Sunday, September 05, 2010

Back to the Ballet

A few weeks ago, I was in total shavasana bliss at the end of yoga class--centered, peaceful, full of gratitude for the world--when the woman on the next mat over turns to me and asks, "Kelly?"

A bit perplexed, I answered, "Um, yeah, my daughter's name is Kelly."

"No, no--Donna Kelly--that's your name, isn't it?" I nodded, and the woman smiled. "Hon, don't you remember me?"

I searched her face. I'd noticed her before--partially because she was extremely flexible, despite being in her 50's, and partially because she always brought our yoga teacher fresh vegetables from her garden. But I just couldn't place her.

"'s Miss Kaye."

My heart almost jumped out of my chest as I lunged for her and grabbed her into a huge embrace. "Miss Kaye!?! I've missed you SO MUCH!!!"

As a little girl, I LOVED to dance. I would raid my grandmother's scarf drawer, arrange myself into some 4-year-old version of Salome, and flit up and down her driveway for hours on end (much to her neighbors' amusement, I'm sure). When I turned 6, my parents wisely decided to channel my energies into a more focused outlet--dance class--but they couldn't afford a standard dance studio (with all the recital nonsense that went along with it.) So they signed me up for tap and ballet at the Y.

Every Saturday, I'd line up at the barre with twenty other little girls--our jellybean bellies proudly displayed in our Danskins--and dutifully follow our teacher, Miss Kaye. Miss Kaye was all business in her severe bun and ripped tights, but I absolutely adored her.

Of course, being the early 80s, my classmates eventually jumped ship for gymnastics...until I was literally the only student left. Miss Kaye continuted to teach the Advanced class for another few years. She even had me over to her house one day when I finally got my pointe shoes, teaching me how to sew the ribbons on. And she managed to find some performance opportunities for me as well, as a "guest artist" in her friend's dance studio recital.

She moved, but we kept in touch through letters for years. But even after the letters stopped, I still kept her in my heart as a teacher who completely believed in me--and someone I tried to emulate with my own students. I never forgot her.

I also never forgot my love of dance--particularly ballet. I went on to dance in musicals for years, but it was just never the same. Whenever I saw a picture of Degas' "Little Dancer," tears would sting my eyes. Whenever I watched ballerinas perform, my own legs would ache as I mentally did the steps along with them.

When the time passed for me to actually be able to take ballet again, I turned to yoga. I actually took my first class at the same Y I had danced in, so many years ago.

And here I was, at a yoga studio in Broomall, sitting next to my dear Miss Kaye. It was miraculous.

And amazingly coincidental...because I'm about to return to ballet for the first time in twenty years! Back in the spring, I took Kelly to a "Mommy & Me" class at The Creative Living Room. One of the mommies, a former ballerina with the NYC Ballet, mentioned that she was teaching an ADULT ballet class in the fall! ADULT BALLET! Woo-hoo! So I signed up, bought myself a pair of ballet slippers (that was fun--being the only adult buying for herself in a sea of 7 year olds...), convinced my sister and a few girlfriends to join me, and here we go!

I'm nervous but SUPER excited. Letting ballet get away from me has always been one of my biggest regrets, and it's not often that you get to relive a childhood passion.

Much less meet a childhood idol. :)