Sorry, this is more expository than usual for me. I promise the action will be in the next chapter. Thanks for reading and hope this isn't too boring, but has promising characterization.
I've devoted my life to the three pillars of dance: Dedication, Discipline, but most importantly, Determination. My earliest memory is the decisive moment when I decided to dedicate my life to ballet. For my fourth birthday, my mother gave me a music box with a ballerina that danced in fast perfect circles. Envy constricted my heart everytime I watched her pirouette. My first "dance" injury occurred when I broke my ankle trying to dance on my tiptoes. As soon as my foot healed, my mother put me through dance classes.
When I was five, most of my classmates played with Barbie and dreamed of being princesses. Yet, the tangible could never satisfy me. I dreamed of ballet. In my eyes, being a dancer was far better than being a damsel in distress. Princesses were duty bound, tied to a kingdom and a prince. They had to tie the knot. The only thing ballerinas had to tie were their satin slippers.
Now, at the age of seventeen, I can see one similarity between dancers and princesses. They both have to look pretty for the camera known as life. However, most people don't know the dark truth about ballet dancers. We're athletes, yes, but we're also fighters. Competition and sacrifice come more naturally than dance or music.
There is a double edged blade to the beauty of dance, and that is the fear of rejection. Sometimes I've wondered what is like to be a Disney princess to not know the knife of rejection. Aspiring ballerinas are sometimes acquainted as early as age twelve. I admit that I have not been familiarized with rejection yet.
Though I was accepted into The Ballet Academy of New York, one of the nation's most prestigious dance schools, sometimes doubt jabs me in the chest. In a few months, we will graduate and the top students will be selected by dance companies.
It has become hard to focus in rehearsal classes as I imagine the last grains of sand clinking against the hourglass to join the ever-accumulating mound of my time to dance. It never helps when the ballet instructor, Mistress Ballotta, reminds us solemnly at the end of each session,"Enjoy each moment of pain and dance you have. A career as a dancer-if you you're lucky enough to make it that far, can be as ethereal as a butterfly."
I always latch onto that word, pain. We are born with a primal fear of pain. Yet, I learned in science class that it is necessary to survive. Though, most people do almost anything to avoid pain whether from avoiding love for fear of the of heartbreak or something as simple as avoiding treatment to fill a cavity to avoid the fear of the injection of Novocaine, which ironically, numbs the pain. And call me crazy, but I would take pain any day over numbness.
I don't understand the fear of pain. Maybe that makes me brave or stupid. Or maybe that just makes me a dancer. People admire the grace we exhibit as we stand en pointe, but they have no idea of the agony rippling through our legs, snaking from our toes to our hips. Yet we endure for the beauty of our craft. Dancers are artists, and we understand that pain and beauty are inseparable and sometimes, indistinguishable.
I learned this lesson when I turned twelve the first time I successfully stood en pointe. Fiery swords of agony raged through my lower extremities. I remember reading Hans Christian Anderson's "The Little Mermaid" when she was given legs and each of step felt like a thousand knives piercing her limbs, threatening to flay them. The feeling now wasn't too far off, only magnified. After all, the little mermaid didn't have to bear all her weight on her tiptoes and dance.
My joints protested, and only months of rigorous training to strengthen my muscles prevented me from collapsing into a pool of gelatin. Yet, the sensation of fulfillment feathering in my chest tampered the discomfort until the screeching protest of my legs was nothing but white noise. Five years, later I still twinges of exertion prickling my muscles and wake up to perpetual soreness
Though, I really can't complain. Like many other dancers, I endure it with pride as the small price to pay for my craft. I may I ridicule princesses, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in fairy tales. Artists are gifted with a the magic of transcendence, to turn the mundane or the undesirable into something extraordinary, much like the way Rumpelstiltskin spun straw into gold.
While his medium was vegetation, my medium is my pain. It propels me to work harder. To be conscious of my muscles and joints so I can embellish each movement with intent. Pain wakes me up to remind me that I'm alive. My dance instructors advise me to ride the music.
But it's not the music that guides me. When I allow the tides of melody to wash over me, I ride the pain as a surfboard. I don't see this tactic as morbid or even a sacrifice. To me, it is a gift to remind me to not just exist, but to feel alive. The pain of dance, no matter how astounding will always surpass the indifference of a numbed existence, which to an artist, is a form of living death.