Back at the ballet

We spent last Saturday night at the Staatsballett Nuremberg. This was our first time seeing them and our first trip to the opera house.

The tickets were given to us as a gift and ironically, this was not the first I had heard of the Staattsballett Nuremberg. When I first moved to Germany, I contacted this ballet company to see if they could recommend a good school where I might teach ballet or take a class. They replied quickly with two recommendations, but then my time got filled up with language school and pregnancy so I didn’t pursue it. As a result, since moving to Germany I’ve been more of a ballet observer…a periodic, albeit enthusiastic audience member.

But as old habits die hard, it became clear to me a few months after Little Mouse was born that I needed to get back into ballet. I searched my email for the two schools that the Staatsballett Nuremberg had recommended. It had been a year or so but finally I got up the nerve to contact them. It turned out the Tanzentrale de Region Nuremberg offered an open class for teachers and professionals on Monday mornings. I asked if I might bring four month old Little Mouse along. I figured I had nothing to lose by asking and to my great luck they said “Yes, bring her!”

I was so nervous before my first class–just getting there and finding a parking spot was a production, and then climbing four flights of stairs with the car seat and the diaper bag, but I made it. To my surprise, I was warmly and enthusiastically greeted by the director and the others in the class. At the time all my introductions to Franconians had tended to be a little more stand-offish, awkward even. When you’re a stranger, Franconians don’t usually offer a lot of smiles or conversation. It was totally different here. Right away I heard French and Japanese along with English and German. I hardly knew what language to speak. It became obvious right away that these people, for the most part, weren’t Franconian. The plan to wear Little Mouse for barre went off without a hitch and she sat quietly and watched for the rest of the class. The others ooo-ed and ahhhh-ed over her and then helped me to carry her to the car that first day. I felt welcomed into the group and whatever challenge it had been to get there, it was worth it. I have attended weekly as regularly as possible since then.

Little by very little I’ve gotten my old body back. In the meantime we’ve welcomed other pregnant ballerinas to our class and today one of the men brought his 7 month old daughter. I can’t do what I used to do as a ballerina but after these months at least I can see that it would be possible to do it again, given the time. And the music and the movement and the comradery are the absolute best way to start off the week.

So, back to Saturday night at the ballet. It was a contemporary program called Kammer Tanz, featuring three relatively small ensemble pieces.

The program opened with the artistic director, Goyo Montero’s Four quartets. It turned out to be one of the most integrated, innovative works I have ever seen in my life, featuring spoken word poetry by T. S. Eliot, a live String ensemble, interactive sets and wonderfully undulating choreography and dancers. As I watched, I always wondered where it would go next. I didn’t ever wish it was over and I didn’t get bored with it. But the best moment of the night came when the applause ended and Thorsten, who has only seen a total of two ballets in his life, whispered, “I have never seen something like that before, but I loved it.”  

For a person, who has nothing but an open mind and an appreciation of classical music, to to be so engaged and then to react with such a statement says a lot about how special this piece was. But more, it validated my entire life as a ballet dancer and teacher. This is exactly what ballet should do. Move people. Engage them and make them feel something they can’t explain. I was walking on air during the first intermission and I wasn’t even any part of this production.

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Staatsballett Nuremberg Photo Courtesy of Die Deutsche Buhne

This was an exciting occasion as well because as a result of taking the advice of whichever friendly person answered my email at the Staattsballett in Nuremberg so long ago, I started attending that ballet class each week. Now after a year or so of getting to know the others in the class, I have recently been asked to teach at a local ballet school.

It just goes to show that the strings and threads of life are attached. Nothing is ever really lost. Nothing goes unanswered. A language barrier is just that. It’s a barrier, maybe creating a delay, but it is not a delete. Things pick-up and get put down. They detach and then reattach. The ripples in the fabric of our daily lives get closer together and further apart but they never stop. In the quiet moments, the rocking reassurance of infinity and our part in it is revealed to us. Life’s rhythm finds us wherever we are.

 

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