Several years ago I was taking a class in counseling women as part of a post graduate program I was in at the University of Vermont. At one point the professor asked us first, what profession we each most admired, and second, what profession we each would choose if we were given a “do over.” There were probably a dozen women in the class and if memory serves me, eleven of them said they most admired dancers and they wished they could have been ballet dancers. (Maybe one or two admired and wanted to be classical musicians.) I felt kind of like an oddball when I said I most admired writers, but when we went around again to say what we would have liked as the idealized profession, I said I would have really loved to have been a publisher. Psychologically, this was supposed to demonstrate that I have a strong identity as a nurturer. I don’t know if that is true, but it is a subject for another post. Right now I want to explain why I am not a dancer.
So it’s really not a secret to anyone who actually knows me. I trip over my own feet. I have little to no sense of balance and an impaired awareness of my body in space and motion. My attempts at anything athletic used to embarrass my father and I was encouraged to be the studious one in a family that maybe valued athletic skills maybe more than academic. I’ve fallen off bicycles and skis more times than I can count. I was fired from the only witnessing job I ever had because of the spilling things on people and tipping trays of food on the floor. I would occasionally amuse students during my teaching career by backing into a chair or desk and landing on my bum right in the middle of some brilliant pedagogical point I was trying to make at the time.
I have scars to prove all this, if you think I exaggerate.
No it’s not a mystery why I didn’t end up a dancer, famous or otherwise, BUT that is exactly what my maternal grandfather envisioned for me on the very day of my birth. My grandfather was a Russian émigré of some education and culture. He was immediately convinced on viewing my little eight pound ball of a body for the first time that I would follow in the footsteps of the great Russian ballerinas he so admired.
And he wasn’t one for idle wishful thinking either. Before I could even walk, he had set up a foot high ballet bar across the middle of our living room--exclusively for my training as it must have been quite the inconvenience for everyone else. Then one day he found an old tennis racquet in the basement. This gave him (what he considered to be) a brilliant idea. He took out the useless strings and, yes he did, put the racquet over my head and settled it around my middle so he could train my wonky little legs to hold me up and twirl me around.
I blame being encouraged to stand, walk, and dance before I even learned to crawl for derailing something in my neural development. My grandfather thought he was training a ballerina. In reality, he was dooming me to the life of a klutz.
(image from PhotoXpress)