Over Ballet





It's an icy cold new year's day in Amsterdam. The easterly wind is cutting. The canals are frozen and the Amstel river waits motionless under the ice. The wintersun doesn't make her giggle. The streets are quiet: if it's not necessary you do not go outside. Even the cat's real fur coat is not enough protection against the cold: he prefers lying in his basket in front of the central heating.It seems that Dutch winters are getting colder and colder. No wonder fake fur coats are high fashion and the ladies wear little fur hats over their ears. From Russia with Amsterdam. Skaters never seem to bother about the cold. Almost mummified in their coats, scarves and knitted caps they rasp the ice with their skates. I'm not a skater.

When I was 8 years old my granddaddy thought I should learn to move around on the ice. He bought me 'doorlopers' - Frisian skates. The sharp steel was fixed to a slat that ended in a curl, like the shoes of Aladdin's ghost. With long laces you tied the skates under your shoes. I didn't want Frisian skates. Frisian skates never really fitted. They were awkward. I wanted figure skates, with beautiful white boots, just like Sjoukje Dijkstra - our champion. "I learned it on Frisian skates, so you can learn it on Frisian skates too" was granddads answer. He was Dutch. It is about 35 years ago. I didn't live in Amsterdam then, but in Waddinxveen, a small and typically dutch village. Lots of water: ditches and pools and across our house was a small frozen river. On sundays after church the village people skated there and on this little river little me was taken for the first skating lesson. My granddad brought a chair with him, to sit on while I exercised after I learned the first principles, I presumed. My granddad showed me how to fasten the skates. He put the chair on the ice and told me to hold the back. "Now skate", he said "the chair will prevent you from falling" and he went home. I think I pushed the chair around for about ten minutes. My feet were stonecold and one of the laces got undone. My nose was Rudolf red and more or less frozen. I decided to change my career perspective. No skating, not even figure skating for me. Sjoukje Dijkstra had to find another successor. I went home, sadder and wiser for the first time.

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