Beginning Again

Jan 24, 2011

“Girls, make your life a dance!” our Orange High School PE teacher, Mrs. Weatherill, would exhort us. She of the black tights, the blacker ponytail, the Kathyrn Crosby demi-curl bang, a big apostrophe resting on the right side of her forehead. Smartly keeping time, Mrs. Weatherill beat a hand-held drum and dispatched us in choreographed lines across the gym to the music of Carlos Santana. But as 16-year-olds, my friends and I skimmed past our teacher’s advice, preferring giggles and gossip.

Yet over the years, I decided Mrs. Weatherill may have been a few beats ahead after all. She meant that we would need to muster all the grace, stamina and joy we could in order to face what life was about to present to us. And with advancing age, it is easy to overlook making your life a dance: At every turn someone new is undergoing chemotherapy or learning a grim diagnosis or losing someone dear. The drum now beats mortality.

However, sometimes I use these heavy realizations to initiate something new. I found my latest pursuit at Pasadena City College Extended Learning. Yesterday was my first session of Beginning Ballet. You don’t have to be thin! You don’t have to be nimble! You don’t have to have a neck like a swan! You only have to own a pair of ballet shoes.

Teacher Catherine Round is warmly emphatic, technically astute and a dead ringer for kin of Amy Adams. She believes women of all ages can learn balletic movement and benefit from improved posture. Instruction involves explanation, modeling, guided practice and gentle correction. Many of us arrived with childhood ballet experience, and it is the funniest sensation to return to positions you haven’t held since the 1960s. Our class also learned practical tips for leg beauty, such as grasping a towel from the floor with bare toes in daily repetitions. Prehensile pulchritude? What’s not to like?

Beginning Ballet is full for the current session through March 5. Still, there are many other non-credit options at Meantime, ballet queries to Ms. Round are welcome at

Altadena resident Jean Gillis is a high school teacher who writes the blog Dating Yourself in Pasadena.



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