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I practically skipped into the studio and hastily tossed my belongings in the corner. The class had started already but I was bursting with anticipation and energy, fueled by fond memories. I thought coming back would be like picking up a bicycle for a nice long ride after many years.
It was nothing like that.
I started running again years before that day and it made me feel invincible. Strong. Capable of returning to anything, including dance.
However, dance was different. It required more than endurance, but memory and deep concentration. I needed to learn the dictates of a new instructor, complex moves and routines. Enthusiasm quickly became frustration, self-flagellation and ultimately worry about aging. I kept losing my place during the routine and although they had been working on it for weeks I expected to pick it up right away.
Why couldn’t I ‘keep up’ in this new class after describing myself as a dancer for most of my life?
I left feeling small, tired, beaten… the activity I loved no longer felt accessible.
I waited. I licked my wounds and returned the following week for the start of a new routine.
This time, I was a beginner in a class of beginners. After the warm up we went through step after excruciating step, repeating every movement. Although there were people surpassing me, everyone was learning together for the first time.
We all stumbled, felt unsure and frustrated…none of us were really dancing yet. We were still ‘learning’ (counting steps, counting counts, following the structure, barely hearing the music above the process going through our minds).
Week by week, my confidence grew. I found myself taking small box steps in the kitchen, catching my reflection in mirror while holding jazz hands, mentally reviewing the routine before bed. I practiced everywhere and asked questions in class, the way I did as a child. “Did you use your left foot? Is your hand open or closed? Did you lean forward or to the right?”
A few weeks into that new routine, I was really dancing. No longer agonizing over the routine, but letting my mind and body go, enjoying the music, adding my own style and feeling incredibly free…the dance-bliss I was looking for!
I realize now, that somehow, my childhood self really knew what would feed my soul and make me whole for life.
In the years after college, as I added more complexity to my schedule and my mind, the activities that defined my youth fell away one by one. Much like the dolls, stuffed animals and other ‘trappings’; I ‘put away’ dance, creative writing, singing, making music and art. I pushed them ‘aside’ with the hope that ‘someday when I had time’ I’d return to them.
Decades after taking my first class, with a stern silver-haired ballerina, I feel confident and more grounded with each new routine.
Have you returned to any childhood loves? I’d love to hear about it, leave a comment!
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