MB and I saw Black Swan the other night. We both enjoyed it, aside from some motion sickness-inducing camera movements.
I’ve taken exactly one month of ballet and tap, when I was four. I quit so fast because I found ballet boring – why weren’t we DANCING? why were we just lined up in a row with our arms out? – and I’d always freak out because my mother would disappear. I don’t know where she’d go. Grocery shopping maybe, or maybe she’d just go sit in the car. Wherever she went, she wasn’t with me to help me tie my shoes (once I up and asked some random dad, conscious of the fact that I was breaking out of my shyness and that my own parent wasn’t around) or to peek in at me with the other parents as we shuffle-ball-stepped.
Once (or was it every time?) I started to cry and the teacher asked, “What’s wrong, cupcake?” I knew what a cupcake was, but had never been called such before, and stopped crying for a moment to think about that.
At home my mother would make me practice. She’d put me in the laundry room where I could tap away without her worrying about my scratching the floor. But of course I wouldn’t practice. I’d pretend I was Dorothy and that my tap shoes were ruby slippers.
After I quit, I saved my dancing for my room. Dancing segued to lip synching, and soon I was pretending I was Olivia Newton-John, then a made-up celebrity triple-threat – actress, singer, and dancer. I had a litany of made-up movie star names (and I cringe with embarrassment as I type this): Tiffany Volvina, Jazz Silver Rain, Jordan Dane. I wore my socks out doing pirouettes.
In junior high, I had one friend who was a ballerina. While most of us were struggling with our weight, Elise stayed skinny by dancing three to four hours every day. I remember her feet were misshapen from dancing en pointe, and her spine curvy. Every time we got checked for scoliosis, they always thought she had it. When she ran in gym class, she looked like a goony bird, lumbering before take-off, but then she’d jete, and we’d all stare, amazed.
She’d talk about how she’d lose so much weight, preparing for their yearly performance of The Nutcracker, and how during rehearsals, they’d all dress and undress, girls and boys, in front of each other.
I used to wish my parents had made me stay in ballet so that I could be like Elise: lithe, long-legged, tall, and not shy at all.
Part of me still wants that ballet dancer’s body, wiry and strong. To wake up first thing in the morning like Natalie Portman’s character and crack all my bones.
But I know that unless I’m dancing eight hours a day, I’ll never look like that. But at least I’ll be inspired to keep working out regularly, to maybe run a bit more and continue doing yoga twice a week.
And I can always pretend I’m a dancer when I crack my toes.