A Mom, a Leotard, and the Lesson of a Lifetime

A Mom, a Leotard, and the Lesson of a Lifetime

One mom shares how she took a risk and danced out of her comfort zone.

By Wendy Robinson

I can still remember every word from the moment I learned I’d never be a dancer. I was in third grade, and I went to my mom with a catalog for community education classes. In it, I had circled “Beginner Ballet” and, in my mind, I was already imagining how I would look twirling across a stage in a poufy pink tutu.

My mom glanced at the catalog and said, “I don’t think so, sweetie. You aren’t really built for ballet.”

Though she was probably right (I did have to get my first training bra not too long after that conversation), I was crushed. I never asked to take a dance class again and, over time, I came to think of myself as a person who couldn’t dance. I actually developed kind of a fear of dancing in public, so much so that I didn’t even dance at my own wedding.

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a tumbling class for my daughter in the community education catalog online when I saw the listing for “Adult Beginner Ballet” and found myself adding it to my cart. I felt a tremor of fear about it but decided that 25 years is long enough to wait to take a class I always wanted to try. I was feeling pleased about my bravery, and then I got an email with the subject line, “Dress Code.”

I assumed that I could just wear my usual exercise outfit of yoga pants and a baggy t-shirt so reading the words “tights” and “leotard” set loose a wave of second thoughts. Me? In a tights and a plus-sized leotard? In front of actual people with actual eyes?


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For nearly an hour, I sat with two screens open on my computer: one to drop the class, one to buy the gear. I’m many things: a good friend, a reasonably accomplished professional, a loving mom … but in that moment I was 10 again, worried I’d be laughed at, that the skinny girls, the pretty girls, the good dancers would make fun of me. It would be so much easier not to go.

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But I went. At first, as I sat in the waiting room with the other dancers, I found myself sizing them up like competition. Who looked like she’d be a good dancer (the willowy blond in the corner?), who weighed more than me (nobody), who seemed nervous (me, me, me)? But then I got a hold of myself, reminded myself that none of us are actual ballerinas, took a deep breath and walked onto the dance floor.

We started with some gentle stretching and started learning the basic foot positions and postures. In the mirror, I watched myself starting to stand up straighter and my arms floating almost, well, gracefully above my head. We started learning how to jeté and I looked up and caught a glimpse of myself, sweaty but smiling. I didn’t do everything, or maybe even anything, perfectly. I couldn’t keep time with the music. I mixed up third and fifth position. I forgot to wear a sports bra and so discovered why ballerinas aren’t usually D cups. But I danced and I loved it and I can’t wait to go back.

When was the last time you broke out of your comfort zone?

Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.wordpress.com.

Image ©iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

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I think it is so great that you did this. I actually teared up a bit reading this.

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