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A Conversation From Last Night

Last night I met Jim, one of the men who does the Beginner/Intermediate class on Monday nights.  He is a charming older fellow; one of the folks who throws out little improvised dances while Brienne listens to the music and decides how best to torture us next.   I do this, too, so I liked him immediately.

After class, as we put our Normal People Clothes back on, he commented on how hard Brienne works us.   I emphatically agreed.  Then he said something about how ballet training has changed since he was young (I would guess he’s in his seventies) – how there is less focus now on endurance because they don’t want us to wind up with enormous thighs.  He said, “Nijinsky had huge legs.”

Check out those hams.  Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose (public domain in US).

Check out those hams. Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose (image via Wikimedia Commons; public domain in US).

This is true.   Pictures of Nijinsky show not a graceful sylph of a man but a solid little acrobat with legs even bigger than mine.  Standing still, Nijinsky defied modern expectations about how dancers should look.  In action, he was such a glory that he is still – at least among dancers – a household name.

“When he jumped, he just seemed to float,” Jim commented, “It was because of those enormous legs.”

So maybe I should take a moment to appreciate my own enormous legs, my legs-that-get-in-their-own-way-in-fifth-sometimes, my legs that force me to have suit pants specially tailored, which are also the same legs that lend me high, powerful leaps in the studio and sharp acceleration on the bike (and, not coincidentally, also the same legs that made Denis follow me all the way up a major local climb on the day we met).

I guess most of us hate some or another part of our bodies.  We dancers and cyclists can be especially hard on ourselves — we spend hours upon hours dressed in skintight super-suits and, in the case of dancers, starting into mirrors.  Our passions make stunning demands on our bodies and literally reshape them (as a dancer-from-childhood, I am blessed with funky hip sockets; as a cyclist, with Achilles’ tendons you could use to string a crossbow). I am no exception.  I stare at myself in the studio mirrors and I think, Egads, are my legs really that big?

I have been  learning to live with my legs, in part because returning to ballet has made a start at refining them (some days I’m like,  “OMG, I have ankles!”).  Maybe someday I could even learn to love them?

Maybe I am not the next Nijinsky, and my name will never become part of the saintly canon recited by dancers everywhere.  

That doesn’t mean I can’t learn to appreciate the power implicit in these gigantic quads and wholly-unreasonable calves … does it?

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