When I signed up for my first Ballet Barre class a few weeks ago, I was looking forward to an hour of graceful stretching and girly pirouettes. Of course I knew ballet is all about discipline, too, but I certainly didn’t expect the sort of army drill this class turned out to be. And quite to my surprise, I really liked it!
This morning, we’re fifty minutes into class and we’ve done so many plies and releves my legs are shaking. As Emma brings out the yoga mats, I see relief all around me: floor exercises at last. Unlike the others, I reluctantly bring my body down to the floor.
“Let’s start with some bridges, shall we”, Emma announces energetically, like we haven’t just been through fifty minutes of torture. As she talks us through the exercise, lying down on her back, knees up, and pushing her hips up in the air, my heart sinks. I can do the position alright, no problem. But I know what comes next, and I’m not so sure if I’m up for that today. I feel sweaty, sticky and disgusting all over my skin as I lie down and lift my hips. I take long deep breaths, relax my shoulders and focus on the ceiling. I’m here and now, just doing some awkward yoga positions, that’s all. I can handle this posture, and if not I can just stop. It works. I’m actually doing fine.
On the beat of TOPLOADER’s Dancing in the moonlight, Emma tells us to slowly push our hips up and take them down, up, and down. I breathe, focus, and do the exercise like everyone else. I’m quite impressed with myself, honestly. “Let’s go eight pulses, faster!”, Emma yells over the music, “Push those hips up, up, up, UP, UP, HIGHER, SQUEEZE THOSE BOTTOMS, PULSE, PULSE!”
Then suddenly it’s there. V, who abused me so many years ago and has haunted me since, is there. I don’t want to do this, I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m feeling sick, please stop, please go away. Waves of sickness and fear go through my body. I bring my hips down to the floor, breathe out slowly, focus on my surroundings again. I’m here and now. I’m in control. V’s not here. I’ll be fine. I’m telling you, over the years I’ve become a real pro in soothing myself.
And then, without warning, two hands that are not mine are touching my thighs and an unfamiliar voice is suddenly very close to me going “PUSH, PUSH, PUSH!”. In my head, I’ve gone through this scenario so many times: I should simply shake my head so Emma would know I feel uncomfortable doing this exercise, and she wouldn’t insist. But I’m absolutely frozen to the spot. As Emma takes her hands off me, I struggle through the same mantras again to regain control over my body and my thoughts; again and again and again.
A little later, Emma speaks the long-awaited words “and… release…”, and I hear sighs all around me. The others lower their hips, and I release my clenching fists and breathe out. That’s it, no more bridges for today. I survived. Mind you: I’m a pro, and I’ll be even better next week.Follow @ArticulateAna