Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ups and downs of Ballet

When I was getting fitted for my first pair of point shoes it was Chloe who held my hand as I stood on my toes for the first time.  It was prophetic of how supportive she would be when I felt discouraged.
The moment had come that I constantly wondered would feel like.  Surprisingly it almost felt natural.  I was prepared for pain but none came.  The only discomfort I felt on pointe were blisters or sore toes from dancing longer than usual .
I enjoyed ballet again.  A year had passed since I first arrived at the California Ballet School and I was almost caught up to my class.  A year later I was promoted to ballet V, putting me in the pre-professional division.  In my eyes it was a big accomplishment.  I took ballet class four days a week, along with a body dynamics, and choreography class.  I also joined the junior company.  I loved it all.   Although I didn't fit in with my classmates it never bothered me.  I was there to dance, not socialize. 
 The time for nutcracker auditions came and some of my classmates were eligible to attend the Tuesday night audition, which offered more advanced parts.  One of my teachers thought we should all practice for it.  The role of Clara was included in our practice, and we had to go across the floor one at a time acting scared.  This required improve.  I should have been able to do it, but the power my mind held over me was paralyzing.  For whatever reason, my brain had me convinced I would look stupid acting.  I stepped out when it was my turn.  Then just as quickly I ran off, not acting scared but feeling terrified.  There was a weird silence in the air as if no one knew what to do, but they recovered quickly and moved on.  It wasn't the only part I had trouble practicing auditioning for, but it was by far the worst.  During water break I snuck refuge in the dressing room.  Slumped against the wall, I wished I could transport myself home without finishing class.  Seeing that was not possible, I did my best to hold my head up high as I walked back in the studio. 
I wasn't tall enough for the Tuesday audition so I went to the Sunday one that gave smaller parts, but without acting or improve.  It might appear that my troubles were over, and for the moment they were.  It didn't take me long to realize however, that next year there was a chance I would be in the Tuesday audition.  That's when I started to worry, which lead to more worries.  If I couldn't act how could I be a ballet dancer?  This hurtle only grew larger.
I wasn't doing a great job of applying my corrections.  Because I was in the pre-professional division, it was time for me to start working on my artistry so I could make the transformation from student to dancer.  I was shy, and felt uncomfortable expressing myself while dancing.  This also affected my posture, making me hesitant to stand tall and proud like a ballerina.  I wanted to disappear within myself, so I often didn't pull up nearly enough.  I was always being yelled at to fix it.  I should have, there was no excuse for not following a simple correction.  It made sense when I was given only one ballet VI class the next year instead of a full promotion.  If I didn't show my teachers I cared enough to correct my weaknesses, why reward me with all ballet VI classes?
 I was under the tyranny of my mind and it couldn't be overcome.  I carried a tremendous weight on my shoulders by constantly obsessing over the problem that kept me from being my best.  That problem was me.  Looking back it all seems too easy.  I was the only thing holding me back.  But at the time it was the biggest mountain in the world.  For a while the dancing itself had helped me deal with my discomfort at the ballet school and the fact that I was an outcast there.  But soon my problems became bigger than my enjoyment of ballet, and I started to dread class again.   
It didn't help when the nutcracker auditions came around again.  I was expected to show up at the Tuesday audition because I was fifteen.  I made up my mind I wasn't going.  I was so emotionally burnt out I couldn't go on any longer.  Not only was I going to skip the audition, I was going to give up on my dream.  
This time my mom was on the same page as me.  She saw how burdened I was.  I did try to make it until the next all school concert because I would get to dance on pointe in a performance, something I hadn't done before.  But after the luxury of no classes during Christmas break, I knew the day before ballet resumed I wouldn't go back.  The next day, a Saturday, I took the opportunity to sleep in when I normally had to wake up to get ready for ballet.  My mom was about to drive down to the school and tell them I didn't want the scholarship anymore.  She woke me up to make sure I wouldn't regret quitting.  I confirmed it and rolled over to go back to sleep, as if she had only asked me what I wanted for breakfast, not whether or not I was sure of letting go of my passion.
I thought that was it.  My journey in the world of ballet was supposedly over.  I never would have guessed what awaited me in the future.

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