On focus and the wiggle-bottoms

When I started ballet,
You know, way back four years ago,
I thought A Lot about whether I could have been a dancer if I’d gotten in as a kid. You know, Was I Robbed, Was The World Robbed Of MEeeeEEEEEeeee????, that kind of thing.
Friend asked me once, “Could you have been a dancer?” And I answered, “No, my torso is too long.”
Which is such an answer, I can’t even find the right word, it’s like not exactly a humble-brag but it’s got that same tone of back-handed self-flattery while at the same time being, like, so self-delusional, I mean, of all my physical flaws, my torso length is pretty much the very last thing that would have kept me from making it.
Also my torso is totally average. I don’t even.
Anyway, every now and then since that question and my wtf answer, things have popped up in my reading or listening and I’ve been like Oh, That! That is the real reason! Or at least a better reason. Or at least a more interesting reason to a question that doesn’t even need an answer anymore because NO REGRETZ!!!!!!!!
Here are a couple of the more interesting reasons.
1. Focus.
I’ve been meaning to write a review of The True Memoirs of Little K, by Adrienne Sharp, for like a year now.
Someday I will get around to it, in the meantime, short review: It’s really good. Seven thumbs up.
After reading I looked up Adrienne Sharp and found this interview (here) with Raiford Rogers on the Macmillan Publishers website. There’s this one part where she describes being back home at age seventeen, completely directionless after making it to New York on full scholarship but then not making it into a company and having no idea what to do next. No other interests. No experience other than dance. No hobbies. Almost no education, she says she was lucky to even get accepted into college at that point.
I mean, do you remember seventeen, Gentle Reader? Do you remember all the stuff you were into? Can you even imagine if all that wide world of interest were narrowed down to one thing? And it was you who did the narrowing? Not life circumstances or whatever?
It kind of horrifies me. I mean, I’m sure it’s not like that for everyone who studies intensely, and I’m glad it worked out for Ms. Sharp because that book kicks ass and I’m glad I got to read it and I’m glad there are people out there with that kind of focus, so I can watch them perform, but…yikes, man, can you even imagine?
2. The Wiggle-bottoms.
Was listening to a TED talk on the radio the other day, the one with Sir Ken Robinson where he talks with Gillian Lynne about how she got started in dance. The actual theme of the talk is nurturing creativity, here’s a link to a written transcript, which unless I’m mistaken is not complete, because I swear I heard on the broadcast version some audio of Ms. Lynne saying that as a child her teachers described her as having the wiggle-bottoms, but I don’t see it in the transcript.
These same teachers advised her mom to take her to a specialist, because she was doing badly in school and disrupting the class and always wiggling, but instead of prescribing medicating or labeling her as sick, the specialist told her mom to put her in dance classes. And you can read or listen to the TED talk to see how that turned out.
But anyway, it hadn’t really occurred to me that some people have the wiggle-bottoms and they need to move, or as Ms. Lynne puts it, must move in order to think, and I don’t have that. In my spare time, when I’m not doing things on purpose, like not out for a run on purpose or taking ballet or spin or yoga on purpose, I don’t wiggle. In my spare time the things I’m drawn to are non-wiggling things. Reading, drawing, playing with fabric.
So, I guess next time anyone asks me if I could have made it I’ll just say “No, my focus has never been laser-like and I don’t have the wiggle-bottoms.”
Or maybe I’ll just say, “Nope. Hey, let’s go sit still and eat chocolate!”

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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19 Responses to On focus and the wiggle-bottoms

  1. Rori roars says:

    Funny, I just heard a snippet on that TED talk on NPR while I was driving home last week and had that exact same thought. Ha!

  2. wedoballet says:

    There is no line better than the last one of this post! AB, you have made my day :)

  3. tiny hippo says:

    As an adult, I’ve never had any illusions that I could’ve been a dancer as a career, but I do wonder if I had the potential to be a mediocre dancer. That is, someone who can keep up with intermediate level classes, pull off some advanced moves, and dance in the occasional student or amateur productions. That’s been my goal for the past few years – to improve from bad to mediocre. (So far, I’ve graduated to slightly less bad). I would love to be mediocre!!

    • Barbara says:

      I adore YOUR last sentence. I began ballet at 50 went on pointe a year later and performed in several recitals and even managed one recital on pointe. I am still dancing 25 years later and when asked if I wished I had danced when younger my answer is always NO because all of them are gone now and I am still having fun….hoping to one day be that MEDIOCRE DANCER!!!!

  4. I have never regretted not dancing as a child. I had a hard enough time dealing with my own body image issues and perfectionism even without ballet! Ballet would have made me a sobbing, anorexic, pile of wobbling nerves for the entirety of my youth!

  5. d1a2n3e4 says:

    Really nice post! Made me smile. Thank you. :)
    About regrets: they are best not visited.
    My Signirficant Other often visits the past to mull over the what-ifs and wallow in regrets, with the supposed intention of educating the Youth of Today, should they ever ask his opinion.
    Which they are not llikely to do.
    We all have to make our own way and live our own lives and experiences; they are only ours to live, anyway.
    You cannot change what was; you are only alive Right Now, and so… as one of my old teachers was fond of saying,
    “bloody-well get on with it!”
    …and feel what is right now.

  6. Paul says:

    There’s also a TED video of Sir Ken’s talk. More of a mildly amusing standup routine, he’s very droll. This side of the pond the young Ms Lynne would be described as a wriggle bottom – someone who cannot sit still or focus for long on anything, in less polite terms a fidget a**e!

    My regret is that I didn’t have the guts to go to ballet class when I first found your blog and Dave tries ballet soon after you both started. You were both inspiring but I kept telling myself that guys my age didn’t do ballet even if they loved to watch it. Finally I figured wtf, life’s too short and I no longer give damn what anybody else thinks and started AB class in September, age 55. God, I love it! I’m into it that much I now have three classes a week. I know I’m never going to have a great extension or turnout and that the jumps and leaps will be limited but now that the spirit that I’ve repressed for decades is free it doesn’t matter. I’ll do my best to be as good as I can be and enjoy every minute of the experience. I hope I can go on dancing as long has Barbara has. Jeez, I’ll be 80 in 25 years time, that would be something. Pulling on the tights could be as strenuous as the barre at that age!

    • Omg it took me such a long time to figure out what word a**e was! Was all like, “do they put an e on the end of ass???” But then I got it. Fidget arse, ha!
      Regarding pulling on tights at any age: one foot at a time, my friend.

  7. QMichelle says:

    I have often thought of that myself too. I was obsessed with ballet when I was young but my family were dirt poor, so no classes for me, but as a youngster I was an absolute perfectionist to almost obsessive compulsive levels. In school, if I was doing maths, for example, and came to a question I couldn’t answer in a test I wouldn’t just let it go and move onto the next question – I HAD to get that question answered first, even it took the whole time of the test! My poor parents were always being called up to the school because being such a perfectionist caused me a lot of stress. Even putting in a pony tail on my Sindy doll became an ordeal. If her middle parting wasn’t EXACTLY equal on each side, I’d have to take it out and start over and over and over then end up in a total tantrum because it was never perfect.
    So I definitely had the focus and I definitely had the body, as I was a long limbed, skinny minnie with natural flexibility. Yeah maybe I could have been a dancer. Whether I would have a good one is another thing entirely! That said, I do think if it had transpired I was a mediocre dancer I might not have been able to cope with not being better.

    • See this is why being an adult is awesome. You know this about yourself now, you can remind yourself to be gentle with yourself, treat yourself kindly, give yourself room to try and fail and learn in a way you maybe couldn’t have as a kid.
      Hooray for adult self-awareness.
      PS I had a nightmare last night about an unsolvable math problem holding me up during a test. The worst!!!

  8. Nadine says:

    I can keep still with no problem as long as there’s no music. Whenever I hear music I HAVE TO move! It s actually really distracting . . .

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