The leotard still fit, although I hadn't worn it since college. Uncomfortable in the clingy Lycra, I covered the outfit with my sweat suit. Even in my youth, my body was not a typical dancer's frame. Certainly now, after fifteen years of eating peanut butter sandwich crusts and half-eaten cookies, these outer clothes were an essential part of the outfit. Gathering my new ballet shoes, I gave early bedtime kisses to my children, and continued on a fast paced exit from the house.
The ten minute drive was enough time for self doubts to build into anxiety. "What am I doing? I'm not a dancer anymore. I haven't bent or stretched outside of housecleaning and child's play in a decade! I'm making a fool of myself." But it was too late. The new dance studio in town was owned by the mother of one of my preschool students. My talkative nature had revealed my love of dance, and before I knew it I had registered for two classes: one for my daughter and one for me. There was no way out of it now.
I parked in front of the old building, focused on the ridiculous notion of spending the next hour in "beginner ballet." As I looked up to the second story window my doubts quieted down with a heartwarming glimpse of my past. From the street I could see dancers' arms, rounded and precise, reflecting in the mirrored wall. Ascending the stairs, forgotten familiarities surrounded my senses: the smell of new leather, the allegro music, the bustle of a class dismissed, and the anticipation of the next one to begin.
Once inside the studio, reality conquered fear. There were no perfect bodies. No prima ballerinas. Just women - moms like me - taking new ballet shoes out of boxes: Each one desiring to discover, or rediscover, movement for the purpose of expression. Piano music invited us to dance. Left hand on the barre. Feet in first position. Plie`.
I remembered. My mind recalled the positions, and my body cooperated more easily than I expected. Muscles lengthening… stomach pulled tight… shoulders relaxed… chin up… Breathe. It took only a few inhales for the transformation to begin. Who was that girl who once danced? I'd missed her, and the truth was that with each demi-plie` I was becoming her again.
Driving home, I did not have to question my bittersweet tears. It wasn't only the dancing I had lost, but now rediscovered. It was breathing. Had I even taken a breath in the last fifteen years? With the simple act of inhale and exhale, I came alive, and I could dance again.
I entered the house ready to deliver the second round of kisses to my sleeping children, and took a deliberate deep breath. I was pretty sure that I would remember to keep breathing now, but just in case, I put an oxygen supply in reserve and began my jete` up the stairs.