First Steps

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I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now.

This time 2 years ago, I was in limbo. I had just become a permanent resident after a few years of studying and working in this city. My days were spent in a grey cubicle staring at 2 computer screens, poring over retail flyer pages and catalogues, proofreading prices, correcting other people’s spelling, and if I got lucky, churning out a tagline or two. I was luckier than many. But something was missing. I had a steady job, my debts had been paid, my loving relationship with V was still going strong after 5 years, and my family back home was doing well — but there was a silence that kept gnawing, that threatened to swallow me up whole.

I went hiking. I grew herbs, beans, tomatoes and cucumbers in containers. I got addicted to playing Diablo III. The restlessness kept growing. Then while visiting my brother in San Francisco, we happened to catch an episode of So You Think You Can Dance, which I’d dismissed as just another mediocre talent show. I saw Eliana’s audition and was speechless. Her body was so expressive, so joyful and honest. By the time she won season 9 with fellow ballet dancer Chehon, I had made up my mind. I would try to dance again. At 30 years old.

I had danced ballet as a kid in Manila, from age 4 to 13, taking Royal Academy of Dance exams and popping toe blisters from pointe shoes. I stopped for all the reasons other girls do: not the ideal body type, not committed enough to give up time with friends, ultimately not good enough to go pro. I still loved it, but I stepped away, thinking that part of my life was over. Once in a while I’d get nightmares of being onstage, dressed in jeans among a flock of white tutus, not knowing what the choreography was and running away before ruining the piece for everyone. I’d wake up with my heart palpitating.

Stepping into Studio C’s beginner ballet class was like meeting up with a good friend you hadn’t seen in years — you liked each other once, but aren’t sure anymore if you can keep a meaningful conversation flowing or make room for each other in your current lives. I put a tentative hand on the barre, between other black-legginged adults. There was room. It was a safe place, a fresh page, a sanctuary other (re)beginners in the blogworld had discovered for themselves.

I started slow, one class a week at first, then 2 (my aching muscles needed a few days in between to recover). Then I discovered other studios in the city, some of which even had live pianists and a progressive ballet curriculum for adults. Some things came back easily (thank you, fast-twitch muscles made for petit allegro), other things I still struggle with (hello spotting, hello there, no here, no…chaîné turn fail). The more I danced, the more genres I tried (tango and contemporary are new favourites), the more I realized it was like re-learning a language. There are emotions, concepts, nuances only that particular language can express, that other words can’t even come close to. I also discovered that the more I danced, the more I wanted to write again.

This is a record of that continuing process of discovery, of experiencing the sense of freedom and wholeness and possibility and community that the worlds of dance and poetry can give. Welcome to Poets and Pirouettes. This should be an interesting ride.

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