Memoirs of a Dancer

It all started when I was three and I couldn’t sit still. To channel my energy into something besides wrecking our house, my mother enrolled me in ballet classes. It was love at first try. I danced locally for many years but wanted to take it to the next step. When I was thirteen years old I auditioned for the School of American Ballet. This is one of the premier ballet schools in the world and is rumored to be as competitive as Harvard to get into. I was accepted despite bad feet, bad turnout and a body that left something to be desired (at least ballerina wise). I spent my eighth grade year getting picked up from school, driving into the city, taking class, doing my homework in the car and doing the same thing all over again the next day and the next. It was not easy and it certainly did not allow for a social life but I loved it.

At the end of my first year there, they told my parents I would have to repeat the level because of my lousy turnout and feet and whatnot. That summer I went to dance camp, gave it all I had and when I went back to SAB in the fall, they moved me up to the next level because apparently I had improved. I was ecstatic. But that year brought trauma. In March of my freshman year of high school and second year at SAB, I tore cartilage in my knee and partially tore my ACL. I had to have surgery and stay out of dance for a month. I was devastated but I was determined to keep going so I went back to class at SAB with a brace covering half my leg in metal bars to prove how badly I wanted it. Needless to say, SAB didn’t see it that way. In June they told my parents that I was welcome to go back but that I’d have to repeat the level and that we should reconsider because they didn’t think I had what it took to be a dancer. That happened on the same day that I aced my Math I regents. I was hysterical when my mother told me.

That summer I went to a summer dance camp with Suzanne Farrell, one of New York City Ballet’s most beloved dancers and the love of George Balanchine’s life. I lived on her private island for three weeks and trained with nine other girls under the guidance of her and her ex-husband. My parents and I had a sit down conversation with her at the end of the camp and asked her what I should do about SAB. She told me that I didn’t need them to be a dancer. I would be a dancer no matter where I went. She even pointed out to us that SAB doesn’t want anything to do with her after all her years there.

It was hard but for the next three years I went from local dance school to local dance school, none coming even close to the training at SAB but at least I was still dancing. And luckily for me I had Luigi. Luigi developed his own jazz technique after being paralyzed as a young man and he defied all the doctors expectations that he would never walk again. He’s in his 80’s now and still teaching class and dancing. He is a phenomenal man, dancer and teacher and I feel honored and privileged to know him. Then I went off to college and got involved with dancing there. I met some of the best people in the world, had some of the best times of my life, and got to do plenty of what I loved to do most, dance. All the while, I studied philosophy, politics and law and am now going to start law school. I danced in a production of Circus Polka with New York City Ballet, I auditioned for a Broadway show and made it through the first round of callbacks and I auditioned for a modern company and got offered a position as an apprentice. I guess I can’t complain too much.

Dance for me has been joy, pain, pleasure, love, agony, exhaustion, release, and tension. It has given me a severe complex about my body and makes me ache all the time. It has created opportunities for me but it also closed doors on a lot of other things. I will always have ugly feet thanks to many a blister from my pointe shoes. The most important thing though is that it is my passion and although I have given up on pursuing it as a career, I will always dance in my seat and I will always have trouble slouching and I will always tap my feet when I hear music and I will never be content sitting still.

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