The year was 2007, and I was getting ready to start my senior year of high school. At the time, I was still living with my parents in San Diego. I had recently gotten an after-school job as a medical billing assistant and had my own car. I decided that I wanted to start ballet. I don't exactly remember what the final catalyst was, or when I first became interested in ballet, but something compelled me to go for it.
I can't say that I remember the first class like it was yesterday, because to be honest, it was a blur of nerves, excitement, confusion, and joy. But little did I know that it was the beginning of a really exciting time in my life.
Finding the class
I wasn't sure if I would even be able to find a class, because as a 17 year old, I wasn't qualified for teen classes or standard ballet training, as other 17 year old girls were expected to have trained for 10 years already and be pre-professional, or at least advanced. I wouldn't have minded being in a class with younger students, as long as I could train, but even those beginner classes for children seemed to be restricted to a specific age.
After much research, finally I discovered the concept of adult ballet classes. I found the California Ballet School adult program, which happened to be about a 10 minute drive from where I was working. They had a beginner class after work at 7pm that I would be able to attend. I called the studio to make sure that I was eligible to participate in these classes and to get any necessary information about the studio and how to pay for the classes. Sure enough, they said I was good to go.
Getting the clothes
Once I had settled on the class, I had to find something to wear. I went to a small dance wear shop and found a leotard tall enough to fit me. It was quite the task since most of that store's inventory was geared towards younger (and smaller) girls, and, although I ended up with a pretty ugly leotard, I was thrilled. I had no idea which shoes to get, so the woman at the store suggested a pair of leather ballet slippers. I went home with my single ballet outfit in hand, sewed my shoe elastics, and mentally prepared for class.
Preparing for class
I read online about the basics of ballet. I remember reading that there were 5 foot positions, and trying to understand what they all meant. I tried to read what I could, but most of it didn't make a lot of sense. There were so many details, all of which were foreign. I really didn't know much of anything about ballet, except for that I thought it was beautiful.
The day of the class arrived. I brought my ballet outfit with me to school and to work. After work, I met my mom at the studio. She had to come with me to sign a permission slip that said I could train there. Which, as I had been working and driving myself around for a while seemed juvenile. But she did, and wished me luck at my first class.
I nervously changed in the bathroom at the studio, and have no recollection of what I decided to do with my hair. I wouldn't start using hair nets and hair spray until much later, so I'm not sure how I managed a bun.
The thing about adult class is that you just kind of jump in. As a child, you might be placed into a level with all other students just starting out, and then progress together. But the adult class is kind of a hodgepodge. In New York City, where I live now, you can find a class for absolute beginners, but in San Diego, "Beginner" seemed to be all that was offered. As I would discover, "beginner" could mean anyone from their first class, to people who had been dancing for a few years, to people returning to dance after a long hiatus.
So, on the first day, I walked into the studio in my ugly leotard and, with butterflies in my stomach, introduced myself to the teacher, Oscar Burciaga, and said it was my first ever ballet class. Once a week until I went off to college, he would teach me what I needed to know, from the very beginning. He took our training seriously, and taught us things as if we would go on to become professional. I took ballet seriously and was happy that he did as well, and didn't just treat us like adults who had no future in ballet.
During that first class, and for quite some time, I had very little idea of what was going on. The exercises and words were so foreign. I had very little flexibility and couldn't even touch my toes in stretching. But when I walked into the studio on that first day, and watched through the window of another studio all of the beautiful other teenage girls in class practicing in their maroon leotards and pointe shoes, I was inspired, in awe, and excited.
At the time, I didn't know what my plans were with ballet, but I knew that I wanted to dance.