Ballet, and Me

I have a complicated relationship with my first art. My mom put me in little-kid dance classes when I was 3, in the hopes of making her uncoordinated daughter graceful–or so she claims. Every year she would ask me if I still wanted to do dance, and every year I said yes. I kept saying yes, until I graduated from high school.

And then it was gone.

Many people have asked me why I didn’t pursue dance as a job, in post-secondary education, in anything–and I find I don’t have a clear answer for them. Because I didn’t think I was good enough? Because other people in my company were groomed for pro careers and I wasn’t? Because it was the easier path to go to college for something ‘marketable’ with my parents’ blessing?

Whatever the answer, some mingled version of all those, I left ballet, started ballroom, blah blah blah. I tried to say goodbye for good, really. I spoke about it in the past tense, focused on my new love of ballroom.

But a year and a half ago, I finally admitted I hadn’t buried ballet. I wanted to go back, almost just to see if I could. “No Pointe shoes,” I assured myself. “Just a couple classes, see what happens.”

Well, two classes a week turned into three turned into four and….

I knew returning would be difficult, and I knew that difficulty would be emotional rather than physical. Sure, I’ve been sore and I’ve pulled a few muscles, but I’ve managed. The real pain comes from hearing music I once danced to, in stepping onto a stage for a ballet performance for the first time in 6 years and bursting into tears at how it feels so right and so disappointing at the same time.

Some days are wonderful, effervescent hours of sweat and music. Ballet makes me hard. (no not like that ya perv) Soft flesh melts away into sinewy muscle. Weak delicacy matures into an athletic artistry like nothing else in the world. I can fly.

Other days are not, where brain and body don’t match up, or things just don’t look right in the mirror or my balance is off–and I can barely control the waves of anger and frustration that roll off me. I suck. Why do I bother. I’ve lost so much time. This is a waste. 

And yet I keep coming back, for I know I must. To do ballet is to live like the Red Queen–we run as fast as we possibly can just to stay in place. To improve, we run faster.

I’m going to keep running.




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