(Editor’s note: Marcia Worth-Baker is blogging about her experience as a participant in SOFit15. She receives no compensation from The Village Green or from any businesses she mentions in these posts, and she pays for the classes she takes.)
As a teenager, I danced and acted with Paterson’s Inner City Ensemble. Then a fledgling company started by Ralph Gomez, ICE, as we called it, provided rigorous training in three types of dance and acting. (The company still exists, though its founder died in 1990. In his obituary, the company is credited with sending dancers to Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey.)
I was not in their company. In fact, I wasn’t in their classes, since I was an enthusiastic beginner, nothing more. However, even the “babies” like me, as the advanced dancers called us, wore black leotards, white tights and black ballet shoes. This was true for the boys and the girls. When kids complained about the tedium of a uniform, one of the dance teachers explained, “Save the magic for the stage.” The razzle-dazzle of color and costume is for performance, not practice.
My thoughts return to ICE when I attend BarreFit exercise classes. Barre workouts are named for the ballet barre used, and a class incorporates movements from ballet and other dance disciplines. In the class I have taken at VivaZClub, we dance barefoot and, of course, wear whatever we choose. However, the plies and rotonde are no different than those I learned as a teenager.
Taking dance and acting classes as a teenager, among such talented company, I believed that saving magic for the stage made sense. I believed that many of us — perhaps nearly all — would someday be on a stage. I don’t hold onto that illusion any longer, of course. Instead, I treat the dance class as the performance. There is joy in focusing completely on something beyond myself, to follow the instructor’s steps in the mirror as if nothing else matters.
I believe that runners feel the same way and I’ve seen a look on faces of weight lifters and boxers that suggests total focus. I remember this feeling from my teen years. A vivid memory is holding a dance barre in front of a window that showed the peaks and rises of Paterson’s downtown buildings, fixing my feet in a tight fifth position as if nothing else in the world mattered.. I’m back at the barre these days, and it is a very happy hour or two.