First Dance Steps
I was only four years old, very small and too thin, when the doctor recommended to my parents that I take dance classes to build muscle and become stronger. Little did any of them know, my initial experiences with classical ballet became a life long passion for dance.
I remember that first ballet class, where I stood grasping a wooden barre at the end of a long dance studio. The young, rather intimidating teacher at the head of the room ordered the students what to do in a language I did not understand. I tried my best to follow the others, but I felt ignorant and awkward. This wasn’t fun! I looked over to the doorway and spotted my mother peering inside. The moment we made eye contact I burst into sobs. Take me away from here! I would really rather just go out and play. Why do I have to endure this torture?
Perhaps my mother took pity on me, because after that first class, I was moved to a ballet class with a different instructor. This woman was older, somewhat overweight, and was probably the owner of the studio or at least some other motherly type within the school. I didn’t feel intimidated by her sweet demeanor, and I found myself trying hard to show her I could do exactly what she wanted. In time, she came to rely on me to remember combinations and group choreography that our class learned and performed at various charities around the city. I felt important in that class, like I had a purpose.
I attempted tap and jazz, but somehow that didn’t seem to be the right style for me. The only thing that impressed me was the group of ‘big girls’ who got to wear fluffy tutus and silky point shoes. They were so feminine and graceful, and I wanted to be just like them! So I begged and begged both my parents and my teacher for the chance. I don’t know why it worked, but I found myself at 8 years old taking private lessons on pointe. It was exciting for me. Certainly the shoes were uncomfortable, but somehow it didn’t matter. I worked hard to stay balanced on the tips of my toes while moving around the room with the grace that I imagined was the same as the big girls had.
And then one day it happened. While practicing bouree’s across the room in one of my private lessons, I noticed for the first time that a large group of people had gathered at the door to watch me. It didn’t occur to me that they were amused or impressed with such a young child already in pointe shoes (usually dancers cannot start learning pointe until they are 12 years old.) What I felt for the first time was a flutter in my stomach that only an audience can give to a performer. It felt wonderful! I recognized at that very moment that I wanted to feel that way again and again. It was truly my first inkling of wanting to be a professional dancer.
This feeling is still with me every time I perform. Although I have long left my first love of ballet and moved on to a greater love for oriental dance when I was 18, the need to perform in front of an audience has become an addiction. There is a high that can be reached like no other, and I still enjoy the thrill of it today. I recall my days as a baby ballerina with great fondness. It was a time that made me aware of myself as a person, both physically and emotionally. It was a discipline that made me respect every dance form I ever studied with a desire for art rather than just entertainment. And it launched me on a crusade to be an artist that is passionate about my art form so much that I want to share it with everyone, everywhere.
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