“Which black leotard shall it be today?”

“When you sign up for something, you finish it.”

At the age of 9, I sat in the backseat of my mom’s car having a tantrum because I didn’t want to go to ballet class. “My leotard and tights are uncomfortable. I can’t breathe,” I said. I was a dramatic child. One is capable of breathing in leotard and tights. Some ballerinas dance in corsets.

My freshman year of high school, I sat in the passenger’s seat of my mom’s car and declared I was quitting dance. “I am the worst one in the room,” I said. “No matter how much I improve, its still not good enough.” I now major in dance.

Nevertheless, my mom marched me into the dance studio, knowing a ballet class would make me feel better. There’s something about waltzing across a dance studio with sweat rolling down your face, every muscle in your body throbbing because of yesterday’s fondue combination. It makes you feel beautiful and strong, like a warrior princess, even if your 5’2” Columbian ballet teacher is yelling at you the whole time.

After class, I would return to her car happier, because she was right. The class made me feel better. That’s why, not matter how insecure or anxious, stressed or sad I felt, I found myself standing next to a metal bar, the interlude to that one plie song every instructor uses playing out of the old stereo system in the corner of the room. “And a 5 6 7 8…”

At the end of every year, my parents and I sat at our dining room table and discussed whether I would sign up for dance again. We remembered the moments where I wanted to quit. Every year, they told me “If you sign up, you finish the year.”

Every year, I signed the dotted line.

As I get older, this commonplace in my family has more and less meaning. As a dancer, you constantly put your body in front of others and yourself to be judged. Saying this does not affect your mental health is a lie. There are days where all your insecurities jump out at you, and there are days when they all fade away in the music and dance. How does one get through the bad days? Are the good days’ worth the bad? When does bad become enough to quit?

I’m still figuring it out.

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