Monday, May 19, 2014

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.  ~ W.C. Fields


Just a few days ago I got to meet an artist who I admire very much, and he was telling me that his wife is a dancer... a DANCER! That was fourth on my list of what I wanted to be.  

 MY LIST:

1.  a TIE - No, I mean I wanted to be an art teacher, 
     so art and teaching tied for the top spot.
2.  a singer (I do sing, but only in the car while I'm driving,
     and I'm really good when driving in a place filled with
     trees!  Well, at least they nod at me as I pass by.)
3.  writer - Thanks so much, Holly Knott, and Blogger, too!
4.  ballet dancer - I studied ballet both when I was young
     and when I was grown... It's NOT easy!  In fact, watch
     OUT because that's what I'm going to complain...
     I mean, write about now...

Being the tallest person in the entire Betsy Ross Elementary School's 6th grade, except for one boy who was obnoxious, wasn't the easiest position to hold. And begging my Mom to buy me a bra was embarrassing, too.

"Terry, you don't need a bra, yet!" she giggled.

"But Mom, everyone else has one except ME," I whined.

"Terry, why do you want a bra right now? You'll be wearing them for the rest of your life, after all. We'll get you one as soon as you need it," Mom assured me.

"But, Mom, at recess all the boys snap the girls' bras, and I'm the only one who doesn't have one..." I sobbed.

"WHAT?"

"Well, the boys run around at recess and come behind the girls and pull the back of the bra and it snaps back, and I don't have anything to snap... I just have skin!"

However, this flat-chested predicament is perfect if you want to take ballet. My tall, stringy, bra-less frame evidentally was perfect, according to my ballet teacher.  I loved her... She was so pretty and thin, with a lovely voice. You could tell that she was always trying to make her voice sound stern, but she couldn't ever hide the sweetness in it. She held a tall thick pole and tapped the floor with it as we did our exercises at the barre. That first time I entered the studio, I thought that pole was for beating us if we messed up, but it wasn't. It kept the tempo as we practiced to Tchaikovsky.

First, though, you had to master the five foot positions of ballet. Fifth position, the most difficult, consists of turning each foot out at a 90-degree angle from where it naturally faces, and then sliding each foot in front of the other in this intense turned-out angle. It's as hard to describe as it is to make happen!

I'd go home and practice all week after school so that I wouldn't be ashamed when ballet class started again. In our tiny, tiny house on Berryman Avenue, the best place to practice those positions was to stand on the brick lip jutting out of the bottom of our fireplace. That way I could hold on to the narrow wooden mantle, sort of like it was the barre. My brother, Jackie, would stand there and mock me and laugh, and then, being an all-around athlete even at his young age, he couldn't help himself... he had to try to mimic those five positions, too.

Now THAT was funny! Yes, Jackie could get into 5th position, and yes, he could hold that foot position, but to make that happen he had to stick his buttocks out as far as possible with his arms spread out like a dementend eagle's wings imitation, and I would laugh so hard... So hard that he would get mad and try to push me off my brick ledge... Yes, ballet practice for Terry Kingston at home was a curse for her poor Mother who'd have to run over to stop the chaos on a daily basis. Poor, poor Mom.

I really liked the French that our ballet teacher threw at us every week: arabesque, jete, plie, grande plie, changement. She said it so much that we all started to recognize what she wanted us to do. Between the French words, the romantic Russian music, and our lovely teacher telling me that I was perfect for ballet, well... I was in heaven. Then we moved to Connecticut, and ballet was gone from my life.

That is until I married, and Richard and I moved to our first home in Omaha, Nebraksa. Our very small brick Tudor house was perfect in my eyes. And our next-door neighbors became very close friends. Sheila and I were sitting on the porch step one day, talking, and I was telling her how much I had loved ballet when I was young. Sheila wasted no time in finding a ballet studio close to our neighborhood, and the next thing I knew, Sheila and I were buying leotards, tights, and ballet shoes for our first adult ballet class the next week!

Walt dropped us off at the ballet studio that evening, and in Sheila walked with me right behind her, fairly confident and greatly excited. And there SHE was... Betty Jean! She wasn't a copy of my first ballet teacher by a long, stony mile!

"Who ARE you!" she screamed at me! "Where is your BRAAAAAAAAA? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!"

"My bra....?" When I had gotten dressed for our new ballet class before we left, I'd been a little perplexed about that, myself. To bra, or not to bra... Yup, that WAS the question... But to me, having bra straps hanging outside of those thin spaghetti straps on my leotards was tacky! And besides, even though I was a grown woman, I wasn't even a quarter as well-endowed as Sheila. Of course, Sheila MUST wear one, that lucky lady! But me????? There would only be women in the class, I surmised, so what's the dif? Big HUGE "dif" I found out. Sheila was welcomed into the class whole-heartedly. I was yelled at and sent back to the dressing room to "cover" myself.  Big problem there... Who tucks a spare bra into her purse, I'd like to know?

"I don't have one with me," I whispered.

"Don't you EVER come here again without a bra on, EVER!"

Humiliated, I oozed into the studio, sidled over to the rear of the barre as close to the very end of it as I could get, and looked into the floor-length mirror. I was so embarrassed that I'd turned red from my checks to the end of my fingers. Thankfully, the tights hid the rest of that red tinge.

The weeks passed, and I had bought some skin-colored bras to satisfy me and, most of all, Betty Jean. That seemed to soothe her, and that ought to have been good, right?

Unfortunately, Betty Jean thought I had good hand positions. My hands are not pretty... never have been. They work well, and that's all I ever wanted of them. Both of them have even been taught to throw mashed-up empty lunch bags into gargabe pails from a good distance away without missing, even when I use my off-hand. (I've mentioned this before, but I am still very proud to make the basket with my left hand, everytime!)

This hand position part of the ballet was new to me, and I found it to be the easiest thing to practice in all of ballet. All you do is turn on TV to something good, lay comfortably on the bed, stick both arms up in the air, and practice. I could do it for hours, and I liked what I saw! I could do that all night, too, because I was teaching high school art, and all my grading was done before I'd leave school at 4:30 or so. Perfect! The great thing about ballet hands, too, is that no one sees them close up!

Well, Terry, what's "unfortunate" about that? It brought Betty Jean's attention my way, that's what's unfortunate about that, thanks for askin'!

"ARABESQUE!" Betty Jean shouted to the class in her less than soothing voice. Well, I arabesqued. I could do it because I still remembered my early lessons. I was still the tallest in the class, and my limbs were longer than the rest, I guess. My hand postions were good, too. It must have been something like that because Betty Jean called the class to look at my arabesque.

Then she raced over to me and grabbed my ankle in her meaty hand, yanking my entire leg up higher than it was ever intended to go... and then, a scosh higher than that. "This makes it even BETTER," Betty Jean announced. "TADA! See, Terry!"

I saw nothing but stars, but I felt the pain! Man, I FELT it! Betty Jean with a triumphant smile had nearly been able to dislocate my entire leg out of its own socket. I couldn't scream, because Betty Jean would have hit me with HER tempo pole, probably. When she let go, that leg wouldn't come down. For a quick moment I thought, how'm I gonna get outta here. Sheila'll have to help me hop, but my leg won't fit through that door in its present position...

"Now THAT'S an ARABESQUE!" shrieked the triumphant ballet teacher.

I, on the other hand, gave up my place at the barre, and, if I remember correctly, that night when Walt picked Sheila and I up, we went to the "local" to find a seat for a peaceful glass of wine. At that bar, there was no shrieking permitted!

2 comments:

  1. Terry and I have been the very best friends for over 30 years, and the ballet lessons were just ONE of the most hilarious adventures we had together. By the way, Betty Jean, the instructor, was quite well endowed herself, and I always wondered how she succeeded with the NYC ballet company, her clain to fame. ow did her boobs fit into those leotards she must have worn? And believe me, I was no exception to Betty Jean's wrath. "Sheila! Your foot! Your foot! Please point that foot... or is it broken?" Terry and I ad several "after the barre" stops at the bar, as I recall, laughing at the positions Betty Jean had put us in before the class was over...

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  2. Remember when we went to that elegant dress shop at the Warehouse District and they gave us champagne with a huge strawberry in each glass? After 2 glasses of that, you bought the most alluring outfit, but I bought one that never even fit me! What champagne does to my psyche! :}

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