“Move over, ballerina,” my instructor said impatiently as I was attempting a takedown during hand-to-hand practice. “You’re taking these little steps and going nowhere,” he continued. “Take one big step around like THIS,” he said, swooping his leg around into a low stance and swiftly pulling the other student to the ground.
“So I can’t do little pique turns?” I said, grinning and waggling my eyebrows. He rolled his eyes and stalked off.
Little bit of trivia about me: for about three years in college I was a dance major. I wanted to learn dance so badly that I immersed myself in it the first opportunity I had. Seeing as my dad changed his major to art and later became a college art history and painting/drawing teacher my parents didn’t have much room to protest. I absolutely loved everything I was learning about the art and science of dance and the surprising things I was learning about myself in the process (because even back then I was an introspective little hippie always searching for deeper meanings and life lessons. Maybe I could have had a blog called Little Black Swan).
My taekwondo instructors and classmates like to tease me when I do something that’s a little too dancey like rising up on my toes during a transition in a form instead of staying low and stealthy, that one time I did a tour jete instead of a flying turning back side kick, or, much to my instructor’s annoyance, taking dainty, twirly little steps during close contact self-defense. It took months just to train myself to keep my chin down during front snap kick. My dance training did come in handy when I told my young partner, who takes ballet in addition to taekwondo, that looking at your target before executing a turning back side kick was like spotting during pirouettes. Her face lit up and she immediately improved during her next kick.
So THERE, guys. So there!
Here’s the funny part—I hated ballet. I wasn’t very good at it. I felt like a clunky, broad-shouldered, thick-waisted jock amidst the other students who had been studying dance for much longer than I had. Ironically the picky attention to details that so frustrated me in ballet would later appeal to me as I studied classical guitar and taekwondo technique. Meanwhile I was all over modern dance. My athletic build worked well with the modern style, and besides, you could just make that sh*t up and no one was the wiser.
Early into my final semester in college I had my 19th nervous breakdown after a particularly bad day in ballet class. I dropped all my dance classes except one, changed my major to English since it was just a matter of swapping my major and minor, and got the hell out of there so I could start graduate school, where I had another nervous breakdown that motivated me to drop all my classes and change my major to library science….which led to Career Number One…which led to Grad School Part Two…which led to Career Number Two and all the awesome things that have happened since then. So in a way sucking eggs at ballet was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I think it’s funny that ghosts of my past lives continue to float around in my body. Somewhere inside me resides a dancer even though I have denied her existence for nearly fifteen years. Other people, like my taekwondo instructor, recognize her presence before I do. Even deeper is that pensive, moody, quiet girl who spent all her time reading and drawing cartoons. Anyone who knew me during those years still sees her lurking in my eyes. And somewhere deep in my heart is that serious, determined ten-year-old kid who fell in love with taekwondo and found her calling. It’s nice to bring her back to the surface.