In another life the Critical Mom, before her momhood, went to ballet class every day. Sometimes she just went to a barre, then skipped across town to the Ailey school for a Jazz dance class. New York had classes all the time, everywhere, and you could just fit them into your busy schedule. You could smell a dance class before you stepped in--not just that comfortably steamy, sweaty atmosphere but also the Tiger Balm. Or sometimes the peppermint oil. Tiger Balm (menthol, camphor, mint, cloves) is the best thing in the world for sore muscles, with peppermint oil a close second. Once my mother was on the bus en route from dance to home, and some guy asked, "What's that perfume?" Since she never wore anything but Yardley Lavender, she told him it must be that. He backed away.
In our small city, ballet classes are as rare as hen's teeth. The only good one near our house lasts only an hour, (should be at least half an hour longer than that) and the teacher has stopped doing grand pliés--maybe he's afraid the adult beginners will sue him. Or he's overcautious, thinking they'll injure themselves since they only come once a week, or less. So I do my pliés before class, holding on to the doorframe.
When I discovered a ten-day Tanztage offered in a neighboring city, I went four days in a row. By the fourth day I was very sore, and rubbed some Tiger Balm into my aching back.
The owner of the studio appeared. Did I want to poison them all? She flung open windows. "You must want a lot of room at the barre," she cracked.
There is no greater torture, when you are trying to warm up for a ballet class, than an open window in mid-Winter, but these Germans love their Frische Luft. And from the look on her face, you'd think I'd have passed a lot of gas. (What actually did stink in the room was her husband's cigarette--he was taking attendance and accepting cash payments while chain-smoking.) She sprayed a floral air freshener all around the room, consenting to close the window only after I begged her to do so and promised never to wear Tiger Balm again.
Here's what the Germans need to know about ballet class: Fresh air is for mountain climbing, not dance studios. Inhale that Tiger Balm and get back to work.
You know, I've actually seen young German dancers spraying on underarm deodorant before class. Also, they all wear underpants. Under their leotards. Yuck. How uncomfortable.
Sweating, they believe, is good for you in a sauna. But they need to know that it's good for you in a ballet class. It lubricates your muscles, enabling you to stretch and jump.
Someday, when I run the world, I'll have a big ballet studio. I'll never allow any chilling breezes to assault the sweating bodies of the dancers. And we will all smear Tiger Balm all over ourselves. The radiator will be on in Winter. No air conditioners ever, except the kind used to dehumidify. The room must remain warm.