For every person who has fallen in love with ballet and with each passing day finds more reasons to keep loving it …
She was a shy girl with bruised forehead, with legs and arms that became entangled by everything in their way. Be it the kitchen counters her parents covered in socks to soften her clumsy blows or her own seemingly disconnected body, of which she seemed utterly unaware of spatially and oblivious in its capabilities. Simultaneously, she became entangled by something else, too. This thing, a mere word at the time, had mysteriously ended up planted in her brain: ballerina. Where such an idea appeared into an ungainly country girl’s head, no one quite knew.
“Mommy, I want that. That. To be on a stage. To dance a fairy tale.”
Her parents, knowing little of this new fascination, decided that attending the nearby city’s Swan Lake might somehow quench this newfound desire. Instead the little girl sat in the too-big theatre seat, completely silent from the overture all the way to the final curtain calls. As great applause thundered through the hall, the child, eyes wide open and heart filling with admiration, spilling over with inexplicable wonder, whispered, “Mommy, I want that. That. To be on a stage. To dance a fairy tale.” Chuckling at her glowing, eager face, her parents replied, “Maybe later.”
But later simply would not do. After that the young girl begged every day for four years to learn ballet, to take real ballet classes. She read books concerning the subject, gazed at every picture, and felt as though part of her was missing. She was awkward. Reticent. Lacking in self-confidence. If ballet would change that (and the girl was convinced it would), her parents decided to give it a try.
From the start she was behind the other kids in the beginning ballet classes. To those looking from the outside in, her attempts to follow along and break down ballet movements to music, something her classmates accomplished with ease, only exaggerated her lack of coordination and self-assurance. Her parents couldn’t help; in fact, they wondered whether she even enjoyed it.
The arduous beginning placed with three-year-olds when she was seven … none of it mattered. Because when she danced, she felt truly beautiful. Whenever a new balletic concept “clicked,” she gained confidence like never before. The longer she held on the more classes she took the more changes those outside of the ballet studio noticed. “Your daughter has changed,” they said. “She is a young lady now.” “She doesn’t hunch over any more.” She’s actually talking in school.”
The amount of hours and days increased at ballet as the little girl became proficient in each new level of classes. When she reached middle school, her work ethic that was so intense in ballet class showed in school. She, unlike other classmates, knew the gratification of being self-motivated to succeed. “Why would you want to work for others before knowing how to work for yourself?” she often wondered when friends chatted about their parents bribing them for high marks in school. In ballet she was corrected by teachers; everything could always be better, which made her open to corrections outside of dance. She wasn’t offended by constructive criticism. Rather, she took it thoughtfully and spent time pondering ways to implement it. She knew the wonderful feel of finally “getting” something because she put in extra time on her own.
The world looked different to her. If only others heard the music she heard, accomplished the steps she learned. Music of great artists filled with so much wonder and musical genius. She and her dancing friends became a sort of enigma at school. Despite the differences, she wasn’t alone. Ballet was filled with boys and girls as ambitious as she to achieve success and dance professionally. Her dance friends helped to keep her motivated on the days when she questioned whether all her work was for naught. She did likewise for them.
Though ballet is an individual effort, she was also part of team. When she and her classmates performed together, they had to communicate and discuss strategies in order to appear as one entity on stage. Performing gave a whole new meaning to the hours of tear-inducing, buckets-of-sweat type of work she gave to ballet. The magic feeling she experienced dancing on stage was like no other. Before the stage, parts of her felt bound, held back. But under the lights, regardless of the role to perform, her heart was open. Joyful. She was free and complete.
Ballet didn’t change. Steady rules and discipline. But it never grew dull.
Middle school turned into high school. Long hours in dance and school, the girl developed strong self-control and discipline; necessary to staying focused on improving in ballet, while keeping up on schoolwork. Ballet didn’t change. Steady rules and discipline. But it never grew dull. Rather, as she refined her ability to notice and study the intricacies, the fine details needed to perfect ballet stood out more than ever. Goals for improvement became more challenging.
Occasionally, the now self-assured, graceful young woman reminisces about the clumsy, lost girl she was before finding ballet; her appreciation for the art only swelling. Ballet is as much a part of her, as she is of it; and she would not have her life any other way. Passion for dance gives her a purpose. It makes her smile when she wakes up. Her wish for others who have not experienced what comes out of commitment and hard work is to find their passion and dedicate themselves to something that is fulfilling.
She isn’t and won’t be the only one who has found their passion in ballet. When the music starts and the dancing begins, she and the rest of her dancing peers don’t doubt why they tighten their hair back into a bun, pull on a leotard and tights, and head to the studio every day for more ballet.
Guest blogger Riley Grace Borden has just begun her second year as a 2015-2016 full-time Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet academic student.
Feature photo courtesy of CPYBallet student Instagrammer, Cameron Essis Gildea.