Friday, October 17, 2008

Ballet and Growing up in Earthquake Country.

As a child, I took ballet from Natalia Borisova (affectionately dubbed Natasha), at Ballet Russe on Clement Street every Tuesday and Thursday from 4pm-5pm. With Natasha, I had performing experience a child could only dream of. Not only did we have our regular recitals, but we performed with world-renowned Russian dancers in very upscale recitals. We also performed on television once. Our costumes were exquisite, as Natasha is the owner of over 2,000 authentic Russian costumes dating from the 14th century, the largest collection in North America. Dancing with her was truly an experience.

Natalia Borisova, my childhood ballet teacher:

So, nineteen years ago today was a Tuesday. Courtney, my childhood friend and ballet buddy, and I had just finished pirouetting across the floor at Ballet Russe, and were walking into the dressing room to change when suddenly at 5:04pm, the floor started shaking, jolting really. An earthquake. "Oh goody," I thought, as I quite liked the rush that little earthquakes provided. Generally, I'd sit and enjoy the thrill of being shaken for two or three seconds, until the earthquake stopped. But I soon realized that this was no small earthquake and it wasn't stopping. In a studio with wall to wall mirrors and the only real shelter, a large piano, finding somewhere to "duck and cover", as is ingrained in every child who grows up in earthquake country, proved to be difficult.

The jolting lasted for nearly a full minute and was stronger than anything I'd ever experienced. Surprisingly, no mirrors shattered; only plaster fell from the ceiling. Courtney's mom arrived to pick us up within a minute or two. My mom, who had left her office at 5:00pm on the dot, on the last elevator in her building that descended before the earthquake struck, and on the last bus that took its normal root out of downtown, picked me up at Courtney's house two and a half hours later.

At the time, our family was without a television, which didn't matter much since we didn't have electricity either. Our friend Marcia spent the night, since she wasn't allowed to return to her home in the Marina District due to the fire and extensive damage. It felt kind of like a slumber party until we really started seeing footage like this:

The collapsed deck on the Bay Bridge:

An apartment building in the Marina:

The collapsed Cypress Freeway in Oakland:

Another collapsed apartment building in the Marina:

So a couple of days off from school and a whole lot of damage later, I still enjoy the rush that shaking of the earth provides, but I also am far more aware of the importance of being prepared. I like being prepared. More on that later.


Lydia said...

I was totally at ballet practice during this earth quake too! Except for my teacher wasn't famous. I remember I was standing in second position.

Kimberlee St. Clair said...

I'm glad you blogged about this....I remember all of this. Where I was, my feelings, my concern....the whole bit. But, I didn't know that you were at ballet fact, my friend, I didn't know that you danced back in 6th grade! The knowledge that blogging enlightens me with???!!! lol Love ya!

Bentley the Kid said...

I have never experienced an earthquake. I'm a little jealous.

Anonymous said...

nice to have someone else remember about the jolts and tumbles of the bay area. I spent a lot of nights working a second job as a guard, during which I experienced a lot of little tremors that woke me up a couple of times. Luckily I was never there during any of the big ones.


Anonymous said...

One of my favorite sayings is, "It's an earthquake!" I was there for the SF earthquake and it changes a lot of lives. Years later, 911 was an earthquake. The early 90s' dotcom bubble burst was an earthquake. The death of a close friend or relative, the birth of a child, the move from one home to another, marriage, a car accident, a major illnes, meeting a new friend - all of these can be an "earthquake" in one's life, changing everything as you've known it prior to the "quake." Few of us grasp at the moment of impact how much an "earthquake" can change our lives. But they do. We've experienced an "earthquake" this past month with the roller coaster economy. Stay tuned and watch carefully to see how it will affect your own life.