Today I saw a photo of a graceful ballerina striking a pose on her toes and I was filled with longing.Yes, for one brief, shining moment in my long life, I actually danced en pointe. Well, to say I danced is a bit strong, but I took classes and I wore point shoes. I wasn’t terribly good at it. My turnout was lame and I only managed to sustain my pointe work for a few years. It still made for great bragging rights while it lasted.
I got really clever at finding ways to mention it. “You want to go dancing? Why, yes, I do take ballet. I’m en pointe now.” Somehow, my skills at the barre didn’t really translate to the club dance floor in the ‘70s. There was no call for battement sur le cou-de-pied while you did the Hustle.
There really is something magical about your first pair of shiny pink satin toe shoes, though. It is heady, knowing you have the strength in your feet and legs to perch up there atop little more than a layer of satin, cardboard and a puff of lambs wool. It’s a little like having a superpower.
Moving away from my favorite dance teacher and basic laziness were my kryptonite. It would require discipline I no longer possess to build up that kind of strength again. It would also require new body parts.
No matter how strong I might get, I would no longer be able to execute my favorite jumps. They are exquisite to see and really fun, but leave you on unpleasant terms with your knees and most of your other joints. But I can remember being able to finally do a series of petite batterie and finally executing a decent piroutte en pointe. It felt a little like flying.
In spite of it all, I am occasionally tempted to search out a proper ballet class and see if those muscles could be found again. I’m a little nervous though. All I used to need was some Epsom salts and a hot bath the day after class. Now it might require morphine and a winch.
Instead I’ll just Google some old Baryshnikov performances and rent “Turning Point.” My feet will thank me.
Jean Gillette is a wannabe, kinda-did, has-been ballerina and has the ratty old toe shoes to prove it. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.