Big Rebecca

May 21, 2015

Rebecca CPYB A new page

Juggling classes with late evening rehearsals and a full academic load. Another gratifying yet insanely demanding day for this art school student.


Morning ballet class. All was routine. You know. The pliés. The tendus. Our teacher claps her hands together, a signal to the pianist to stop her playing. The sweet tunes come to a halt. The black and white ivory piano keys still. My classmates and I stand silent looking about wondering why the ‘pause button’ was hit at this rather unusual moment.

“From out of her mouth they tumble … ‘Rebecca, you’re looking a little chunky today.’”

From out of her mouth they tumble, some of the most mortifying words to a young person’s ears. “Rebecca, you’re looking a little chunky today. Okay. Let’s continue.”

That’s all.

Once again the accompanist starts playing. The sound, however, not nearly as sweet any longer.

(More on this Rebecca thing later.)

I continue on with class. My head cloudy as if in a deep underwater fog.  Maybe it was shear shock at what I had heard. Or possibly a reaction to having just endured the worst kind of embarrassment. Did that really happen in front of everyone? How humiliating!

Rising above and not giving in to how I was feeling, I pull up my big girl britches. My head resurfaces. The fog dissipates. I feel present in the room again.

My classmates and I move on to our center work practicing exercises and combinations repeatedly. Our instructor passes on helpful corrections to our fiercely dedicated class.

(Okay, back to that Rebecca part.)

It seemed as if there was always another Rebecca in my class. She was graced with a dancer’s dream genes and a metabolism that worked overtime. Basically, she could eat whatever she chose without gaining even an iota of an ounce. Me? Not so much!

From the front of the room comes another correction. “Rebecca, turn out your left leg a bit more.” This Rebecca and the other meet — eyes connecting across the room in uncertainty. Which one of us is she speaking to? Sensing the perplexed look upon our faces, our teacher voices her solution to this ongoing confusion: From this time forth the other Rebecca would be known as Little Rebecca. I — yep, you guessed it — become identified as Big Rebecca.

 “Teachers, you are such a gift to your students … You have a hand in shaping lives.”

My big girl britches begin to give way further. Two huge hits to my self-esteem all within a 90-minute span of time. Almost would have preferred the sting of salt in an open wound. Big Rebecca was not an okay nickname for me.

Teachers, you are such a gift to your students. There is no denying that. With your role comes the fact that your voice carries more weight than you could ever imagine. Public humiliation is in no way an acceptable form of communication with your dancers. Keep it constructive in the studio. Save the delivery of sensitive personal matters for private. You have a hand in shaping lives.

Does criticism in public help build character? Not sure. These instances do leave unfortunate lasting memories that stay with you longer than the “good jobs” or “great shows” ever do. The day I described above is forever etched in my mind. And, I know I now possess a thicker skin for it, which frankly one does need in this complex, sometimes thorny, and yet beautifully intricate world of professional dance.

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In the long run that Little Rebecca-Big Rebecca moment did leave a mark on me. Not in the form of a scar, nor a bruise. But in a simple change to Paige — not many of those in the studio. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

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