The massive weight I was used to carrying flew off my shoulders the day I decided to give up ballet. With it gone, a new horizon of endless possibilities appeared. These included activities I was interested in trying and would now have time for without my commitment to ballet. I didn't dive into anything right away however. I was more than content to relax for the hours I didn't do school
After a few months I started to get antsy. I had to do something! During my days at the ballet school I wanted to try ice skating. Ballet kept me from finding the time to do that, but now I could take the rare opportunity of having too much time on my hands and sign up for ice skating lessons. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was sixteen, and had matured quite a bit since my most awkward days at the ballet school. I felt at ease at the rink and enjoyed not only the activity but also the people and friendly atmosphere. I made new friends, felt at home, and loved the feel of the cold air as I skated around an almost completely deserted rink. It was fortunate that I was home schooled and able to go in the mornings when everyone else was at work or school. I was also able to go during the slightly busier times to see my friends, so I had the best of both worlds.
The first show I saw, post ballet school, was only a few months after quitting. The last days of ballet were still too fresh in my mind to feel regret and wish I had carried on there. The all school concert was a different story. Because Chloe still took lessons at the ballet school she took part in the show. I felt a little left out being on the sidelines. I saw the dance I would have been in, the one I had tried to make it too, and it made me feel worse. I didn't have the urge to jump back in, but it did make me disappointed that a career in the arts hadn't worked out.
Eventually two years passed since my departure from the world of ballet. During that period of time I felt my sadness grow every time I saw a ballet dancer. I went to see the nutcracker one year after I quit and got excited during some of my favorite parts. I thought, "I could still do this!" But just as quickly as they came, the thoughts vanished. Did I really want to commit? I couldn't put my mom through driving me to all my rehearsals and classes again. I already felt guilty enough taking away a lot of her life during the three and a half years I attended classes at the school, which was a good drive from our house by the way. Plus, I may have come a long way from my most insecure days but that hardly made me a performer. I was still a quiet, unassuming person. Not to mention my age, which I had thought was too old to get serious about ballet again.
One of my friends at the ice skating rink was a dancer. After learning about my experience as a ballet dancer, she wanted me to take a class with her. I decided I liked the idea. It would be great taking a ballet class for the pure enjoyment of it and without the pressure of having to reach perfection. The class was taught at a small studio that didn't offer any ballet except the class I took. It was for beginners with no experience in ballet. Between me and my friend though, who already took ballet at a different studio, the teacher had to speed things up a little. It had been two years since I had been in a ballet class, making me more than happy to start slow. It was more casual, that was for sure. I wore my hair in a ponytail and dressed in sweat pants and a tank top. I remember the first class, as I took my place at the portable barre, in the tiny studio, with a of group of only four people including the teacher. As soon as I put my hand on that barre I felt at home. Everything came rushing back. The feeling of going through the repetitive, but to me never boring warm-up. The nice stretch that felt good at the barre's conclusion. Getting to dance full out in the center. And lastly, jumping as high as you could while traveling across the floor.
I loved being in a ballet class again. My teacher was impressed with my technique, and noticed I had received the best training given in our part of California. I got a crazy idea in my head that I wouldn't admit to anyone, even myself. Whether I was protecting myself from disappointment, or I just hadn't realized the idea was there yet, I don't know. All I know is something came back to me that never really left. I started to practice at home. It was discouraging to see what managed to escape my abilities during my absence from ballet. I could barely get through barre without my legs shaking, They wanted to give away whenever I trudged upstairs to the comfort of my room after practicing. I was sore for days, and could barely get through a short jumping combination. But most depressing of all was my lack of extension. I used to be able to lift my leg to my ear with no effort at all. Now, I could barely raise it past my hip. Everything I had worked for was gone. I didn't always want to practice in the stuffy kitchen, using the counter as my barre, and being constantly reminded how I let everything slip through my grasp.
One day, not to long after I started taking class again, my ballet teacher asked what my plans were for dance. I was a bit taken back. Plans? Didn't she know the only option I had was to enjoy it as a hobby? I answered a certain way so that I was almost pleading for her to tell me what I really wanted to hear. "I used to train to be a professional," I explained. "But now I'm too old so....I guess I do it for fun." Notice I didn't say I lacked the desire to still pursue a career, but out of embarrassment I didn't outright say i wanted to, in case she thought I was insane. "Never say you can't!" she told me, and my heart soared at her words. But I was seventeen. She didn't think that was to old? Many girls were already apprentices to companies by that age. She informed me that many companies also liked dancers to be more mature and in their early twenties. I was greatly encouraged when she told me I had beautiful technique and could go somewhere with it, if I wanted too.
Suddenly, every dream, fantasy, and longing that I had gotten to know so well during my California Ballet days came racing back, as if they never left. But they had already been knocking at the door from the moment my friend asked me to take a ballet class with her. The break was something I needed to refuel me and remind me why I love ballet so much. Now that break was over, and I was back in it for real. I recently found one of my old journals and read through it. One of the entries I wrote around this time in my life said, "I'm back to ballet. This should be interesting." And so far thats been proven right. I was beginning a very unconventional course to becoming a ballerina.