Last night I fulfilled one of my few remaining duties as an aunt. My niece who once hankered to come to my place for sleepovers and was impatient for my visits now doesn’t seem to notice if months pass between catch-ups. Of course she is now almost 15 years old, so her life is all about her friends. And Facebook. Oh, and ballet.
My sister-in-law is a ballet nut. When the national ballet comes to town she and my niece go several times to the same performance. My niece has ballet (in some form) most days each week. Whereas my brother and I were mad athletes (basketball and netball for me, with a dash of tennis; athletics, basketball as well as soccer and cricket for a while, for him), my niece (like her mother) is all about dance. An inadvertent slip of the tongue years ago saved me from sitting through visiting ballet performances; whereas once I was invited to attend things with them, now I’m only expected to go to see my niece dance. And I do. Many times a year – as she dances in a lot of eisteddfods and concerts etc. I know nothing about ballet (in any form), but I diligently sit and watch and clap, and bitch about the other girls when the time is right and comfort is required.
Although I don’t mind watching her dance, it is the other 10-20 dancers in each of her competitions that make me want to poke my eyes out with a razor hot poker. It was worse when she was 7 or 8yrs old and 20 uncoordinated youngsters would all perform ‘Music Box Dancer’ in pink tutus. Now at least, those who still enter competitions (at the ripe old age of 14-15yrs old) have some talent. Unfortunately she doesn’t do up-tempo modern or jazz or hip hop – something I might like to watch. No, sadly I have to sit through tutus and pointe shoes. Having said that, my niece has become a very good contemporary dancer and (as a great actor) is very emotive. Although she (only) got 2nd last night for her contemporary number, she should have won. So I believe.
I stopped and had a feast of my fave takeaway (Chinese – Satay beef) enroute to the eisteddfod, so arrived happily sated, and the satay beef burps helped make the 150 minutes I spent in the Recreation Hall in Brisbane’s Wynnum, bearable.
In addition to being bored, I also got a very sore bum. I know, there should be enough padding to get me through a few hours, but the plastic hard seats didn’t show me a good time. I could feel my large rump hanging over each side and was relieved that the seats were so close together that no one’s eyes would be focussed on my rear end. Ballet concerts and eisteddfods aren’t the place to be if you are feeling a bit porky. Surrounded by ballet mothers, either trendily casual or overly-glam and clod in stilettos (cos that’s what we all wear from 7.30 – 10pm on a Thursday night in suburban Queensland) I always feel frumpy. And old. It reminds me that many of these women are younger than me, but have 14-15 year old daughters. And I don’t.
And then there are the girls. Once upon a time the notion of comparing myself to the pre-pubescent children jumping about the stage was unthinkable. Now they are teenagers I watch as they throw themselves about and notice how (on even the bigger girls) there’s no cellulite; and their thighs don’t wobble when they whack them against the ground; they have lean stomachs and strong shoulders (bitches!). Sure, I know they are almost 30 years younger than I am, but they are a confronting reminder of what I am not, but what I once was. Fit and healthy. Young and vital. Happy.
I remember as a child, my father telling me that dancers have the best legs. I don’t think he knew too many ballet dancers, though he did enjoy a twirl around a dance floor as a youngster, so perhaps he was talking about ballroom dancing women. Whatever he meant, you only have to watch So You Think You Can Dance to develop a severe case of body-envy. I know the ballet / dance scene does sometimes promote thinness and indeed last night there was a young girl who was so thin I found her hard to watch. She was in a two piece outfit and her ribs constantly visible, but each time she lifted her arms and upper body you could see the U-shaped outline of her entire rib cage. I hoped that the adjudicator would make some encouraging remark in her scoring. Perhaps the poor girl was naturally thin and not in need of any help, but either way I’m surprised her mother or teacher didn’t try to cover up the skeletal frame a little more. I sometimes worry about my niece in such an industry. I was, however, comforted by the young women I saw last night – with strong and healthy bodies (and non-wobbly bits) and exuding confidence.
Perhaps if I can drop a few (dozen) kilos I will feel equally strong and healthy and exude confidence. Hmmm… I can but hope.