Remember: It’s all about the Journey
A little girl approached me at our last annual ballet concert, confessing that she too desires to become a dancer. “It’s magical,” I heard her say wistfully, and then afterward a slight frown appeared on her face. “Only… I don’t have what you have,”she concluded, forcing her words out quickly. The girl was referring, I assumed, to her curvy and somewhat short figure — not the stereotypical ballerina physiognomy, at least traditionally speaking.
“Was it love at first sight?” she asked.
Her question surprised me. It had been a some time since I had thought back to when I was just starting on my journey; to my first tentative forays into the wondrous and arduous world of ballet. As the little girl continued to praise the grace and the professed effortlessness of our moves, I began to reflect, to consider my own winding and unpredictable path; a path that propelled me headlong into this magnificent, yet intensely difficult art.
Ballet dancing is love at first sight, all right. A very harsh and demanding love. It is like an unwritten petition that you will embrace endless hours of meticulous rehearsals and exhaustion and endure numerous injuries and all the pain that comes with it. Only after all that that – and largely because of it – does ballet become magical.
I was not born to be a ballet dancer. You know those sleek graceful little girls who appear as if they were born in a tutu? At the age of four—and I really wanted the girl to understand this—I was quite chubby, with round cheeks and even rounder thighs. No, I was not born to be a ballerina. An entertainer maybe, or a comedian, perhaps even a clown… but definitely not a ballerina.
One day doctors told my mother that my legs were so crooked I might just have have a crippling bone condition. They recommended immediate physical therapy and lots of prayers. Did my mother panic or listen to the doctor’s gloomy predictions? No, she did not. Instead, my extraordinary and strong-willed mother did something, well, extraordinary: she enrolled me into ballet class. And so my journey began.
The Beginning is Always Hardest
Initially, it takes courage to just make it through the first couple of years when you are rolling on the dance floor while others are effortlessly flying across it. As you go along, it is mandatory to possess a particular drive that hits you early in the morning and takes you to the dance hall week after week, month after month, year after year, all the while your peers are enjoying their leisure time and discussing boys (though, admittedly, this is a favorite pastime of ballerinas too) or are busy planning their lucrative futures that don’t happen to involve hours upon hours of self-torture. Finally, it requires unconditional love for the art to endure the achy muscles, the agony of your stretching bones, the pulsating veins on your neck, the desperate grasp for air as your teacher shouts “Again!”
Then, one day you accidentally see your reflection in the water and realize that you are no longer a little clumsy duckling but instead are graciously gliding on your pointers to Tchaikovsky. This is it, right there. Right at that moment. You have bled on the floor long enough to call yourself a dancer.
To me ballet is a declaration of… dependence. Yes, I know, that’s not a word we modern girls like to use to describe ourselves these days. But in my case, at least as far as ballet as concerned, it is the accurate one. For me, the art of dance ultimately took me from a state of stagnant being to a state of perpetual becoming. Once I had my coming-of-age initiation in it, there was no going back. Ballet became my religion, modus vivendi, just as important to my body as oxygen. Every dance gave me something vital; molded my worldview and shaped my character. Every challenge added something important to my spiritual and physical growth.
For that reason I will always and forever be thankful to my crooked legs.
The little girl ran off too quickly before she had a chance to hear my reflections. Maybe she will read this. And, perhaps, one day she will share with us her own inspiring tale.