Context is everything

I can’t believe how different the last two classes were. They were a study in contrasts — it’s the same intermediate (or "advanced") class, the same barre, the same music, the same teacher, and yet this was Saturday:

and this was Tuesday:

It’s amazing the difference the mix of students makes.

OK, Saturdays are usually at a higher notch anyway because GJ and Sarka are always there. GJ is in her mid-twenties and is the most fit person I have ever seen in my life. She is so tight I think the bullets would bounce off her if you tried to shoot her.

Sarka is this lovely, long-legged 16- or 17-year-old with a lot of talent and a good number of years of training (she goes to another school every week as well as ours). She is model-beautiful and a darling girl to boot. (Her one foible is that she is always burning or abrading great swaths of skin off her feet through unusual mishaps (most recently, for example, frostbite on all her main toes), and they take ages to heal because of how hard ballet is on your feet.)

But in addition to these two, we had a new girl on Saturday, Ch., who seemed to be a friend of Sarka’s and about her age. She had also had a lot training — you can tell right away, even in the warm-ups.

So you know U. is really going to ratchet the class right up, because a new girl with potential always gives her fresh energy, and because for once she has this nice, small class and three young girls with a lot of strength and ability. Naturally, she is going to go to town. We had the usual barre, but U. cracked the whip, throwing in demi-pointe and double-time at every opportunity, and there were no breaks between exercises, not even 30 seconds.

It’s weird the effect this has on my personal workload in the class. I could basically slack off big-time, if I wanted to, because U. is only going to give me the most basic corrections every once in a long, long while so she can concentrate on these limber young things and find out how much she can get out of them. Perversely, instead, I wanted to "show the new girl" that I have some meagre ability, and some understanding of ballet, that I’m not just some old lady who’s going to slow down the class… so I am going full out.

Well, I went full out for the first three-quarters of the barre, and then I slacked off when we were doing the right leg and Ch. was facing away from me.

My legs were so heavy Saturday night and Sunday.

On Tuesday night, it was me, Marleesha, White Swan, Snow White and Andromeda. It’s been ages since Andromeda has been to this class, although I think she’s been to the Thursday class or the earlier Saturday class.

Snow White is very serious and White Swan is fairly serious, but, when Marleesha and Andromeda are there as well as White Swan, it’s going to be a pretty social class, with lots of chat, lots of rest between exercises, lots of bailing out of exercises, complaining about body parts.

With this group, it’s all U. can do to get everyone to follow a few steps of each exercise, so she just basically roams up and down the barre demonstrating, and shouting, "Shulldas, bewties, shulldas!"

But this kind of class puts me under a really harsh spotlight, because now, in context, I rise to the top echelon and U. is all over me like a dirty shirt (she’s even more all over Snow White, but only one other person to distract her is not enough of a break). I’ve got to work, because she is going to poke, smack and holler at me endlessly.

Lately when this happens — when she does turn the klieg lights on me — I can tell that I’ve surprised her — she can see that I’ve been working on something when she wasn’t looking. It fires her up a bit and then she really pushes me.

Theoretically, you want this kind of attention from your teacher… but, in RL, it will keeel you.

And so, on Tuesday, stone-leg encore:

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