I, like millions of other little girls, grew up dreaming of being a prima ballerina. I wanted to dance so badly I could taste it. As soon as I was able, I began checking out the same three books about ballet from the library over and over and over, poring over each page, each photo, each dance step tutorial. My favorite was about a deaf girl who danced, keeping the beat of the music by feeling the vibrations through the floor. I kept reading, and soon I had every position memorized and practiced, knew that my toes were well-constructed for one day going en pointe, and began using my dresser as a ballet barre. I begged my parents to send me to lessons – reasoning it was only fair that I take ballet, as my brother took baseball and we should each be allowed to have one extracurricular hobby.
I loved everything about ballet: the dancers’ strong, long limbs; their high, tight chignons; the grand pianos in the practice rooms; their romantic performance skirts; their utter fanaticism – skipping high school to study dance, shipping their preadolescent selves off to Russia to become the very best at a dying art, eschewing the pubescent party scene to practice plies and pirouettes.
Little did I know that while Little League is nearly free, ballet lessons are expensive. I took a single year of classes before my parents gave up the budgetary ghost, during which I learned many useful facts:
- Pirouetting to the left is harder than to the right
- Tights + leg hair = itchy
- I am more flexible than the average person, but not more flexible than the average ballerina
- I have a perfect point
- If part of your Halloween costume as Pippi Longstocking involves wire hangers in your braids, and you don’t have time to change before class, your braids will scrape the wall during your barre work, and probably leave a mark
The most important lesson I learned, though – imparted to me personally by Madame Instructor herself, a wizened old woman and an expedient disciplinarian – was that I simply did not have, and would never have, the “body type” of a real ballerina. It’s hard to fathom how the teacher could have possibly drawn any conclusions about my suitability for – or interest in – an adult career in professional dance based off of my 9-year-old body, but there you have it. And thus one of the many seeds of body hatred was sown in my innocent little mind. I was not thin enough, not rich enough, not good enough for the one thing I wanted more than anything else: to dance, dance, dance.
… to be continued
In order to lighten the mood after that depressing little tale (to be continued at a later date, I promise), here’s some darn good dancin’ muzak, which is very likely among the songs I was listening to right before I rocked the mic like a vandal and wrote this:
Appropriately schoolgirl-y, no? Interestingly, I had no idea this song was a) popular, and b) had a video until I tried looking it up for this post. I’m still not sure if the above is the “official” video or not, but the one about the underdog soccer team winning a game seemed a bit more appropriate for y’all than the one of the strung-out ladies mooning over men in suits while writhing in lingerie.
So, were there any evil grown-ups in your childhood life that tried to squash your dreams for no good reason? Did you ever wear a Halloween costume to ballet class (what was I thinking?! But how awesome is Pippi Longstocking? Answer: 12 on the 10-point awesomesauce scale.)? And do you remember a particular moment when your self-image (body- or otherwise) was thoroughly cemented in your wee childlike mind?