how a kickboxer became a ballerina
posted: March 27, 2014
Kirk Hensler was raised in metro Detroit on a steady diet of meat, potatoes and team sports. As a competitive athlete, he relied on his power and dominant attitude to excel. Years later, when he took up martial arts, he says he was “tossed around a sweaty dojo for months by various women and children.” This led to an exploration of ancient Eastern philosophies, which in turn led Kirk to Taiwan, where he taught English, studied martial arts and ate a lot of delicious and strange street food. Today he owns a yoga/kickboxing/green smoothie studio in San Diego. But if you want to know what’s really kicking his butt lately, ask him about ballet. He recently took up dance because he thought it was a beautiful and challenging way to move his body. “I’ve been a little Billy Elliot since I was a kid, but never had the courage to take up formal training because I was a ‘Midwestern jock,’” he says. Here he speaks candidly about his first ballet class.
“You just have to keep swimming,” said the twiggy teenage girl next to me. She must have been very confused. This was my first ballet class. Not swimming. I can swim just fine.
We were in the center of the floor learning footwork when she gave me those words of encouragement. The class was labelled as intermediate, but everyone in there looked like a goddamned professional. I tried to find a beginner class, I really did. After an exhaustive search, I decided my martial arts and a yoga background made me highly adaptable.
Like all good new students, I knew that when I started dancing I would have to buy gear. This, I thought, was the first step in feeling prepared for the unknown. However, when I walked into the studio and saw all the people waiting for the class to begin, I became so overwhelmed that I nearly threw up in one of my new black slippers. I felt so awkward because they all looked so professional. I was sure they were going to take one look at my green face and laugh me right out of there.”
But I’m a bit of a refined masochist, so I laced up my shiny, black shoes and took the ultimate walk of shame.
As class began, I made sure to inform my teacher that I had never taken a ballet class before.
“Well it’s an intermediate class so I have to teach to that level,” she said like she was offering condolences. “Just do your best to keep up.”
Welp. I’m f***ed, I thought.
Read the full story via Wanderlust’s Do It And Then You’re Doing It series here.
Kirk Hensler is the Co-Founder of the Hale Foundation, a yoga/martial arts/creative arts for at-risk kids, owner of Hale Holistic yoga, kickboxing and green smoothie studio and a lululemon ambassador. Check out his blog, Kale & Cigarettes, to keep dibs on his journey to becoming a dancer and sign up for his bloody updates and contradictory life advice.