From the time that I was two years old, I wanted to be a ballerina. My best friend and I would don matching pink tutus and watch Baryshnikov’s Nutcracker in my family room and twirl gleefully. She and I both could not wait until we could take ballet classes and eventually earn those pink satin pointe shoes that every little girl ballerina covets. I would be the one to stick with ballet past the point when most little girls decide they’d rather do something else. I earned my more-peach-than-pink satin pointe shoes. When I stopped dancing at the age of 14, it was because an unfavourable studio situation led to a complete burnout of that love I carried for ballet. I could not be bothered to resume ballet even after switching studios. I had been so miserable for so long that I had forgotten how happy it had made me.
I would go through these immense periods of ballet nostalgia. I would work out to music from The Firebird, The Nutcracker, Petroushka, and Coppelia because it felt comfortable. I am trained to work my body for an hour without stopping the minute that classical music pops on. I saw The Nutcracker in DC and spent nearly the entire first act surreptitiously wiping away tears because I missed ballet so much. I even resumed adult ballet classes, purchasing, for the first time in a decade, a new pair of pointe shoes (and I finally got lovely pink ones instead of those weird whitish ones I had to get – I have a wide foot but a really skinny heel so I am difficult to fit).
Ballet is my first and longest love, but why? Why specifically ballet, and not dance in general? I’ve dabbled in many kinds of dance – Irish step, tap, jazz, modern. I hated modern. Hated it with a passion. But why?
It’s all about control.
Ballet is precise. The dancer must be able to control her movements gracefully. The hardest steps should look effortless. The goal is to make dancing in a shoe with wooden blocks for toes seem painlessly easy. Each arm and leg movement has to be perfect, graceful, timed and controlled. There is a right and wrong way to do things, and although it takes a lot of effort to learn the right way, it is doable. A ballerina is perfection and this is because she is controlled (this is also where eating disorders often spawn but that’s another story).
I hated modern dance because there aren’t really rules. The objective is to look free, flowing and light, expressing emotions through movement. The modern classes I took involved a lot of rolling around on the floor barefooted. And I hated that. I wanted someone to tell me to wear a specific coloured leotard (pink at age 5, light blue ages 8-10, burgundy ages 10-12, and black ages 12 and up) with a certain shade of pink tights. I needed someone to correct me when my arms weren’t in the right position and tell me to control my leg on its way down from a grand battement. I spent a decade relying on those few hours every week where I was completely in charge of my movements and I was the only one with any say over how they would flow.
I am not good at letting go of situations beyond my control. They are my least favourite kind to deal with and the hardest for me to handle. I am horrible at surrendering my needs to any higher being, and this is what is kicking my ass right now – this inability to let go and let be. I spend my time trying to make sure it looks like I am effortlessly balancing on my toes even though they are being painfully pounded into wooden blocks. And that’s the situation I have been dealing with and the lesson I have been unsuccessfully trying to learn for the last two years.
It’s not that I don’t try to get the things that I want for myself, the things I want are just beyond my control at this point. There is literally nothing I can do to get them except just let go. And for some reason, I am spectacularly bad at that. The situation I am currently in? I need to trust that the other person involved will fix himself. I need to give him the stage, hang up my pointe shoes, and wait in the wings. Because I know my cue is coming, I just have no say in when that is.