Memories revisit me, when I brush too near to a blackboard and the arid chalk lingers and dries my nostrils. But the dusty odor of a classroom isn't exactly right. It's similar, yes, but with glaring differences that are highlighted when placed next to the real thing, the original, like a close cousin whose mouth is shaped with a familiar curve but whose voice reminds you of the blaring difference.
The smell I know is sweeter, thicker, more moist. It cloaks an entire room, layered like the years of repeated use. It's not chalk, but rather resin, like soft baking flour. Some sat in an open-topped cardboard box in the dark corner by the dressing room of my old dance studio.
With a hand on the worn, iron, bi-level barre, we'd dip one pointed pink toe into the box, like the tip of a strawberry in a chocolate fondu pot. The other toe followed, then sprinkle some resin directly on the floor in which to scuff the shank of our pointe shoes.
The entire floor would get a good dose of resin at least once a week if not more. The off-white powder would be shaken out of a small tin ladle shaped like a detergent scoop and five of six of us (all girls) would commence in merry chatter as we stomped and shuffled the resin into the wood grain of the floor.
A waxed floor, although it has a pretty glow and shine, meant a broken ankle or dislocated knee for a ballerina, and we derided, rather self-righteously, the foolery and naivete of other studios who chose a pretty studio over a functional studio. There was no doubt we had a better teacher, a better studio, and of course, better dancers. That same self-importance still clings to me sometimes, even when both my body and heart remind me of my black flaws and weaknesses.
The smell of resin brings with it Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata which always accompanied us our beginning barre exercise of plie's. The sound and smell both return to me on occasion, bringing with them the urge to turn-out, square my hips and shoulders, bend outward at the knee, one hand clasped on the kitchen counter, the other arm sweeping down from fifth position to second position to near my ankles then up again to first.