Keeping Me on My Toes
By Isaac Escovedo, Reporter
Dance studios have mirrors on every available surface, which is great because I can see how clumsy I look from every angle. On a cold Saturday morning, I walked into the Blue Heron — home to one of Vashon’s ballet schools — and prepared to show off my lack of flexibility. Juniors Tamsen Henry and Mia Kuzma agreed to run me through an hour and a half of ballet, and I had no idea that dancing could hurt so bad.
Dancers wear leotards and tights, and Kuzma had spiced her look up with a pair of leg warmers. I found myself wishing I had brought my own because in my pants and t-shirt, I felt wildly out of place.
“I started dancing when I was three,” Henry told me. “Starting at a young age didn’t burn me out, if anything it made me like it more.”
From watching them warm up, it was apparent they had been dancing for years. As we moved out of the warm up, things got confusing. Dance moves with fancy French names like arabesque and baguette were named one after the other and briefly demonstrated without repetition. Ballet felt like math — I could do the first step but got lost two more steps down the line. <span
However, unlike with math, I was taught a new unit every five minutes.
“My memory is A+,” Kuzma said, and it’s no surprise.
Having to memorize new routines wasn’t easy for me, but after 14 years of practice, these athletes had no trouble. In so many sports it’s easy to cheat, especially early on. Practicing proper form feels optional and unnecessary, but in ballet, proper form is the most important part. As we worked through the exercises, parts of my body felt out of place. First it was my feet, so I focused on straightening them. As soon as my attention shifted to my feet, my arms started flopping around. Dancing felt like juggling seven separate balls at once.
“It feels like you don’t get much better cause you don’t know where your body is and you don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like,” Henry told me as we moved our feet in strange archaic patterns on the floor.
It was reassuring to discover that everyone who danced went through the same struggles as I did, and I realized how easy it must be to make connections with fellow dancers. Kuzma corroborated this realization.
“You create a lot of friendships here,” she said. “When I come to school, I’m like, ‘Oh, there’s all these people from dance.’ It’s also like, if you meet strangers that dance, you have this automatic connection with them. That’s what brought me in.”
Ballet is as hard as any sport I’ve played, and the emphasis on form and precision makes it an equally large mental challenge.
I’ve always loved the physical aspect of sports, but the importance of form has always escaped me. Just one ballet session shifted my perspective enormously, and I almost can’t wait to get back in the studio… almost.