I took my ballet kit to work eight weeks ago. It was the first step. But then things got in the way – tight deadlines and writing and winter colds and socialising. It stayed in the bottom drawer of my desk where I should keep my filing, a piece of pink elastic just poking out.
The class on Tuesday wasn’t on at an ideal time and I had too much work to do. But I’d failed to go for eight weeks and so it was time. I wasn’t prepared. I borrowed a hair bobble from a colleague. Bought a bottle of water on the way from a corner shop near the old city-centre neighbourhood I lived in for a while. The smell – newspapers and hot lino – reminded me of those working summers. Office jobs I hated and empty university accommodation.
My old ballet bag had no tights in it. They must be somewhere else – the airing cupboard, maybe? – so I wore my office 120 deniers with a leotard. It didn’t matter. Long gone were the Royal Academy tights and sleek buns. An adults-only class consisted of women in white sports t-shirts and a man in purple leggings.
The man on the front desk was theatrical. I had forgotten about this world. Not the suited world of the law or the thoughtful, serious world of writing, publishing. No – something else entirely. The dance world. The half-sung sentences. Flamboyant gestures as he took my £5.20. The ‘and-5-6-7-8’ he said to his colleague as the till paused then sprung open.
It had been seven years since I last danced, kitchen tendus and Justin Bieber at friends’ weddings aside. Seven years during which I – yes – had been bedridden for one, but also the rest. All the things I’d done since then. Become a lawyer. Got a cat. Written some novels. Bought our house, all by ourselves. In all that time I hadn’t danced. It seems strange to me to consider that now.
And yet. I put my water down on the floor. Straightened up. Rolled my hips. My hand placed itself on the barre. Lightly, like a butterfly just momentarily settling before taking flight again. My old ballet teacher’s voice was in my head immediately: it’s meant for light support, not to be gripped. Thumb up.
The music started. My body knew what to do. I felt my spine pulling up like a piece of string. My arms rounded at the elbows, supported but not rigid. My leg developeed to the front, lower than it used to go, but it felt the same. And – just like that – there were no clients, nobody requiring supervision, no complicated agreements to draft. Not even any writing. Just the music and me.
Ah yes, I found myself thinking. And I am a lawyer and a reader and a writer and a friend and a girlfriend and a daughter but – remember that? Those fifteen hours a week I spent at ballet school for my entire childhood, my adolescence, the first two years of my twenties, gone in a puff of smoke, obscured by glandular fever. There was another me, there, too, hiding behind the big things, the main things. The dancer me. It was nice to see her for a while.