This Old House

photo via Apartment Therapy

“How are you today?”

Fine. ..Good. ….Okay.

I hate all of these responses. They just seem like a waste of the plethora of words that we have at our command. If it seems like the person asking ACTUALLY cares (and isn’t asking because that’s just how normal polite people start a conversation) I try to avoid the quick-fix answers.

I was asked this the other day before ballet class on a day when I felt particularly stiff. So my response was “I feel CRUNCHY!” Apparently, ‘crunchy’ is also an adjective used for bad modern dancers. (ooo, that girl is crunchy!) I always thought it was only applicable to people in the ‘extreme vegan’ cases, you know, granola people. I guess if the shoe fits…or the organic moccasin. Too bad modern is typically barefoot.

The next time I was asked on a day when it seemed every joint needed to pop and crack and every muscle gave an inaudible groan as I attempted to get out of bed warm up. So my answer that day: ‘I feel creaky, like an old mansion’.

The house across the street from mine in LVille- which I always thought looked a little haunted

Refinding the muscles that I need for turn-out, my strength and flexibility feels like unlocking rooms in an abandoned house, a decidedly haunted one. I can hear the voices of old teachers and friends, compliments, insults, corrections as they apply to every part of my body. Their words hang like ghosts, some friendlier than others, taking up residence in the separate physical and mental caverns that govern my ability to dance or just enjoy dancing.

If these wall could speak...they'd tell me to point my feet (photo found via Matchbook Magazine)

So I drew myself in Degas’ Little Dancer statue form as a decrepit old hotel filled with ghosts of dancers past.

Ground Floor: ghost of Uwe Kern, ballet master at Louisville who once told me  that I had the worst temps leves he’s ever seen, which was a huge waste with my legs and feet. Ground floor because he was an exceptional teacher for building strong technique, rented by the hour because he would constantly occasionally drop perverted jokes.

Residing in my general calf area in the ‘cheap suite’- the ghost of 2007- An old teacher of mine who told me during a period of lower weight for me how perfect my legs looked. I had ZERO muscle and yet, this compliment has forever stuck in my head as the standard of what I need to look like- and the basic health or non-health plan I needed to keep up to look like a ballerina. This is changing. We are not to be praised for how small we can make ourselves and compliments along those lines can be damaging and cheap. Like an overnight stay at a motel 6.

One floor up: the ghostly spirit of hip-flexors– This is the part of my body that has suffered the most injury (strains, tendonitis, ripped muscles, you name it) and my lack of 180 turn-out is the bane of my dance existence. So I’m cursed to suffer the presence of poltergeist Martha Graham and her deadly floorwork. She lives in the ‘artist suite’ because I think I would be a better artist or at least technician if I were blessed with more rotation and it constantly needs work. Get some maids or some ghost busters on that one.

Next: The smoking room: Room 2006– teachers that will remain unnamed told me at age 16 that I should consider smoking to lose weight.

The Garden Terrace Loft in my general collarbone area- is inhabited by the ghost of Bruce Simpson, artistic Director of Louisville Ballet. Mostly I remember one of his long-winded stories about a pale ballerina and some fancy necklace she wore- and the image of rubies on a white throat for whatever reason is something that I think of to make me feel extra pretty in class. He also lives in a garden terrace loft because he had a somewhat lofty presence and yet every class with him made me feel like a budding artist.

Up top: in the penthouse suite as a permanent resident is the former Director of Dance at Interlochen, who is near my face because I remember her saying once that it wouldn’t kill me to wear a little makeup to class and is near my brain because she said a lot of things that keep my head screwed in place when I care to remember them. That’s one ghost I don’t care to give up.

Look at that spectral vision! the ghost of Me, age 12, Les Sylphides

Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my  life, and I shall dwell in the House of Creaky-Old-Jess forever…(I maybe took a few liberties on that one)

4 thoughts on “This Old House

  1. Your posts never fail to make me giggle out loud (at some points – I also appreciate the honesty and heartfelt stories). You brightened my morning and now I am positive I can make it through the day 🙂 We shall catch up soon and I will tell you about my dancing escapades (not icecapades) in Cincinnati!

  2. So the thing is that I am usually like you. I try to answer this question as “adjectivally” as possible. But then when the person’s question was primarily cursory, it just leads to an awkward silence… I’m sure they think that I give out TMI, but why ask questiond if you don’t want answers, right? I find it really funny!

  3. Pingback: Diavolo: An Interview with an Adrenaline Junkie | BODIES NEVER LIE

  4. Pingback: 4 Reasons why the NYT article, ‘Changing the Rules of Ballet’ is complete BS | BODIES NEVER LIE

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