I am lying on my back. Sweat is trickling from my temples through the curls of hair above my ears, around to the back of my neck and then dripping onto the vinyl mat. My left leg is bent at the knee; my right leg is wrenched across my left leg to form the number 4. My left hand is stretching through the hole of the 4 and pulling my right leg forward, grasping in vain for my right hand behind my right thigh.
Literally, I am tying myself in a knot.
It’s not what I had in mind when I signed up for The Ballet Workout. The idea originated last September with Sal, the player-manager of my softball team, towards the end of another injury-riddled season. I pulled my hamstring for the ninth time in six years, then pulled a groin muscle compensating for the hamstring, then pulled a muscle below my ribcage sneezing. Maybe, Sal said, I ought to work on flexibility. He suggested yoga. But I’ve always held a dim view of yoga, of the in-your-face serenity of its practitioners — as though the ability to bend your leg behind your head translated into spiritual enlightenment.
The Ballet Workout seemed more likely. For one thing, it wasn’t an actual ballet class, so I wouldn’t have to wear tights or dance slippers. For another, I’d once briefly dated a woman who taught me the five basic foot-positions, so I figured I already had a leg up. Besides, I’d been told several times that I looked relatively graceful playing centerfield … so I thought maybe I’d turn out to be a natural at ballet, that I’d end up doing Nureyevs from one end of the studio to the other.
THAT IMAGE LASTED FIVE MINUTES into the first class. It lasted five minutes only because Anna, the instructor, was four minutes late. As the class — nine women and me — waited for her to arrive, I watched myself in the mirror. I looked like a dancer. I was wearing a sleeveless gray T-shirt and black bicycle shorts and a light blue bandanna tied across my forehead. As I rolled my head from side to side, loosening up, the stark overhead light was shadowing my high Bolshoi cheekbones.
Finally, Anna entered the room. She was a petite woman with dark brown hair, very pretty, in her late twenties. She walked up to me at once and glanced down at my feet.
“You might want to loose those.”
She meant my Converse Chuck Taylor hightops.
As I unlaced the sneakers, Anna stepped to the front of the class and called out: “Warm-ups.”
The rest of the class collected vinyl mats from the corner and then slid down onto them, and I followed their lead — thankful that neither of my socks had a hole in the toe. As we shifted from one side to another, rotating our legs at odd angles to loosen our hip joints, I still felt vaguely adequate. The first real trouble came when we rolled onto our stomachs. Anna told us to extend our right leg and left arm; this I managed by pressing my forehead into the mat for a kind of tripod balance. A moment later, I heard Anna’s voice above me. “Head back! Head back! That’s right. Now chin up!”
The instant I pulled my chin up, I keeled to the left — banging my high left Bolshoi cheekbone onto the edge of the mat and wood floor. I glanced up at Anna, forcing a smile, a signal that only my dignity was hurt. Then we reversed arms and legs, then back again, back and forth. The rest of the class was flexing and arching, a flock of swans; I was a buckshot goose stiffening with rigor mortis.
Next, we rolled onto our backs. “Hands beneath your rear-ends,” Anna shouted, assuming the position herself, “small of your back pressed into the mat, legs straight up in the air, feet turned out … now your legs come apart.”
All right, I had my hands beneath my rear-end.
“Legs up in the air,” she called to me. “Up in the air. Way up. Straight knees! Straight knees! That’s right. Now your legs come apart. Just let them fall apart.”
Reluctantly, my legs drifted apart: Got it, I thought.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?