Ruth Paige Dance Studio by
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Prompted By Lessons

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I always loved to dance, but was a sickly kid, so my mother withdrew me from dance lessons. I came back as an adult beginner to ballet class in my early 20s. Though never great, I truly enjoyed it. I have a wonderful sense of rhythm, can dance modern and “pop” very well, but enjoyed the language and technique of ballet.

After moving to Chicago in 1978, I sought out friend John’s Harvard suite mate Aaron. He was now out of the closet, and not interested in meeting with me, but did give me the excellent tip to take class at the Ruth Paige Dance Studio. I am in his debt for that information. I took class there every Saturday morning. It was a rigorous class and attracted a serious crowd, from ages 27 to 78. We took our lesson seriously each week.

A ballet class, regardless of the level, goes through the same basic routine, beginning with work at the barre for flexibility and foot and leg speed, followed by series of short floor combinations, where groups move across the floor, and ends by stretching back at the barre. We always end class with “reverance”; bowing to the teacher. The class was just advanced enough that I had to pay close attention so that I didn’t land on my ass! It required skill and discipline and was a great distraction from the pace of the work week, which for me extended into Sunday, when I would do paperwork. Saturday was my only day just for me. I really loved that class and found it was also great exercise and good for my posture.

Upon returning to Boston, I began an evening class at Boston Ballet, walking from my Back Bay condo to their building in the South End. In 1979, the area was not yet gentrified, as it is today. That also was an excellent class and I danced my heart out. It was still mild as I walked home alone along Clarendon St. putting on only blue jeans over my tights, with my dance bag slung over my shoulder. As dusk crept over the city, I walked past a bar with several men hanging around outside. I quickened my step, but one whistled at me. Perhaps he was the first rapper, as he said, “You may be small leather, but you’re well put-together”. Almost 40 years later, it now sounds almost poetic and sort of funny, but at the time I was truly frightened and fear of future encounters ended my ballet lessons for good.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: ballet, Chicago, Boston Ballet, drunk guys
Characterizations: been there, well written


  1. John Zussman says:

    Somehow I always pictured you taking ballet from an early age! I guess I have Aaron to thank for getting you back into it. What a shame that a thoughtless catcall was threatening enough to put you off ballet. Otherwise you’d doubtless be taking class until you too were 78.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I certainly wanted to take ballet as a kid, my mom just got tired of all the make-up classes. But you could tell it was in my heart. Now I take Pilates, like the ballet pros, to stay in shape. The travel demands of my sales schedule also put a crimp on taking classes, and once I had kids, with a traveling husband…that would have done me in for good anyway. But the catcall (even if it seems harmless today), felt very threatening to me, walking alone, passing a bar, wearing tight clothing, after dark. Too many bad variables to deal with.

  2. muzziesgirl says:

    I loved seeing ballet training through your eyes. I was (still am) a motor monster. I joke that I’m lucky I’m able to walk. My graddaughter is a serious student of ballet. I marvel at anyone who can move like ballet dancers do. I was heartbroken when the guys outside the bar scared you to the point that you decided to quit your classes-something you obviously loved. Maybe someday you will go back to ballet classes. Afterall, you said the classes in Chicago had Students 27 through 78, It’s never too late!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks for the support, but at this point, I work out in other ways and am finding that injuries and arthritis are getting the better of me. Mat Pilates is best for my back. I got injured doing stuff with weights and too many twists. Now it looks like I have bursitis in my left hip, maybe even something worse. So I’ll have to be content with watching it. I have a cousin who is a soloist in Boston Ballet. He’s a fantastic leaper. I love watching him commit to every move.

  3. Suzy says:

    What a lovely picture! Ballet in the grass. Nice that you found such a great studio in Chicago. And how dreadful the catcall must have felt in Boston. You still remember exactly what he said. Yes, it seems poetic and/or amusing now, but I can imagine how terrifying it must have been then.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, Suzy…funny now, not funny then. Wearing only leotard, tights with blue jeans covering me, walking in the dark along a seedy street in Boston, I was very frightened. There were several drunk guys hanging out. I knew I couldn’t out-run them. I just had to not make eye-contact and walk by quickly, with determination. I got out of it then, but didn’t want to risk future encounters that wouldn’t end so well. A sad truth of being a petite woman in a man’s world.

      • Suzy says:

        Oh I know, and not just for petitie women, all women felt that fear. I remember taking a self-defense class and then thinking that I could protect myself. Foolish confidence, I’m glad it was never put to the test!

        Where was your lovely picture taken?

        • Betsy Pfau says:

          The photo was taken by my brother-in-law in my in-law’s backyard in Newton a few weeks after I got married in 1974. It was part of an extensive photo shoot he did when I was looking for a job and answered an ad to be a model. That didn’t work out, but I still have lots of nice photos from the portfolio.

  4. What began as a sweet reminiscence turned out so bad! Certainly a woman’s tale, very effectively told. No fair!

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