When we moved back to Taupo, I started ballet. Ballet looks like tutus, pink and lovely little girls pointing their toes all in a line. Yeah no sorry, thats complete bullshit. Ballet makes you get f*ucking hard..!
From day one, I started out on a strategy that would be my signature move throughout life, I picked the best dancer in the room, a pretty girl with brown hair and a sweet smile, and made it my ultimate mission to become her.
She would later become my best friend.
I was shit at dancing, but I was good at cheating, lying and copying. I stood behind her in class, had my water break beside her, and even hung my bag up in the little changing room next to hers. I analysed how she pointed her toes to how she held her fingers when she spun around in a circle. Within a year we were considered the two best in our class. But I never stopped cheating, I never bothered to properly learn the moves, knowing I could rely on my skills in copying for when class was running, and my smile and enthusiasm when exams rolled around. When I was thirteen I earned a higher grade than her on our final examination by one point and the second year I earned a higher grade by four points. By then, I was racked with self doubt.
I had finally achieved my goal. On paper, I was better than her, but at what cost? Her points she had earned, mine I felt like I had stolen. She hadn't had the best dancer in the room to imitate. That was the downward spiral of my ballet career. Now that I no longer had my secret challenge fuelling my ambition, there was nothing left but the verbal and physical abuse.
In the last years, I was dancing five nights for a minimum of three hours as well as morning practices and the workouts and repetition we had to put in on our own time was overwhelming. My body was also starting to fail me, up until then I had been skeletal. But with boobs came the ladies in charge of costume measuring my chest and telling me I probably needed to lay off the hamburgers and chips. With a butt came my teacher screaming at me to suck it in and ‘engage my abs not my flabs’.
I think ballet teachers employ the same practices as navy seal trainers, when it comes to dance rehearsal. Every girl in the class new the feeling well…teacher makes eye contact, purses lips. Shit thats when you know your fucked, it’s those lips tightening. Then they ask you something they know you don’t know, or you would have done it right in the first place because you’re not an idiot. ‘Which foot is in front for the battamon tondu Trinity?’ She would growl. Every girl would avert their eyes, trying to salvage what dignity the victim would be allowed to leave with. Then the teacher would usually request a demonstration accompanied by her own annotated direction of everything wrong with the demonstration.
Girls started dropping like flies. Tears on the dance floor were common. But I never cried. I would hold it in until my long nights. Some days towards the end though, I could barely even make it to the changing room.
There’s nothing more crushing than being consistently told you are useless, and yet also being used as an example of how to do something well.
Everyone said I was an amazing dancer. Little girls came up to me and said they wanted to be like me. The girls started copying me. Yet, I knew I wasn’t good enough.
My feet have permeant scars from where pointe shoe blisters stopped healing over. My beautiful pink pointe shoes, were specked with blood and sweat from long hard hours.
I could have kept going with ballet, and I know if I had applied myself properly I could have made a decent career out of it. But I’m proud that I stopped, because stopping was much harder than continuing would ever have been.
Ballet had been my savour, I still credit dance to be my biggest act of self therapy. Ballet gave me a direction, a discipline and allies I was allowed to call friends. I didn’t know anything else but pain, and Ballet had given me the visible scars on my body that proved to everyone else that I could go through pain and come out the other side still smiling. I couldn’t talk about what had happened, but I could let people see my bruises and blisters. I got off on it. I was attracted to the suffering because it gave me a way to understand, label and neatly order in a little box, everything that I was angry about from my childhood.
I still dance. Every day, for at least one song, I dance. Suddenly, everything fades out. It’s just me, the music and what I’m feeling. There are no words, I’ve never been good with truthful words. But with movement, I can’t lie.
Ballet got me hard, and gave me the solid bedrock of what I would start to rebuild myself on.