Of the million and more things my Mum has done for me, I am still grateful to her for one thing till this day, 27 years down the road: my very first ballet class, aged 4.
I still remember that fateful lesson quite vividly. It was on Sunday at a nearby community centre, a typical family day where most parents would be bringing their kids out to the playground/beach/park for a bit of fun outdoors before school started again. My mother chose to enroll me in ballet class instead, queuing up with the rest of hopeful (mostly) mothers at the registration counter and paying the fees before we were bundled into a large mirrored studio on open class day, where parents could crowd around and watch their future ballerinas galloping and twirling around in their pretty pink tutus and soft ballet shoes.
In the ensuing growing up years, I’ve been to my fair share of enrichment classes, from art to abacus to piano and Chinese dance. But none of them had the same lasting impact on me as ballet, despite the fact that it did not choose to be my career. One of the toughest classical dance disciplines, ballet has that merciless way of weeding out the mediocre and not-quite-there dancers, putting everyone through grueling examinations and auditions for their entire careers. It also imbues one with a sense of body consciousness that drives one to be vigilant at best, and downright neurotic on not so great days.
Being At Ease With Yourself
Although I did not become a professional dancer as Mum had hoped, what I gained from that childhood experience subsequently was the confidence that I could pick any dance class in any studio, and not be afraid to put myself out there no matter how much of a fool I made myself. This kind of irreverent, personal joy is present whenever anyone invests effort, energy and emotion into mastering a piece of choreography, and not dependent on recognition or appreciation. Ask any dancer and chances are they’ll tell you dance is a wordless language that can convey much more powerful emotions than any well-crafted prose or speech, and the manifold satisfaction they derive from conquering their own limits.
The advantages (and drawbacks) of taking ballet as a child and teenager became clearer as I grew older. The flexibility and good sense of balance I had taken for granted in my youth, I transferred it to pursuing a new passion for yoga. The patience and grit honed through trying and tiring dance rehearsals before a show was rediscovered when attempting a new inversion pose one Sunday morning. While I’m no longer as nimble as before, given old injuries, a fairly sedentary work life and general ageing, I believe the foundation I’ve the privilege of building before I even knew what I was doing has given me the freedom to enjoy movement as I know it today.
The good news is that when I attend class today, whether it’s ballet, hip hop or MTV dance, I see more seniors (and I mean my Mum’s generation) learning, absorbing and generally having a ball of a time without taking themselves too seriously. It’s cliché, but time literally seems to stop for them. If seniors can put their pride and ego at the door and kill it on the dance floor while enjoying themselves, what’s stopping the rest of us?
What interests YOU?
You don’t need anyone to tell you, whether it’s social media or your best friend, that you only live once. So be it pole dancing, trampoline jumping or scaling the world’s highest peak, the rule of thumb is to set a goal, start with baby steps and most importantly, not lose focus or at least get back on track to what made you started out in the first place. In life, I find it helps to have like-minded folks who are pursuing the same things as you for motivation, but the best, most constant and readily available cheerleader to get you through the rough patches is usually you.
If you’re not interested in any sport, turn to fit or sporty friends for help. You’ll likely to find them enthusiastic in sharing their skills and knowledge on the activity they’ve been pursuing, and you’ll be in on the action in no time. Even just strolling into a community centre these days is enough to get you going, with the affordable classes from Zumba to Pilates and the latest fitness trends (anyone heard of Bokwa?). Or integrate your new activity into your social calendar and turn that brunch date into a fun active day. If anything, that’s just one more reason to motivate you towards that leisurely brunch.