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Blog

Nobody's Looking

Alissa Wilkinson

529w

My grandmother went white water rafting for the first time in her fifties, and my aunt began painting and owling in her forties, and another went back to school in her thirties to earn her bachelor’s degree and then her master’s. 

So maybe it’s in my blood, but a month ago I found myself in bare feet and tights in a dance studio, facing the mirror. I’d signed up for a six-week workshop: introduction to modern dance. I’m no stranger to dance studios; in my thirty years, I’ve had about twelve years of ballet classes — in college I went two or three times a week — and even own a pair of pointe shoes from a class I took when I was about twenty. I’ve never been very good at ballet, because my body is close to, but not quite the right type: I’m built a little too close to what women’s magazines call “athletic,” slim but not quite slim enough, and my hamstrings have always been preposterously tight.

Modern dance always intrigued me, though — I make a point to see a lot of it — and so, there I was.

And one week in, I was googling, “Can adults become advanced modern dancers?” I could already tell it was far different from ballet, more about the movement and the rhythm and gravity than hitting the right shape over and over. I was grinning by the end of the first class, enjoying the movement and the feeling of freedom. Just to hold out your arms and spread your fingers and fling yourself around a bit, all to music: it’s wonderful. It’s freeing. It actually really feels like dancing.

That said, any time I start enjoying something, realizing I’m sort of okay at it, I want to set a goal: publish an essay, teach a class, run a half-marathon. Within a week, I was already thinking, This is something I could do. I could really be a modern dancer. For fun, of course, but still. Something about putting my hard work out there in the open where other people can see it makes it real. Right?

Is the work really worth doing if nobody notices?

So I guess maybe that’s the next new thing I need to pick up as an adult: doing the work of learning something new for the sheer joy of it.

(Photo by Lois Greenfield)