Why am I standing in fourth position right now? Feeling like some pimply adolescent? This is absurd. I am an accomplished professional dancer and a reasonably awesome mom, yet I am reduced to apologetic posing by the presence of a ballet dancer on the playground.
Back it up: I’m with my 5-year old daughter on Danger Island in Hoboken (the very playground that sent my mother to the ER bleeding from the head within 5 hours of her arrival), and we are covered in sand and having fun! Until in walks ballet-mom, and all my insecurities are cued. She is all external rotation and flawless bun and hyperextension. I don’t know her, or her angelic blonde children, but she is clearly City Ballet. And instead of approaching her and introducing myself as a fellow sufferer, I become obsessed with how much more obvious it is that she is a dancer than I. To be clear, I don’t have any dancerly body issues. This is some ancient, deep-seeded modern-dancer anxiety, this.
So I start to broadcast, rather than drive an interaction that would acknowledge our sisterhood as dancer moms. Ack these layers of identity! It’s like my fourth position and my prominent bunions are suddenly needy: “I’m a dancer too! Well, not that kind of dancer, but still..” Ridiculous. Anyone who knows me expects nothing but confidence and ability. So what is happening here? My friend Anna tells me that Jewish people do this broadcasting thing - and it is known as bagel-ing.
We all do this - dancers, I mean. We bagel. If we see another obvious dancer on the subway, we sit a little straighter. We may even feel a sudden need to roll our ankles or stand on releve. And we definitely walk more duck-like around Lincoln Center than in other nabes. We justify these behaviors by telling ourselves we are a little late for class and just need a little innocent warm-up action. Obvious Dancer!
Back at Danger Island, where ballet v. modern insecurities combine with the exigencies of public parenting to create a perfect storm of self-judgement, I just can’t stand the idea that ballet-mom might pity me for being less accomplished. That she will categorize me as a lesser dancer because I chose to hang up the pointe shoes 20 years ago in favor of other, equally rigorous, forms of dance. That she will look with alarm upon my wild-eyed child. But really, why would she make any such judgements? She probably would have welcomed the overture. It’s not her, it’s me.
For all my talk of letting my freak flag fly, I hereby admit that I am still indoctrinated to value ballet over all other forms of dance. Merde. Apparently a lifetime of habitual thinking is hard to break. Meanwhile, I better get back to the task at hand. Sure Olivia, I’ll pump the water. Let’s turn this sandbox into a mud pit!