Friday, 23 March 2012

Dancers at the Stretch Class


Whilst I am still basking in the general bonhomie of last week's encounters, I must confess with some pride that I was able to admire the trim, toned and supple bodies of two young dancers who joined our (mostly geriatric) stretch class at the gym one day - without the least shred of envy. Well, perhaps just a teensy one. They happened to be next to me, you see, so I couldn't really help stealing the odd glance from under my armpit, blatantly ignoring our instructor's voice reminding us that 'stretch' is not a competition and we must on no account compare ourselves with others.  Indeed, to do so is fraught with physical danger as I have discovered to my cost on those occasions when I have strained some muscles when trying to emulate the perfection of others. This time though, I could just admire when we were told to sit up straight and spread our legs as far as "is comfortable for you": most of us were at a comfy 90 degrees and then there were these two nymphs - 180 - I kid you not, apparently with the greatest of ease.  Then we had to "lean over to the left, hold your foot and try to bring your face down to your calf".  This manoeuvre is clearly impossible for most of us, who are hard put to it to persuade our creaking backs to deviate even slightly from the vertical but what a joy to behold these two young marvels of physical perfection. It does make me think of a remark I've heard often before:  "We've all had our turn" at youth.  Mine was pretty good, come to think, except that I never made it in ballet.  While most of my friends passed their ballet exams with Distinction or HIghly Commended, my results were always just "Pass". Once the examiner read out her comments:  "M must learn to co-ordinate her arms with her legs".  I was so mortified at the image I conjured up for myself (that of a stick insect on its back, limbs flailing in the air), I gave up ballet for good.  Funny what remarks remain crystal clear in your mind 48 years later.

7 comments:

  1. Yes memories of the negative remarks can stick with you a long time. I have always sucked at math. When I was going to college, one semester I had 4 A's and of course an F in technical math. Taking the math I should have only taken 3 other courses. Oh hell it wouldn't have made any difference, the wiring is not there. My teacher, a retired navy captain, told me that I had no business attending college and that I should immediately quit and join the military. Do something honorable and useful with myself and not waste valuable educational resources. He spoke with no malice, just a matter of fact based on my performance in his class and his judgement of my character based on years as an officer in the US Navy.

    Well I took the class over with another teacher, missed a B by a few points and managed to graduate with honors.

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  2. I can so readily identify with your ballet woes! I was a very enthusiastic, but nevertheless fairly untalented dancer in my youth, too. I remember a teacher, remarking to another teacher in my presence "I can't stand it when mothers want their daughters to be in classes with their age mates, no matter how untalented they are. Oh, hi, honey! How's your mother these days?" I wanted to sink through the floor. I hadn't realized how less able I was than my age mates until then. I kept thinking that if I just practiced enough, I could catch up. I used to practice an hour or two a day after classes, wanting so much to be good. But it simply wasn't enough. It's true that some remarks cut so deep and stay with us all our lives.

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    1. It's a great relief to realise that some of us have shared identical experiences! What's wrong with our memories these days though: I have tried to learn the 3 verses of our National anthem several times over the last 10 years - just can't seem to do it.

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  3. I'm so impressed by your going ... voluntarily , I suppose ? .... to a stretch class at all !
    I didn't really ever see myself as a ballerina , when I was seven I briefly thought that I would make a wonderful Irish dancer , given the right shoes and a headful of red ringlets .
    But I was totally stage-struck for years till it dawned on me that the drama teacher's kind remarks about my nice speaking voice weren't quite the ringing praise needed for a career in Hollywood .

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    1. Giggle! I have always dreamed of being on stage - but always too shy! Just couldn't compete with the self-confidence of 'theatre types'. To this day, I would have loved a career somehow connected with stage or movies. (I needed a 'stage mom' - which I definitely didn't have). My best outlets have been directing school plays (which I loved) and reading several books for Tape Aids for the Blinds. I really enjoyed that.

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  4. NB - Our stretch class caters (gently for the most part) for those over 50. The music is soft and beautiful. The two dancers were definitely temporary guests for the day, I think. Actually, stretch is the nicest class at the gym - absolutely no aerobic stuff (which makes me wheeze and go red in the face.) So we love it: ideal for our aging limbs.

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  5. Isn't it funny how comments from such a long time ago is still crystal clear in our minds-- I have a few that surface every now and then.

    Hope you're having a good weekend, jj

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