Not-So-Great Expectations [Part 2]

26 May

Play by play of the day I helped break a Guinness World Record.
Let’s face it, while Orlando is the widely hailed vacation capital of the world, it’s not exactly thought of as a cultural Mecca.  So how did the city manage to unseat New York for a ballet world record last Sunday? For starters, 245 people–ranging in age from 11 to 71–defied low expectations and showed up at the Orlando Convention Center anyway.

L to R: Caroline, me, Judi, Sandra and Jennifer

The Most Dancers en Pointe for a Minute. NYC’s 230 was the record to beat. Orlando’s planned record attempt started as the brainchild of one proud local grandfather named Doug Nawrath, whose granddaughter is active in Dr. Phillips High School’s dance program.  I learned of the event through Orlando Ballet School, where my daughter attends, although she is not en pointe yet. When I told my husband about it, I think he knew how much just going meant to me. Without hesitating, he agreed to watch not only our kids but also my friend Caroline’s daughter for the day.

I had convinced three of my ballet compeers, other of Stella Mawoussi’s loyal adult students, to come with me.  My friend Sandra’s sister had also joined us, planning to watch. When we arrived after church at what was supposed to be the latest check-in time, we were dismayed to see our numbers: 161, 162, 163, 164. Meanwhile, there were myriad performances going on in front of us.  Local studios were showcasing their best talent in diverse dances from classical ballet and lyrical to modern jazz, funky hip-hop and rhythmic African. Between each dance and the subsequent emcee banter, organizers tried to relay with increasing urgency the importance of texting anyone we knew who could come to help us make the record.

As time passed and the count was still not even near where it needed to be, our little group fitted Sandra’s sister with an extra pair of Caroline’s pointe shoes. We gave Jennifer a quick lesson on posture and weight shifting before registering her: 194. Still short.

Mom Lisa was at first reluctant but then enthusiastic to don an extra pair of pointe shoes.

Not long after, this strategy was made official. The local dance supply store, N’Style, arrived with a slew of new pointe shoes.  For just $25, shoes were made available for sale to complete ballet novices. Mothers and sisters in good physical condition were encouraged to partake. The risk of injury was overshadowed by the urgency to beat the record and not make the day to have been in vain. Still, the number lingered around 200, with not long before the scheduled record attempt time. Hence my friends and I encouraged as many hesitant moms as we could to participate, including a reluctant mom named Lisa, whom we managed to fit with yet another pair of Caroline’s pointe shoes. Lisa was added to the list: 226.

Then I met the woman who literally wrote the book on pointe shoes.  Trained by ballet masters throughout Europe and just returned from a London book-signing, Patricia Storelli is a Registered Ballet Teacher of the Royal Academy of Dance among her many credits. Patricia’s book, The Magic of Pointe Shoes, came out just last month. She was attending the Orlando event to promote the new book, as well as to lead the warm-up class which had been intended by the event organizers. As Patricia spoke, I began to realize the full depth and caliber of her extensive experience. I felt honored to be meeting her, and frankly, I could easily understand if one such as she viewed the forum of a Guinness record attempt as incongruent with the disciplined dignity of a classical ballet performance. Perhaps that is why many (if not all) professional local ballet company members were not to be found in attendance. It may even help explain why even the Big Apple could muster only 230 record-breakers.  Either way, without 231 even semi-experienced dancers in Orlando’s Convention Center and the deadline approaching, the free-for-all grew, abetted by the ever-humorous male and female emcees.

Our humble group meets the extraordinary Patricia Storelli.

At last all the dancers–experienced or not–were summoned to the observation pit.  As we entered, we each spoke our name into an emcee’s microphone, one by one for the official recording. Unlike the scores of teenagers, I squealed after my friends and I passed through. We were quickly shuffled into rows and lines. Mom Lisa was near the front with her daughter. Beside me was Sandra’s sister, who had never been worn pointe shoes in her life. When I turned behind, I saw Patricia, who had worn pointe shoes almost her entire life. Even she ultimately succumbed to the excitement of the moment. Pinned to her chiffon-layered ballet dress was her registration number: 245.  I’d later learn that this was the total, a mere 15 bodies ahead of New York’s record.

Then the moment came. There was a very quiet minute of stationary bourees with alternating cornering croisse. Afterwards, the crowd exploded into excitement. Cheers and spontaneous embraces erupted.  The Guinness adjudicators soon confirmed what we all knew: Everyone had stayed up for the full minute.

I hugged Patricia first followed by Sandra’s sister, immediately struck by the odd-but-poignant juxtaposition of the beautiful ballet veteran and the beautiful ballet beginner. When I joined my separated friends a few seconds later, we celebrated our shared triumph, having worked in class with each other over years of a shared journey.

On the ride home, we reflected on the synchronous events leading each of us to Stella, to ballet, to this day. Orlando had become the world record holder, and we had played our small part. It was something none of us would have ever expected, making it all the more perfect.

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6 Responses to “Not-So-Great Expectations [Part 2]”

  1. hostingthemuse May 26, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    An amazing post! I’m so proud of you!

  2. Sandie May 26, 2011 at 9:44 am #

    Congrats on breaking the record! So cool!

    • charmingthemuse May 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      Thanks, Sandie. Leave it to Florida to make it by such a narrow margin. Good thing the results were certified on-the-spot! Haha

  3. pursuingthemuse June 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I’m so glad you were able to be a part of this – very cool!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Not-So-Great Expectations [Part 1] « - May 26, 2011

    […] Even so, I never could have imagined that little I would be part of breaking a Guinness World Record, the event that inspired this contemplative look back. Full details on that inspiring day to follow in Part 2. […]

  2. The Upside of Falling « - June 18, 2011

    […] You may recall my friend Caroline and our ballet mistress, Stella, from my past posts about breaking the Guinness World Record. So the first excerpt was a lovely duet with Caroline and another dancer. Next came a male solo by […]

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