It has become clear to me that although I love running, my refrain from doing any other kind of activity has caused a lot of problems. Going to spin classes was my big push to branch out of running, but other than that I’ve done nothing else besides one soccer game a week and shooting hoops for an hour about once every other month. I plan on going to yoga a lot, but I inevitably sleep through it or am late or find some other reason not to go. For example, as of right now I’m planning on going on Friday at noon. Despite having this plan, I can almost guarantee you it won’t happen.
I have found one way to keep myself committed however: to pay for things. Once I’ve put down money I feel inclined to make the most of it. So I have done something relatively out of character for myself, and signed up for a ballet class. The impressive part is that I even went to the first one (and there has only been one so far).
I often do new things, go now places, meet new people, and feel really uncomfortable or anxious at first. Usually this goes away pretty soon and I get used to it. This was not the case with my ballet class. First of all, I’m taking it at the MAC, and I think it goes without saying how ridiculous their dress code is, and how hard they care about it. So I took it seriously when the website told me that I had to adhere to ballet class dress code, and wear a leotard/tights/ballet shoes. So on Tuesday before class, I went to a dance place and bought all these things. I felt extremely uncomfortable and embarrassed the whole time. I feel embarrassed right now writing about it, and I don’t even know why. Of course when I got there, everyone else was just wearing yoga pants or leggings and t-shirts. Nobody batted an eye when they saw I was wearing actual ballet clothes, but I still felt stupid and left my shirt over my leotard.
Dance-wear aside, ballet is really hard. I’m not going to even talk about all the ways that it’s hard for me, because it’s hard for me in every way possible. The only thing I have going for me is that a lot of people tell me I look like I do ballet. Obviously they only think that because they have not seen me try to do ballet.
My dance history is relatively short. It started at age 4, at which point it lasted a month. I was in a ballet class, but I was the only kid who couldn’t touch their toes, which I think is where I became instinctively embarrassed in dance situations. The dance school moved me into the younger class (which, when you’re 4, means going to a class with 2 and 3 year olds), but that was also difficult for me because they were learning a whole routine and I was several weeks behind. I promptly quit.
In the 6th grade I loved P.E., so of course I wanted to keep doing it for the rest of middle school. But none of the other girls felt this way, so on the first day of 7th grade when I went to P.E., I found that I was in a class of 28 boys, myself, and an 8th grade girl with about 15 piercings in her face and looked very scary to me at the time. I quietly asked our teacher if any other girls were in the class and he pointed at the scary girl and said “YEAH THERE’S ANOTHER GIRL RIGHT THERE.” This made everyone look over and stare at me, and my gym teacher was really creepy and everyone talked about how he sexually harassed young girls, so again I was extremely embarrassed and my mom somehow got me switched into the dance class. Middle school dance was pretty fun, we got to put on shows to 5ive and Michael Jackson, so no complaints there.
Then came a seven year gap in my dance career, which ended in Sri Lanka, where I chose to do Kandyan Dancing for my independent study. Almost everyone in the program took a dance class twice a week before then, and then we put on a show for the host families. It involved some pretty great costumes:
During my independent study I went with my friend Amberlee to live at our dance teacher’s home. Our dance teacher, Peter Surasena, is the greatest Kandyan dancer in the world. This was pointed out to us a lot. While this is an amazing accomplishment and he was an excellent dancer, I’m pretty sure that nobody outside of Sri Lanka does Kandyan dancing, so the emphasis on best in the world often felt like overkill.
Surasena had us dancing several hours a day, and practicing the drums an hour a day. We were always exhausted and I got bursitis in my shoulder (Surasena proclaimed himself a genius doctor when he “cured” me with the Japanese equivalent of IcyHot). It was definitely the most physically intensive independent study we could have chosen. Yet this was probably the time in my life when it felt most natural to dance. Of course this may be because everything I did felt slightly strange because I was being stared at the whole time by everyone, and it especially felt more natural to dance in comparison to how it felt to run in public there.
When I was in Sri Lanka with this group of 20 other students, there was a total of 50 Americans in the entire country. We stood out. Running isn’t exactly the country’s favorite past-time, so when we would go jogging in groups around town and to the University, we stood out even more. Pretty much every male we passed would yell at us, “HELLO WHERE ARE YOU GOING!” This one never ceased to confuse me. I asked my host parents if this was a normal question, and did they actually want me to tell them where I was going? They told me to say “GO TO HELL” and then they started laughing hysterically. I was still confused. Sometimes we would get small kids riding along side us on their bikes. This also made me uncomfortable. In addition to the 5,000 calories I was being force-fed every day, the whole being yelled/stared at whenever I ran didn’t make the situation easy, so I didn’t work too hard in terms of training while I was there.
I’m so happy to be back living in a place where I look just like everybody else and nobody ever thinks anything I ever do is strange. Just kidding. But thinking about running in places like that does make me really appreciate the supportive running community we have in Portland. Hopefully I’ll soon find an equally fantastic community within my three person ballet class.