credit ballet for my strong work ethic {and good posture}. By the time I was seventeen, I danced at two studios and my high school. I wanted to attend the University of Oklahomas’ ballet program to pursue studies in dance.

Unfortunately, I was sidelined by a pretty serious bone spur on my left foot. I was terrified of surgery, and let it go too long. I couldn’t dance on pointe with it. I still took regular ballet class. By the time the spur was big, it hurt to walk, let alone dance. I had my surgery and was forced to take a full year off. It was devastating. I tried to go back after recovering, but the damage had been done. I had lost all of my strength and flexibility. Although I still loved dance, it was a tall order to regain my former stature in a short amount of time. So, I quit.

I changed my major in high school to visual art. I also changed my career path to landscape architecture. Instead of OU, I attended Oklahoma State where I attained my degree in landscape architecture. Throughout school, I missed dance, but never took any classes. By the time I graduated, taking class was always in the back of my mind. However, I never investigated places to dance. That desire grew, though. By the end of my tenure at my office job {more about that later}, I was chomping at the bit to take a barre. I stumbled upon a little dance studio called ‘Everything Goes’. They offered adult ballet in the morning and the evening. I never looked back.

My teacher, Tomma Lou Brown, actually danced with my mom at OU. She is a patient, methodical teacher who builds a class around the limitations of an adult body. I mean, I still wake up sore the next day….and sometimes, the next day. But it’s a good sore. It’s a nostalgic feeling that I welcome. The classes build in difficulty and intensity throughout the semester. I have to say, I surprise myself with what I can still do. It’s also another creative outlet for my art. I interpret my own thoughts on canvas everyday. I love going in and interpreting her combinations with my own style of technique. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to work out, and get back to my roots a little bit.

Is there a hobby or sport from you’re past that you’re itching to rediscover?

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