you did ballet?

Piper St. Regis
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You used to do ballet? And I respond, yeah but I quit after highschool. But what I don’t tell them, for both the sake of time and risk of sounding like I'm somehow bragging over something I’m not, is this: 

 

I did ballet. Less of a once-a-week type of way that every little girl does but more in a 25-hours-a-week type of way. Leaving home at 2:30 and getting home at 8:30. Hour and a half technique class and hour pointe class every day. Pilates conditioning. Partnering class. Two drawers in my closet dedicated to just leotards in an array of colors, skirts, legwarmers, and a sea of pink tights. Sewing a new pair of pointe shoes every week. 10 hour rehearsals on Saturdays. 11 shows of Nutcracker, 8 shows for spring showcase. Repeating the same arm movement or adjusting the angle of my foot for thirty minutes.Toe blistering, back aching, dripping sweat, bruised and missing toenails. Spending months over the summer in a different city or state training with another company. Enduring a ruthless series of auditions just to be there. A sprained back, overworked hip flexors, scar-tissued achilles. Endless machinations on what I actually looked like as I stared at my practically naked body for hours everyday. Tears over cast lists, overly harsh corrections, exhaustion, and self doubt. Considering calories and hiding sugar from teachers. Sacrificing school dances, birthday parties, trips, friends. A multitude of all these things for over 10 years type of of way.

And then I quit.

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It sort of came all at once. I decided that I had finally burned out and it was time to take my “normal life” back into my own hands by taking my senior semester off of dance. Despite all my time and effort, I knew I wasn’t good enough to go pro, and something felt fraudulent about trying to dance in college. I had never felt like I was truly good enough (angsty, I know) and the cons were starting to outweigh the pros. I wanted to enjoy life, so I was done. And partly as a consequence of covid, I didn’t dance again after some random day in March 2020, until almost a year later. 

Every dancer I talked to who quit felt like they had some type of “hole” in their life. And maybe I just wasn’t digging hard enough, but I seemed to be pretty whole. And as I came to college it was fascinating to me that I was able to make all of these new friends and most of them didn’t even know that ballet used to consume so much of my identity. 

 

I was still a person without it.

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Really the only issue I had to reckon with was what to do with my newfound extra time. I live in constant dread of the statement, “So, tell me about yourself.” What are my hobbies? What do I like to do? Are crocheting, baking, and online shopping for room decor really the only things that are “interesting” about me beyond school? I’m still working on these questions and trying to develop a sense of worthiness in absence of such a clear passion. But I find validation and hope in the respect that I am happy, loved, and excited to find the answers to who I am.

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I still wonder if I miss it. The conclusion I have now is that I miss it in a nostalgic sense like you miss childhood, but not in a way that you want to be a child again. I certainly don’t regret it, and think back on leaving in a bittersweet, almost melancholy type of way. Ultimately, I will be eternally thankful for the lessons and friendships that I was able to experience. Just like that old saying: You can take the girl out of ballet but you can’t take ballet out of the girl.

 

And maybe I will dance again, 

but for now, 

I just used to do ballet.

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